LONDON- Christie’s Middle Eastern department is celebrating the 15th sale season with its current online auctions this November. The title Modern and Contemporary Middle Eastern Art sale includes works by such names as Mohamed Melehi and Huguette Caland, as well as Samia Halaby and Rachid Koraïchi

In addition, Christie’s is hosting another sale titled Matters of Material, an intergenerational dialogue between contemporary artists from the Middle East, Africa and Latin America, exploring how these artists make use of materials in their practice. The core message behind the curatorial approach is to emphasise how the adopted techniques and media used by the featured artists translate into universal concerns like sustainability, identity, gender equality and globalisation. 

Finally, Christie’s is also presenting We Are All Beirut, a sale to benefit the arts community affected by the devastating explosion in Beirut on 4th August. Sale proceeds will benefit AFAC (Arab Fund for Arts & Culture), with additional monies going to the Lebanese Red Cross. AFAC will be pooling financial resources across all artistic fields, especially targeting the arts scene in Beirut.  

The three sales are running online until 24th November, and to help you navigate them, we’re here to show you our highlights!

Modern and Contemporary Middle Eastern Art

Lot 15: Samia Halaby, Mediterranean #279:

Estimated Price: $65,000-90,000
Realised Price: $534,000

Samia Halaby, Mediterranean #279, Oil on Canvas, 121×167.6 cm, 1974.

Samia Halaby has likened this painting to a recurring dream she had as a child while living on the Eastern shore of Palestine. In the dream, she saw a wave approaching her, which she likens to an old woman telling her important things. 

The deep shining tones of blues, purples and greens certainly make the smooth arcs of Halaby’s wave appear somewhat otherworldly. The round lines in the work are said to be influenced by books on geometry used by engineers specialising in working with pipes. This prompted Halaby to bend strips of metal and mirror their reflections in her works, resulting in this ethereal wave.    

Lot 11: Mohamed Melehi, Untitled:

Estimated Price: $78,000-100,000
Realised Price: $400,000

Mohamed Melehi, Untitled, Cellulose Paint on Wood, 149×119.5 cm, 1982.

The MENA art world shed a tear when we said goodbye to Moroccan artist Mohammed Melehi in October. Famous for his waves and his contribution to the Casablanca School, this untitled work is emblematic of Melehi’s style. In this stunning piece his trademark waves take over the lower-half of the frame, being juxtaposed by vertical lines and crescent-moon shapes in the upper-portion of the image. 

With both rigid architectural lines and smooth curves, the work is also thought to have been influenced by Amazigh jewellery, as well as the time Melehi spent working on mural paintings during the Asilah Arts Festival (which he co-founded in 1978), and his collaborations with Moroccan architects studio Faraoui & De Mazieres.

Lot 17: Huguette Caland, Fragmented Memories (9):

Estimated Price: $85,000-110,000
Realised Price: $108,500

Huguette Caland, Fragmented Memories (9), Acrylic, Coloured and Silver Pens on Loose Canvas, 195×155 cm, 2008.


Lot 33: Rachid Koraichi, Le Chemin de Roses:

Estimated Price: $260,000-320,000
Realised Price: TBA

Rachid Koraichi, Le Chemin de Roses, Various Materials, 203.5 x 666 cm, 2000-2001.

This stunning work – consisting of six banners – is a hallmark of Rachid Koraïchi’s use of script, line and sacred ancient text. It is part of a larger installation of 28 banners, seven of which were acquired by the British Museum in London. 

Born into a Sufi family in Aïn Beda, Algeria, Koraïchi was exposed to illuminated Qur’anic manuscripts as a child, with text appearing throughout his work. In these panels, we see how he embraces modernity together and collaboration with traditional craftsmen from Algeria. Koraïchi began by applying golden paint onto the fabric, which was then embroidered by specialists, perhaps in reference to the Blue Qur’an of the tenth century. 

Matters of Material

Lot 7: Mounir Fatmi, The Year 0:

Estimated Price: $100,800-151,200
Price Realised: TBA

Mounir Fatmi, The Year 0, coaxial antenna cable and staples in artist’s Plexiglas frame, 160×120 cm, 2012.

Mounir Fatmi grew up spending much of his time at the flea market in Tangiers, surrounded by vast amounts of waste, which he considers to have been his first art education. He likens the flea market to a museum in ruin, an idea which is echoed throughout his work.

The Year 0 utilises cables, a material once used to transmit images and information in the 1990s, which he has shaped into the figure zero. This zero alludes to the collective moment of the Arab Spring, as well as the European Zero Group of the 1960s, which sought for artistic and social renewal, as well as a positive outlook on the world. Fatmi’s work appears like a poster, aiming to spark social conversations and the viewer’s imagination.

Lot 16: Olga De Amaral, Cesta Lunar 81 (Moon Basket 81):

Estimated Price: $200,000-320,000
Realised Price: TBA

Olga De Amaral, Cesta Lunar 81 (Moon Basket 81), Acrylic, Gold Leaf, Thread and Gesso on Linen, 195×135 cm, 2012.

Colombian artist Olga De Amaral is famous for her “off-stretcher” works using non-traditional materials, combining craft traditions with fine art principles. 

Her hand-made works take several months to produce, with Cesta Lunar 81 coming together as a three-dimensional artwork of colour, gesture and pattern, resulting in this golden vortex of linen manipulated into a latticed grid of golds and blues.

Lot 23: Motaz Nasr, Khayameya:

Estimated Price: $27,000-39,000
Realised Price: TBA

Motaz Nasr, Khayameya, 7.032 Matches on Wood in Artist’s Plexiglas Box, 100×100 cm, 2008.

Khayameya is a type of appliqué textile which was historically used to decorate tents across West Asia and North Africa and can still be found in the old markets of Cairo. It’s hard to believe that Moataz Nasr’s Khayameya is created from matchsticks. 

Nasr’s use of matches has many references; to Egypt’s recent revolution, the country’s lost heritage and a reminder of his childhood, when his father told him that matches are both powerful and fragile, holding the ability to start fires while also being snappable within seconds. This idea of combined fragility and power resonates throughout the artwork.

Lot 5: Pascale Marthine Tayou, Fresque de Craies K:

Estimated Price: $200,000-260,000
Realised Price: TBA

Pascale Marthine Tayou, Fresque de Craies K, Chalk, Charcoal, Mixed Media in Artist’s Frame, 210×300 cm.

Born in Cameroon and based in Belgium, Pascale Marthine Tayou belongs to a group of African artists who aim to redefine postcolonial culture and blend experiences of their birthplaces with those of Europe. 

Fresque de Craies K is inspired by Cameroonian tradition, but uses pieces of chalk and charcoal to create an artwork that resembles a tapestry. Often working with recycled materials, Fresque de Craies K includes figurines, which both blend into and out of his multicoloured backdrop.

Lot 17: Catalina Swinburn, Anauša II – Immortal Warrior:

Estimated Price: $31,500-44,100
Realised Price: $46,700

Catalina Swinburn, Anauša II –Immortal Warrior, woven paper from old documentation referring to stone archeology displaced from Persepolis in artist’s Plexiglas box, 200×150 cm, 2018-2019.

Working with the concept of displacement, Anausa II weaves historical archives into a garment, including documents of displaced treasures from Persepolis in Iran. The work is said to be a symbol of female resilience and a piece of armour, which was once worn by Swinburn in a performance before being boxed and displayed as an artwork. 

Concerned with the idea of recycling, Swinburn’s work goes through many processes. It first begins as several documents before being woven into a garment, it is then worn and performed and then finally presented as a work of art. 

We Are All Beirut

Lot 1: Mona Hatoum, Witness:

Estimated Price: $46,000-58,000
Realised Price: TBA

Mona Hatoum, Witness, Biscuit Porcelain, 49 cm, 2009.

Mona Hatoum was born in Lebanon into a Palestinian family. A miniature, Witness is a porcelain reproduction of a bronze monument in Beirut’s Martyrs Square, which was created to commemorate Lebanese nationalists who were hung by the Ottomans during World War One, and which is now covered in bullet holes as a result of the Lebanese Civil War. 

Just like the original statue, Hatoum’s Witness is covered in bullet holes, a reference to both those who suffered during the Civil War, as well as the deceased in World War One. 

Lot 2: Nabil Nahas, Untitled (Cedar Trees):

Estimated Price: $78,000-100,000
Realised Price: $91,000

Nabil Nahas, Untitled (Cedar Trees), Oil On Canvas, 124×100 cm, 2020.

Nothing is more emblematic of Lebanon than the cedar tree. Lebanese nature is a common theme throughout Nabil Nahas’s painting, especially the cedar, which he was even commissioned to design for Lebanese stamps in 2018. 

This particular painting incorporates blue to represent the Mediterranean sky, allowing the Lebanese cedar to truly stand out in all its glory. 

Lot 36: Ayman Baalbaki, ‘anbar raqam 12 (Warehouse N°12):

Estimated Price: $78,000-100,000
Realised Price: TBA

Ayman Baalbaki, ‘anbar raqam 12 (Warehouse N°12), Mixed Media & Acrylic on Canvas, 175×200 cm, 2020.

Ayman Baalbaki is one of Lebanon’s most prolific living painters. Known for depicting destruction caused by the Lebanese Civil War, in Warehouse No 12 his attention turns to the aftermath of the August explosion.

On the afternoon of 4th August 2020, a fire broke out in Warehouse 12 at Beirut’s port. The warehouse stored the ammonium nitrate and fireworks that caused the explosion, which is immortalised here by Baalbaki in paint.  

Lot 51: Alfred Basbous, Cedar:

Estimated Price: $20,000-26,000
Realised Price: $25,000

Alfred Basbous, Cedar, Bronze, 65 cm, 2002.

Alfred Basbous was a modernist artist and sculptor, known for his abstract works in marble, bronze and stone. Having studied in Paris, he was also inspired by Constantin Brancusi, Jean Arp and Henry Moore

Influenced by Lebanese folk art and Phoenician culture, his Cedar is a true symbol of Lebanon.

For more information visit:

Middle Eastern Modern & Contemporary Art:
Sale PageE-catalogueViewing RoomDesign Section Viewing Room

Matters of Material:
Sale PageE-catalogueViewing Room

We Are All Beirut:
Sale PageE-catalogue

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