'Magnetism': Saudi Arabian artist Ahmed Mater donates seminal work to aid Covid-19 relief

The early version in his well-known series will be sold to help communities vulnerable to the virus

Ahmed Mater's 'Magnetism' is estimated to fetch up to $151,000. Courtesy Christie's
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Saudi Arabian artist Ahmed Mater has donated a work from one of his best-known series, Magnetism, to a philanthropic initiative benefiting artists and communities who are particularly affected by Covid-19.

The Future is Unwritten: Healing Arts Initiative is run by Christie's, the World Health Organisation and the UN, and Mater's will be the first work sold in the year-long series of fundraisers. Magnetism is being auctioned at Christie's current Modern & Contemporary Middle Eastern Art sale in London, where it is hoped to achieve $100,000 to $151,000.

Magnetism is one of Mater's earliest works, showing a small, black cube-shaped magnet with iron shavings in a circle around it. The thin metal shavings keen towards the magnet, in an echo of pilgrims circumambulating the Kaaba at Makkah. It is seen as a conceptual rendering of one of Islam's most sacred rites, and this 2009 version, existing as a glass vitrine that covers the small scene inside, is one of the first in the series. Other works, which Mater made until 2012, are rendered as large-scale photographic prints and photogravure etchings.

The fundraising is run by The Future is Unwritten, a New York initiative by the charity CULTURUNNERS and the UN that facilitates connections between art organisations and sustainable development programmes.

Recipients of the donations will include public health campaigns in Yemen; the Navajo Nation in Arizona, where coronavirus-related deaths have been disproportionately prevalent; and a cultural preservation project with Yazidi communities on the Iraqi-Syrian border.

Mater trained as a community doctor in the southern Saudi Arabian region of Asir, which makes his tribute for the initiative particularly poignant.

Farid Belkahia's 'Tapuwana' is up for sale in Christie’s Modern & Contemporary Middle Eastern Art auction in London. Courtesy Christie's
Farid Belkahia's 'Tapuwana' is up for sale in Christie’s Modern & Contemporary Middle Eastern Art auction in London. Courtesy Christie's

Christie's Middle East sale is taking place over a two-week period. It launched earlier on Wednesday, November 11, with works including Egyptian artist Hamed Nada's painting Brass Music (1986), with an estimate of $100,800–$151,200; Moroccan artist Farid Belkahia's fantastical, biomorphic sculpture Tapuwana (2008), with an estimate of $226,800–$302,400; and Lebanese painter Huguette Caland's Fragmented Memories (9) (2008), with an estimate of $81,900–$107,100.

A spokesperson for Christie’s confirmed that proceeds of the sale are to be split two-thirds to the WHO Foundation and one third to The Future is Unwritten’s Artist Response Fund.