Christie’s London “Middle Eastern, Modern and Contemporary Art” auction took place on October 24, and offered a selection of paintings, prints, sculptures, photographs and drawings by leading artists. The auction featured works by the likes of Abdel Hadey El-Gazzar, Fateh Moudarres, Mahmoud Hammad and Paul Guiragossian.

We got in touch with Junior Art Specialist at Christie’s, Suzy Sikorski who started Mideasart,  a new online art platform that features a comprehensive coverage of interviews and exhibition reviews of artists from the Gulf region. Sikorski shared with artmejo highlight pieces showcased at the sale and some background details on the artists behind them.

Samir Rafi, Momie Ressuscité:

(Egyptian, 1926-2004)

Junior Art Specialist at Christie’s, Suzy Sikorski talking to artmejo about Samir Rafi, Momie ressuscité, Oil on Burlap on Panel, 215x68cm, 1959

A very rare and unique piece from the leading Egyptian painter Samir Rafi. Known to be the painter of the working class in his native country. Through symbols derived from vernacular folk culture, in Momie Ressuscité, or resurrected mummy, Rafi creates a modernist abstract representation of Ancient Egyptian aesthetics, converting his admiration for his own cultural heritage.

It is imperative to also consider the title and the subject of this painting together, since they suggest the rebirth of not only the greatness of Egypt, but also the leading role of the woman in society.

Paul Guiragossian, Horloge:

(Lebanese, 1926-1993)

Junior Art Specialist at Christie’s, Suzy Sikorski talking to artmejo about Paul Guiragossian
Paul Guiragossian, Horloge, Oil on Wood, 160x70cm, 1958

In this unique composition, painted on an impulse of a sudden inspiration, we see a central figure that fluctuates between figuration and abstraction, capturing the essence of time.

The present work encapsulates an energetic and hopeful period in the artist’s life. He was a young Armenian, overcoming the painful memories of his family’s forced relocation and adjusting to life in his adopted country of Lebanon. This was painted at a time when people in Lebanon and the Arab world, lived a short golden time of relative peace and hopes for a better future.

Antoine Malliarakis Mayo, Elle est bissilihide no.4:

(French/Greek, 1905-1990)

Mayo, Elle est Bissilihide no. 4, Oil on Board, 49×81.3cm, 1936

An intellectual character from the 20th century, the Egyptian born Mayo had a very international life, as he travels, studied and lived in many places and exhibited his works to many people. He studied at the École des Beaux Arts in Paris and devoted himself to painting.

Mohammed Al Saleem, Allah:

(Saudi Arabian, 1939-1997)

Mohammed Al Saleem, Allah, Oil on Canvas, 50x70cm, 1981

Mohammed Al Salem is one of the founders of Saudi’s modern art scene, whose individual style and dedication to promoting arts helped pave the way for the Kingdom’s art education throughout the region. Christie’s presented two works of his from the collection of the artist’s daughter that are part of a pivotal moment in the artist’s career.

This is definitely one of my top picks. This is by Mohammed Al Salem, one of the pioneers of the modern art scene in Saudi. This work is Allah, where he actually coined the term ‘horizonism’ to discuss the landscapes of deserts. -Sikorski

Mahmoud Hammad, Alef Lam Meem:

(Syrian, 1923-1988)

Mahmoud Hammad, Alef Lam Meem, Oil on Canvas, 75x58cm, 1979 and Mahmoud Hammad at work in his studio (image provided by the artist’s estate)

Born in Damascus in 1923, the Syrian multi-skilled artist Mahmoud Hammad was a painter, a printmaker, a medal engraver and a sculptor.

Hammad, considered today as a pioneer of Modern Syrian art and Arab Abstraction, depicted abstract compositions that revealed an extraordinary balance between form and color and evoked both his academic and aesthetic savoir-faire. The artist created contemporary paintings in which the Arabic letter played the most important role and through the letter itself, his playful and joyful compositions revealed a new reality.

Mahmoud Hammad was a pioneering figure in the Syrian art scene, he would explore abstraction through the Arabic letter form. This work Alef Lam Meem was inspired from the Holy Quran, where he repeatedly used verses in his works. -Sikorski

Marwan, Untitled (Still Life):

(Syrian, 1934-2016)

Marwan, Untitled (Still Life), Oil on Canvas, 65x100cm, 1977

This is a very impressive memento mori by Marwan, who opted for the subject matter of fruits and flowers in a state of decay – they are alive but not for long.

Marwan harkens back to ideas very popular in the seventeenth century during a period where everyone was preoccupied with answering the questions of life on earth and the mysteries of the afterlife.

Internationally acclaimed for his stylistic, post-Surrealist approaches to portraiture and still life, Marwan has successfully infused his works with colors and bold expressions that embody they own sense of lyricism and poeticism. In the present work, the artist uses this technique to highlight distinct features while abstracting certain defined characteristics.

Out of the four works that we’re selling from the Syrian artist Marwan, this is one of the oldest and it’s the only still-life. It was exhibited at the Baghdad Museum of Modern Art in the 1980, and we’re really happy to have this.– Sikorski

References are from the Christie’s Middle Eastern, Modern and Contemporary Art October 2018 Auction Catalogue. 

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