London auction house Sotheby’s is holding a Middle East sale on Tuesday, April 30, featuring rare works from some of the Gulf region's most celebrated 20th-century artists.
Out of 85 works, 15 from GCC artists will be available to purchase, including a painting by Emirati artist Hassan Sharif.
Artistic work from the area is in high demand at the moment, according to Sotheby’s Middle East specialist and head of sales, Ashkan Baghestani.
"GCC art and Saudi art is gaining a lot of attention because they're the last countries to gain this much prominence on the market. We've explored Egypt, Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, Iran and other regions," he tells The National. "Now there is a real focus from institutions and curators on art from the GCC, especially from the modernist era, which is a fascinating one."
Hassan Sharif's Olympiad No 4 is estimated to sell for £20,000 - £30,000 (Dh81,983 - Dh122,975)
This 2009 painting by Sharif features two human forms and is described as the “perfect example” of the artist’s figurative period, which began after 2008.
Another work by Sharif, who died in 2016, was sold in Sotheby’s last Middle East auction in October for £40,000 (Dh163,967), well above its high-end estimate of £25,000 (Dh102,480).
Baghestani described Olympiad No 4 as "very well priced" with an estimate of £20,000-£30,000 (Dh81,983 - Dh122,975) for the large-scale painting.
But he believes it could fetch a lot more.
“I know the interest for him. He’s gaining so much prominence in the institutional circuit,” the expert says. “There are rumours that he’s going to have a show in the US.”
Mohammed Ahmed Ibrahim’s Untitled is estimated to sell for £45,000 - £60,000 (Dh184,463 - Dh245,951)
Part of the same artistic roundhouse as Sharif, this is the first time Emirati artist Mohammed Ahmed Ibrahim’s work has been featured at a Sotheby’s auction.
Ibrahim is from Khor Fakkan and was the subject of a retrospective at Sharjah Art Foundation in 2018.
The untitled painting from 1988 is a colourful work made up of symbols and basic shapes, which Baghestani says shows the artist’s response to the landscape around him.
“You see part of the Bedouin culture, his passion for the desert with the landscapes and colours for his native country,” he says. “It’s the first time really a work like this has come up at auction. We’re testing the market. But it’s a very early work from the 1980s. We’re excited.”
Abdulrahman Al Soliman's, A Swab on the Head of an Orphan and Reciting, are both expected to reach £40,000 - £60,000 (Dh163,967 — Dh245,951)
Abdulrahman Al Soliman was one of the founders of the first generation of modernists in Saudi Arabia and has two works for sale at the upcoming auction.
The two paintings bear resemblance to work by European cubists and are a good example of the kind of creations coming out of the ground-breaking Dar Al Funoon Al Sa’udiyyah (Saudi Art House) before the Siege of Makkah in 1979.
The estimates are “conservative”, says Baghestani, who expects the top end of the range to be reached at sale.
“This is a body of work, which is rare because he [Al Soliman] hasn’t painted that much,” he says. “There are probably about 10 or 15 works from this period. They are in good condition and have great provenance.”
Two paintings by Al Soliman were sold at Sotheby's last Middle East art sale for more than £130,000 (Dh532,895) each - a record for the artist at auction.
Mohammed Al Saleem’s Girl in Blue with Mirror is estimated to sell for £60,000 — £90,000 (Dh245,951 — Dh368,927)
Girl in Blue with Mirror (1967-68) is the earliest work from Saudi artist Mohammed Al Saleem to ever appear at an auction.
The rare piece was previously included in That Feverish Leap into the Unknown exhibition at Art Dubai Modern by renowned curators Sam Bardaouil and Till Fellrath.
“He [Al Saleem] was a true instigator in the 1970s to build an artistic community in Saudi and to try to create a new language for a country that had modernism quite late,” Baghestani says.