As the pandemic continues to take its economic toll on creatives around the world, more than 50 Syrian artists – some living in their native country, others are scattered across Europe, the US and the UAE – have come together with the help of the Atassi Foundation for Art and Culture to sell their works at auction.
The Contemporary Syrian Art Auction, which is now open for bidding and closes on Monday, October 12, is organised by the Atassi Foundation, a non-profit organisation that seeks to serve as a platform for Syrian art, and ArtScoops, an online marketplace for Middle Eastern art.
A total of 54 works are included in the sale, produced by both emerging and middle-career artists such as Hiba Al Ansari, Nour Bahjat, Mohamad Khayata, Fadi Al Hamwi and Youssef Abdelke. Prices range from $1,500 to $8,000, and the foundation has stated these have been set to ensure that a range of collectors, particularly younger ones, will be able to afford the works.
For director Shireen Atassi, the initial plan was to stage an exhibition in a physical space that featured Syrian artists from different generations and geographies. “There are a lot of Syrian artists in Europe that are unable to find their audiences in this part of the world, and the idea was to have an event that brought them here and helped create an overall experience for Syrian art,” she says.
The foundation, which does not have a physical space of its own, typically puts on an annual exhibition of its collection by collaborating with other cultural institutions. Last year, for example, the non-profit presented Personal Revolutions at Alserkal Avenue, a show that highlighted Syria’s seminal female artists.
Amidst the closures and restrictions caused by the pandemic, planning a show for this year was not possible. However, Atassi says, she still wanted to find a way to showcase Syrian art in some form, not just because of the current health crisis, but also in the wake of events such as the blast in Beirut, where a number of Syrian artists live. “They’ve had their works damaged and their livelihoods in Beirut have been impacted,” she says.
To organise the auction, Atassi reached out to artists and asked them to showcase available works in their inventory. Highlights in the sale include Ziad Dalloul's Portrait pour une chaise, estimated at $6,000 to $8,000, a dreamy still life of chair, and Yasser Safi's Worker, estimated at $3,500 to $5,000. In contrast to Dalloul's soft and fluid strokes, Safi's are thick and crude. Both artists reside in Europe.
There are also the more muted works of Reem Yassouf with A Dance For, priced at $4,000 to $6,000, and Iman Hasbani's delicate pastel and pencil piece A Stoat in Bed, estimated at $2,000 to $4,000. The works of Alaa Sharabi, Juhayda Al Bittar and Mohannad Orabi, all of whom live in the UAE, are also included. Atassi reveals that a number of works are now on reserve.
All the lots are sold directly from the artists, and the foundation and ArtScoops are not taking any percentage from the sales. However, a number of artists have pledged a portion of their proceeds to the foundation, which is beset with its own financial challenges.
“At the end of the day, it’s not the commercial aspect that’s important. It’s really about the concept that we are coming together and creating an art scene that is inclusive of people wherever they are and no matter how old they are,” Atassi says, adding that the artists featured in the auction span three or four generations.
“It’s just a way for us to create solidarity. We all have a role to play in these circumstances, and we can’t shy away from these instances.”
More information on the Contemporary Syrian Art auction can be found on artscoops.com