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Robust Selection of Art from the Middle East Featured in The Beirut Sale at Ayyam Gallery
Alfred Tarazi, ‘Wishful Beginnings’, 150 X 150 cm. Archival Print Mounted on Aluminum. Edition 1 of 5 2011. Estimate: US $ 7,000 – 10,000.

BEIRUT.- On July 15, Ayyam Auctions will present its ninth auction, the 2011 session of the Beirut Sale. Held annually at Ayyam Gallery’s Beirut outpost, this forthcoming public auction will showcase a robust selection of contemporary art from the Middle East. With over 60 lots by artists from Egypt, Palestine, Jordan, Syria, Lebanon and Iraq, this highly anticipated event has been significantly expanded from previous years, and will feature painting, sculpture, photography and limited edition prints.

Among the regional art world superstars that will be represented in this edition are Cairo-born Armenian artist Chant Avedissian, Syrian painter Safwan Dahoul and Palestinian painter Samia Halaby, while a carefully curated focus on the Beirut art scene over the past fifty years spotlights the equally important contributions of prominent Lebanese figures such as multidisciplinary artist Nadim Karam and painters Paul Guiragossian and Mohammad El Rawas.

Beginning with 1960s works by seminal sculptor Michel Basbous and painter Hrair Diabekirian this special emphasis spans the history of contemporary art in Lebanon, allowing for rare access to the multitude of talent that has been influential to the nation’s cultural development.

A Lebanese Civil War era canvas by painter turned Buddhist nun Seta Manoukian, not only provides a glimpse into the themes of desolation and fragmentation that dominated the art of this volatile period (1975-90), it exemplifies the marked social commentary that has characterized contemporary Lebanese art from the onset.

An untitled 2004 mixed media painting by Beirut-based Jordanian artist Rafik Majzoub explores issues of migration, a common facet of the modern Lebanese experience that has changed the socioeconomic landscape of this tiny Mediterranean state and has been explored through virtually every channel of cultural expression.

Although a visual departure from the complex, frenzied drawings that the artist is known for, Laure Ghorayeb’s collage painting has recently stood out among the many works that are included in the Beirut Exhibition Center’s groundbreaking show “Rebirth: Lebanon 21st Century Contemporary Art.” In a work titled “Le Memoire en sens Interdit” (2009), which will be offered at auction, Ghorayeb taps into the ever-present discussion of the individual versus the collective in the recounting of Lebanon’s history and the ways in which it continues to plague the fractured country even during moments of relative calm.

A strong emphasis on aesthetic formalism among Beirut’s leading artists is also highlighted with a monumental work titled “Good Luck” (2009) by Huguette Caland, whose enigmatic, tapestry-like mixed media composition employs abstraction to obscure illusive bodies and objects in action. Caland’s vibrant palette and layered textures evoke details and a craftsmanship that can simultaneously be located in the world of fashion, which she was also involved in via the likes of Pierre Cardin.

Samir Khaddaje’s untitled mixed media on cloth work from 1992 can be viewed as one of the links, or perhaps midpoints, between the many movements that have driven this dynamic art scene. Although technically abstract and heavily focused on aesthetics, the large painting possesses an affecting pull. Created just a few years after the end of the Lebanese Civil War while the artist was still in exile, there is a certain gravity that suspends the viewer’s senses, replacing the act of seeing with the act of witnessing, as an unidentifiable figure stands alone in the foreground of the composition. Having been wrongfully overlooked in the narrative of Lebanese art for far too long, there is now a concerted effort among Beirut’s heavy hitters to grant Khaddaje an esteemed place within the Lebanese canon.

Also of note in the upcoming Beirut Sale is the stellar lineup of young Levantine artists who will be represented alongside these Lebanese greats, including Palestinian painter Oussama Diab, and Syrian painters Tammam Azzam and Elias Izoli—all of whom are slated as having a very promising future.

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