Abdulrahman Al Zayani's art collection on display at Sotheby’s Dubai before London sale

Collection of 92 artworks features artists from across the Middle East working on various mediums

Sotheby’s Dubai's highlights from the Al Zayani Collection will be on display at in DIFC until March 3. Photo: Getty
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Leading regional art collector Abdulrahman Al Zayani is selling more than 80 works from his private collection of Middle Eastern artists, spanning styles and generations.

The collection of 92 works come from across the region — from Egypt, Iran, Iraq, Lebanon, North Africa, Syria, Saudi Arabia, Turkey and the UAE — and range in mediums from paintings, drawings and sculptures to multimedia.

Set to go on sale at Sotheby’s London on April 25, some of the highlights from the expansive collection are on show at Sotheby’s Dubai in the Dubai International Financial Centre until March 3.

Egyptian artist Abdel Hadi El Gazzar's Portrait, painted in 1942, and his Untitled painting in1960, along with the abstract work of Turkish painter Fahrelnissa Zeid entitled Erbil: Realties Nouvelles painted between 1960 and 1965. Antonie Robertson / The National

“Single owner collections of modern and contemporary Middle Eastern arts are very rare,” Alexandra Roy, Sotheby’s head of sale for modern and contemporary Middle Eastern art, tells The National.

“Al Zayani is buying across the board. You are getting Egyptian, Turkish, Moroccan, Iranian artists. You're getting modern masters and contemporary work too.

"You're really getting a small selection of a timeline over the region and I think that that's quite unusual.”

Based between Bahrain and London, Al Zayani has been collecting Middle Eastern and international art for more than 20 years.

The 12 highlighted works in Dubai are a reflection of his eclectic taste in modern and contemporary Middle Eastern work, showing a range of styles from the figurative, stylistic, abstract and experimental.

There are strong museum pieces, such as a work by the late Egyptian painter Gazbia Sirry, one of the most influential artists of her generation, renowned for her early work that focused on images and stories of women.

Sirry's work The Garden, painted in 1959, is a theatrical piece in which stylised figures of women are painted within geometrical spaces.

With powerful use of colour, Sirry, who died in 2021, charmingly explores the different phases of women’s lives.

Gazbia Sirry's The Garden, 1959. Antonie Robertson / The National

Another female artistic powerhouse is Turkish artist Fahrelnissa Zeid, whose abstract work, Erbil: Realites Nouvelles, was painted between 1960 and 1965.

Zeid was an innovative force in the art scene of Jordan and the rest of the Middle East, through her approach, execution and quality of her work.

She was also an educator, establishing The Royal National Jordanian Institute Fahrelnissa Zeid of Fine Arts in Amman, Jordan, in 1976.

Erbil: Realites Nouvelles refers to the Iraqi city in the Kurdish region of the country, with the French title of the painting translating to "new realities".

In 1958, many of Zeid’s relatives were killed in Iraq after the 1958 coup that overthrew the monarchy — a traumatic and transformative moment for her.

The abstract painting, which displays Zeid’s prowess over colour and form, is a reference to her working through this grief while revisiting earlier ideas of abstraction in her work.

Moroccan modernist artist Farid Belkahia's painting Untitled painted in 1981, Tunisian painter Hatem El Mekki's painting L'Homme Au Chapeau painted in the 1950s and Egyptian surrealist painter Fouad Kamel's painting, Unititled painted in 1941. Photo: Antonie Robertson / The National

“If you don't know much about Middle Eastern art, contemporary and modern, I think this helps you figure out what your taste is,” Roy says.

“Abdulrahman Al Zayani has really done the hard work. You can come and be like, ‘Wow, well I love Fahrelnissa, let me explore these kinds of artists more.’”

A more contemporary piece on display from Al Zayani’s collection includes Moroccan artist Hassan Hajjaj's Miriam Green, 2010.

Hajjaj, whose aesthetic is greatly influenced by the hip-hop and reggae scenes of London, along with his North African heritage, is known for his bright portraits of eccentric and elegantly dressed people posing in front of bold and patterned backgrounds.

“We wanted to show things in Dubai, which we hadn't necessarily shown before,” says Roy. “We wanted to take a microcosm of his collection, which is really exciting.”

Roy says thecollection can also give an insight into how someone can begin collecting work, and how varying pieces from different mediums and styles can work together.

“There is a synergy to be drawn from all of the works,” she says.

“It's a real insight into how a young collector starts and evolves the collection, especially when it comes to art from the region. And I think that's what's super special about this collection.”

Highlights from Abdulrahman Al Zayani's collection are on display at Sotheby’s Dubai in DIFC until March 3.

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Updated: March 01, 2023, 7:27 AM