Modern and Contemporary Middle Eastern Art sale yesterday (11 June) in London achieved an impressive total of £2,082,680, with 74% sold by lot and 81% sold by value. The top lot was Divine Horses (From the Martys Epic) by Kadhim Hayder, which sold for £250,062. A highly significant work from his artistic prime part his most notable series, The Epic of the Martyr the work had been estimated at £50,000-80,000.
A further highlight was a major mirror work by Monir Farmanfarmaian (Iran 1924-2019). The Magnificent Sacred, from her landmark Geometric Installations series, sold for £168,813. A metre-wide nonagon of mirrors and painted glass inlaid in wood, the work combined Farmanfarmaians deep understanding of numerology and symbolism with classical Islamic art and post-war abstraction. It was exhibited at Farmanfarmaians major retrospective at the Niavaran Palace in Tehran in 2006 and was one of the most technically complex examples of her spectacular mirror work.
Bonhams Head of Modern and Contemporary Middle Eastern Art, Nima Sagharchi, commented: We are really thrilled with the results of this sale. Hayder and Farmanfarmaian are highly important artists and these were both exceptional and significant works, from the prime of their individual careers. Hayders Martys Epic series, based on the poem he wrote in 1965, introduced a new paradigm in Iraqi modernism by drawing on history and cultural memory, utilising past motifs to reflect contemporary issues. This was rightly acknowledged by his fellow artist Dia Azzawi. Though Farmanfarmaian rose to international acclaim after winning a gold medal at the Venice Biennale in 1958, it was not until recently that Western curators recognised her part in shaping post-war abstraction having often worked alongside contemporaries such as Jackson Pollock and Willem de Kooning at their famed Eighth Street Club. It was a real pleasure to be able to offer these works, and Im not surprised they achieved such impressive results.The sale saw a significant upsurge in bidders from the Gulf and from North America, and it is a testament to the technological creativity of our platform that our geographical reach can be so broad at a time when movement is so restricted.
The sale also saw a word record for a work by the artist Louay Kayyali (Syria, 1934-1978). The Cake (Kaak) Seller sold for £137,562. It had been estimated a £40,000-60,000.