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Two important collections of Middle Eastern art lead the March 19 auction at Christie's Dubai
Abdul Hadi El-Gazzar (1925-1965), Construction of the Suez Canal, 1965, 35 x 70cm. Estimate: $100,000-150,000. Photo: Christie's Images Ltd 2014.

DUBAI.- Two important collections of Middle Eastern art will lead the 16th sale season at Christie’s Dubai on 19 March. The Pharos Collection of 55 works includes works by the leading names of the modern Egyptian art movement while the Maath Alousi Collection focuses on modern Iraqi art acquired by this important architect of the modern Arab world. The Important Watch sale will be held the following evening with 120 watches representing the world’s leading luxury brands.

Hala Khayat, Head of the Sale, said: ““Selling works from private collections gives us all a glimpse into the connoisseurship of those who have put it together and, for this reason, we feel very privileged to have been entrusted with their sale. Both provide a comprehensive overview of leading works by the major artists of the modern movements representing Iraq and Egypt. The works will be on public exhibition from 16-19 March - a golden moment for all the many visitors to Dubai during this vibrant Art Week in the City.”

The art sale will be led by the Pharos Art Collection put together by a group of private Egyptian collectors. Since late 2006 this group has successfully accumulated works by the leading names of Egyptian modern and contemporary art including Mahmoud Saïd, Mahmoud Mokhtar, Abdul Hadi El-Gazzar, Youssef Kamel, Effat Nagui, Mohammed Nagui, Adham and Seif Wanly, Inji Efflatoun and Adam Henein. After a public exhibition in Cairo in 2009, they have decided that the time is now right to sell. The 50 works are expected to sell for in excess of $1 million.

One of the highlights among the works is a study by Abdul Hadi El-Gazzar (1925-1965) of the infamous large scale work showing the Construction of the Suez Canal. The painting was commissioned from the artist by the Maritime Museum in Alexandria to honour the workers who built the Canal in the 1860s and the finished work now hangs in the Egyptian Museum of Modern Art in Cairo. Dated 1965, the watercolour preparatory work (35 x 70cm.) is estimated at $100,000-150,000 and depicts labourers stooping beneath their loads of stone excavated from the vast trench being dug through the landscape beyond.

Haguer by Mahmoud Saïd (1897-1964), an portrait of a peasant, will be offered with an estimate of $150,000-200,000 alongside a portrait of his mother-in-law, Sherifa Hanem Rassem (estimate: $150,000-200,000) and two landscapes A House in Talkha reflecting the evening sun and Teraat El-Mahmoudia (estimated at $40,000-60,000 and $60,000-80,000 respectively).

The collection also has two bronzes by the master sculptor, Mahmoud Moktar (1891-1934), one of the pioneering figures of Egyptian modernism. Typical of his work, they depict peasants at work, capturing a moment in time as Egypt was developing as a nation in the 1920s and 1930s. The Peasant shows a woman collecting water and The Lady showing a woman standing, are estimated at $60,000-80,000 each.

Another important sculptural work is by Adam Henien (b. 1929) of the legendary Arab singer, Umm Kulthoum, one of an edition of eight, from 2008 (estimate: $100,000-150,000). From the other end of his career, entitled Labor and acquired by the Collection directly from the artist, is from 1957 and is expected to sell for between $80,000-120,000.

The Iraqi architect, Maath Alousi, has built up one of the most impressive collections of Modern Iraqi Art since he began buying directly from artists in the 1960s. Born in Baghdad in the late 1930s he grew up with a love for the great architecture in his City. He studied in Turkey and then for a further degree in London before establishing an international firm in his name with offices around the world. His projects include The Central Bank in Salalah, Oman, The Arab Bank, Embassy of the UAE, Embassy of Qatar, Cultural Centre of Salalah and the Kuwaiti Embassy in Bahrain. He also published a seminal reference book, The Visual Diary of an Arab Architect, in 1984.

Behind each work he acquired for his collection is a story of his friendship with the artist. Alousi was not only their friend, he was often one of the very few early patrons offering support. In 1988, Alousi built ‘The Cube House’, a famous residential building overlooking the Tigris which became a ‘salon’ for intellectuals and artists. Soon afterwards, due to the unfolding situation in Iraq, Alousi moved out his great building to the safety of Limassol, Cyprus.

The key work in the sale is by Shaker Hassan Al Said (1925-2004) entitled Ta’imlat Mowdou’l (Meditations), from 1984 and estimated at $100,000-150,000. A co-founder of the influential Baghdad Modern Art Group alongside Jewad Selim (whose work is also represented in the sale???), this seminal work by Al Said combines an abstract suggestion of a concrete wall decorated with graffiti and bursts of colour. This is a poignant reference to the destruction caused by the war in his homeland, a theme which runs through many of his works.

Pictures of Ismail Fattah’s (1934-2004) Untitled work of 1988, chart the history of the collection as one interior shot of Maath Alousi’s home in Baghdad taken the same year the work was painted shows it hanging in the main living space of Cube House with another photograph showing the picture now moved to his next home in Cyprus. The artist was born in Basra but moved to Baghdad to study and from where he met and was influenced by his contemporaries including Shaker Hassan Al Said, Kadim Haidar, Faeq Hassan and Jewad Selim. He went on to work in Rome but returned to Baghdad to work as an art teacher at the Institute where he had trained. This vivid portrait included in the auction with the features picked out in stark horizontal lines, has a dedication to Alousi by the artist written on the work and is estimated at $40,000-60,000.

Works by Dia Al-Zaaawi, Kadhim Haidar and Mohammad Mohreddin are also included in the collection.

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