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Christie's announces its return to Dubai with Spring Auctions to be held on March 19 & 20
Shafic Abboud (Lebanese, 1926-2004) Nuits V, 1988. Estimate: $80,000-120,000. Photo: Christie's Images Ltd 2014.

DUBAI.- Christie’s, who have held 15 regular sale seasons since 2006 in the Middle East, announced that their spring sale will move forward one month to align with the other international art events held in Dubai in March. The auction of Modern and Contemporary Arab, Iranian and Turkish Art, will take place at the Jumeirah Emirates Towers Hotel on March 19 with the Watches sale on the following evening.

Commenting on the change to the sale date, Michael Jeha, Managing Director of Christie’s in the Middle East, said: “This will provide a more convenient, single moment for visiting international collectors to see the very best of art from the region in one week. It is an indication of the continued success of the art market in Dubai that this moment has come. We believe that this will make a significant impact on visitor numbers and visibility for all of the events during Art Week.”

The sale make-up will also be adapted, with a single catalogue for the art, with cutting edge contemporary works moving online and offered in an annual, online-only sale to be held each October. Watches will once again be included this season following their successful re-introduction last October.

A visual feast of works, from the modern masters who helped to shape art from the Middle East to leading contemporary artists from Turkey, Iran and the Arab world, will be unveiled at the opening of the pre-sale exhibition for Christie’s spring auction. One of the most important pieces in the sale is an impressive work by Shafic Abboud (Lebanese, 1926-2004) which was used as the cover illustration of the artist’s monograph published in 2006 following a major exhibition in Paris. Nuits V from 1988 was previously owned by a great friend of the artist and is now offered from an important Lebanese private collection with an estimate of $80,000-120,000.

By the Iranian artist Mansour Qandriz (1935-1965), whose work rarely appears for sale at auction is Untitled from 1964, painted a year before his death at only 30 in a car accident. Most of his works are held in prestigious public collections including the Tehran Museum of Contemporary Art. Along with Tanavoli, Pilaram and Zenderoudi, Qandriz was a student at the Tehran College of Decorative Arts and was an early member of the influential Saqqakhaneh movement established in 1962. Aside from the scarcity of his works, this is a particularly important work by Qandriz as it pays homage to his fellow artist Jazeh Tabatabaei who used found objects to create robot-like human sculptures. In this work, Qandriz creates a portrait of a robotic woman adorned with a headdress shaped with angular, mechanical objects. The estimate is $50,000-70,000.

Another rarity within the sale are two works by Mahmoud Hammad (Syrian, 1923-1988) sold from the collection of the artist’s family. From two different periods of the artist’s life, the first is from 1966 and entitled Al Ghalib (The Conqueror) – shown here. Hammad is recognized as the artist who broke free from classical calligraphy to use abstract forms. Here in this 1966 work, exhibited in 1968 at the Biennale in Alexandria, is a collection of geometric forms of greens and blues (estimate: $25,000-30,000). From much later in the artist’s career, 1982, is Bismallah Al Rahman Al Raheem – Salam Raqam 1 (Peace number 1). Similar in its abstraction, the later work of grey and blue in simplified by blocks of colour and shapes (estimate: $15,000-20,000).

A year after the sale of Farhad Moshiri’s (Iranian, b. 1963) Secret Garden, showing a glittering Bear in a forest landscape for $987,750, the sale has another playful piece by the master of Middle Eastern Pop Art. Bunny Rabbit (from the Fluffy series) from 2009 shows a large pink toy rabbit picked out in glitter and acrylic (estimate: $150,000-200,000.)

A story of the importance of the relationship between artist and patron is revealed in the inclusion of a work by the Egyptian artist Omar Al-Nagdi (b. 1931) whose Untitled work from 1989 is to be sold to benefit a French foundation – H & H Mécénat -which offers support to young artists. The organisation was established by Francine Henrich and her son Philippe.

Francine Henrich was a career diplomat whose work took her on assignments to Africa, Tunisia, India and Egypt where she met and became great friends with the artists she had met along the way. On retirement she returned to France and established a private museum filled with the works she had collected. Housed at Château du Chesney in Normandy, part of the Museum is dedicated to works by Al-Nagdi and from which this work has been selected to be sold to raise funds for the Foundation.

Following the early death of the female artist Farideh Lashai (1944-2013) last year, her Untitled work will be much sought after. Painted in 1994, this powerful acrylic work is from the trees series in which she uses strong abstract lines to cut a deep crevasse down the canvas with crimson splashes of colour across the top half (estimate $35,000-50,000).

From Turkey’s leading contemporary artist Azade Köker (b. 1949) is Ecstacy, a mixed media collage landscape, with tiny, eerie skull faces very lightly covering the surface. The three-panelled, large-scale work from 2013 is estimated at $60,000-80,000.

A striking portrait by Ayman Baalbaki (Lebanese, b. 1975), Al-Mulatham A from 2011 will also be among the most sought after works with an estimate of $40,000-60,000. The artist says of the iconic images of the veiled soldiers “ …the face of the Mulatham is as much about defeat as about heroism..”. The figure is setting against a floral background, a common pattern seen in Lebanese homes.

Another important contemporary piece is Black 3 by the Iranian Ali Banisadr (b.1976) whose pieces are rare at auction hence the estimate of $120,000-180,000. The large canvas has splashes of dense emerald hues with bodies floating amidst calligraphic marks, squiggles and drops of paint (illustrated below). Representing north Africa is Mounir Fatmi (Algerian, b. 1970) entitled Ceux qui savent, ceux qui ne savent pas / People know, people don't know, one of five editions of the work from 2008-09 (estimate: $80,000-120,000).

The Watch auction will be led by Patek Philippe's iconic reference 5971 – a great horological secret as no more than 10 versions were produced. The emerald-set reference 5971 is one of the most lavish, sophisticated dials ever made as it is fitted with 42 emeralds weighing approx. 3.33 carats. The example in the sale is virtually unworn and is estimated at $280,000-350,000.

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