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Sotheby's exhibits masterpieces by some of today's most highly sought-after artists at Jeddah Art Week 2014
Damien Hirst's . Tranquility (est. $800,000–1,200,000) is a beautifully constructed and flawlessly executed work that has captured the manifestation of the most subliminal fear in human existence: that of death. Photo: Sotheby's.

JEDDAH.- International auction house Sotheby’s announced its return to Jeddah Art Week for the second year to unveil a new exhibition of Contemporary art by both Middle Eastern and International artists prior to an April 2014 auction. Highlighting this exhibition are two outstanding works by internationally acclaimed artist Damien Hirst, which represents a much-anticipated first display of works by the artist in the Kingdom. The exhibition, which runs from 1st-6th February 2014 at Al Fursiya, Jeddah, presents these two works alongside highly sought-after masterpieces by some of today’s most celebrated artists from the region, including Ayman Baalbaki, Monir Farmafarmian and Havv Kharaman.

Lina Lazaar, Sotheby’s Director, International Contemporary Art Specialist, “This year’s second edition of JAW - pronounced Jaou in Arabic, and translated as 'fun' in my native Tunisian dialect - has expanded to offer a more ambitious programme, with a focus on supporting the burgeoning local arts scene whilst opening up its horizons to the global contemporary art world. As such, Sotheby’s is mounting an exhibition of works that are not only of the highest calibre, but which showcase a diverse selection of the artistic styles that Middle Eastern artists are working in today alongside signature pieces by the world-renowned Damien Hirst. These artists are some of the most highly sought after of their generation and their outstanding works will make a distinct contribution to an event where the Kingdom's creative forces can unfold and inspire.”

Al Sharq al Awsat (est. $70,000–100,000) is a prime example of the extraordinary way in which the Lebanese artist Ayman Baalbaki remembers and depicts Lebanon’s traumatic, war-stricken history. Born in 1970, the year the Lebanese civil war began, Baalbaki has been a witness to numerous brutal, war-inflicted years in Beirut. Many of the artist’s traumatic experiences have, unsurprisingly, provided the inspiration and subjects behind his most powerful work. In a personal testimony to his country’s dark past, Baalbaki aspires to break through the “amnesia” his country adopted after the civil war. Emphasising the powerful imagery of his work are the ravishing colours the artist applies in thick ridges of paint and the juxtaposition of these expressive brushstrokes with floral textiles. Much like the plane which is depicted – a wreck from the bombing of The Beirut International Airport in 1976 which was left exposed to the public eyes as a martyrdom piece – this work makes one reflect on and remember the atrocities of war.

Damien Hirst’s most famous subject is often considered to be the fight between life and death, and Hirst's butterfly works are a testament to his ability to celebrate the complexities of the human experience by combining his most famous concepts into one canvas. Tranquility (est. $800,000–1,200,000) is a beautifully constructed and flawlessly executed work that has captured the manifestation of the most subliminal fear in human existence: that of death. Like the beating of butterfly wings, the canvas breathes life into the room. The title evokes both the tranquil state that is produced by being in the presence of such beauty as well as the state of the butterflies themselves.

Affliction (est. $400,000-600,000) is a black monochrome painting created from hundreds of thousands of dead flies. The dense and unfathomable surface of the work illustrates Hirst's penchant for using animal matter in his work, halting the process of decomposition through chemical preservatives (think of his sharks and cows preserved in formaldehyde). The spectacle of preserved flies conveys the frailty and transience of life in constant flirtation with decline and destruction. In Hirst's painting, the flies also experience an unlikely afterlife—as art.

Three Brothers (est. $70,000–100,000) is an infusion of classical Persian Art and Iran’s traditional crafts techniques with the unique and modern aesthetic of Monir Farmafarmian, a pioneer within the contemporary Iranian art world. A source of great inspiration and reverence for the current generation of Middle Eastern artists, Farmafarmian’s artwork draws inspiration from classical Iranian culture and tradition. Her unique blend of traditional and avant-garde creates an elegantly distinctive style as in this exemplary work where the artist has readapted reverse-glass painting, Khatam kari (inlaid marquetry) and Aineh-kari (mirror mosaics) – both defining decorative features of Persian stately homes and palaces - to create a breathtakingly modern geometric mirror triptych. Ultimately, Farmafarmian creates cutting edge work with a modern aesthetic with innately recognisable visual vocabulary resulting in an ever-widening global audience that is able to appreciate Farmafarmian’s rich cultural heritage.

The elegantly fluid movement strikingly apparent within Blue Wave (est. $70,000–100,000) has the distinct skill and uniqueness of the internationally acclaimed master of calligraphy, Nasrollah Afjei. By constantly challenging the preconceived boundaries of calligraphy through trial and experimentation, Afjei creates flawlessly fresh work. Practising for over 27 years, Afjei believes calligraphy offers a universal language which does not necessarily have to be read to be understood, the energy which encompasses his works are universally communicative and emotive. Appealing to primal emotions his works are applicable to all audiences. Afjei utilises the written word, like an engineer; the angles in his scripts are precisely thought-out to create a complex myriad of various shapes.

Havv Kharaman’s body of work reunites eclectic sources of inspiration, including traditional Japanese prints, Art Nouveau, Persian miniature painting and fashion imagery. In Ironing (est. $30,000–40,000) we are confronted with Kharaman’s signature subject and continuous focus, the female form. Her ethereal female character dwells in seclusion, ironing an orientalist textile whilst contemplating her ambiguous existence in a sense of stifled despair. The theme eloquently expressed via this work is that of the social issues faced by women within the Middle East. Kharaman explores this idea with mesmerising subtlety and an elegant graphic approach. Through engaging with complex subject matters, Kharaman manages to imbue her work with a captivating grace and beauty that exert a classical and timeless feel. Her innovative style has astonishing impact, consequentially opening an avenue for contemporary dialogue concerning a subject which has so far been considered taboo within the Middle East.

Nabil Nahas is Lebanon's most renowned abstract artist, having established himself in the New York art circles via his unique play of texture and colour, his oeuvre subsequently gained an enthusiastic following within the more recently developed Middle Eastern art scene. His most prominent works are his coral-textured fractal paintings, which are created by a dense layering of acrylic paint texturised with powdered pumice, which is then pigmented with vivid colours; this method is brilliantly employed in the surface of Vesta (est. $100,000–150,000). Nahas’s works offer an organic quality which is unusual within the sphere of contemporary abstract art; his works are a reflection of nature and childhood memories of indigenous landscapes. Nahas embraces the inconsistencies of the natural world’s geometry, translating it to an illustrious art form to be revered and celebrated.

Jeddah Art Week (JAW) - under the Patronage of Saudi Arabia’s Ministry of Culture and Information, and Abdul Latif Jameel Community Initiatives - will launch its annual showcase of the Arts 1st – 6th February 2014 at numerous locations throughout the city and centred at Al Fursiya, Jeddah. With the support of the Saudi Arabian Society for Culture and Arts, and in collaboration with international auction house, Sotheby’s, EoA Projects, and Arabian Wings, JAW-2014 intends to build on the success of last year’s inaugural event, which saw attendance from over one thousand five hundred visitors.

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February 3, 2014

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