Iraqi modernism dominates Middle East auctions this season
Iraqi modernism continues to dominate auctions in the Middle East, with Christie’s and Bonhams featuring works from family collections assembled in Baghdad in the 1960s.
The works of Jewad Selim, Faeq Hassan, Kadhim Hayder and Dia Azzawi dominate the fall offerings of both auction houses.
Sotheby’s Middle East sale is based on Lebanese and Iranian works, with remarkable paintings by Huguette Caland and Etel Adnan.
Bonhams Baghdadiyat Sale
Bonhams is putting together the second installment of her three-part Baghdadiyat sale, which she began in June of last year with works from the Madhloom and Makiya collections.
Their current sale, Wednesday November 17 in London, features works from the collection of architects Nizar and Ellen Jawdat, who had been friends with the Madhlooms and evolved in the same art and architecture circles.
Nizar Jawdat, born in Syria, grew up in Iraq, where his father was one of the country’s prime ministers.
He met his American wife at the Harvard School of Architecture and they returned to Baghdad, where they contributed to the development of modernism in the city.
They were exiled twice and in 1968 they left Iraq for good, settling in Italy, London and finally Washington, DC.
The couple’s four sons are selling the collection after the recent death of their parents.
It was handed over to Bonhams in three stages, says Nima Sagharchi, director of Middle Eastern, Islamic and South Asian arts at the home.
Most of the high value pieces will be in this sale, then an online only auction in February of works on paper, and the second part of the main collection in the Baghdadiyat final sale next June.
The Jawdat offerings here, of 18 works, include two stunning paintings by Jewad Selim. Good and Evil, an abstraction dates back to 1951, the year Selim and Shakir Hassan Al Said founded the Baghdad Group of Modern Art.
It was a study for a tiled mural planned for the Iraqi Red Crescent headquarters in Baghdad, designed by Ellen Jawdat.
The mural was never done, but the study for public works foreshadows Selim’s most important project, Freedom monument, that he started in Tahrir Square seven years later.
Bonhams gives the study estimate at Â£ 120,000 to Â£ 250,000 ($ 165,000 to $ 345,000).
Another Selim, Man and horse (1956), of a curvy horse and man rendered in the artist’s recognizable archetypal style, is priced between Â£ 100,000 and Â£ 200,000, and a whimsical and introspective painting by Dia Azzawi, aptly titled Painful visions (1967), is offered between Â£ 50,000 and Â£ 80,000.
This second Baghdadiyat also sells other lots from the Madhloom collection, brought together by architect Said Ali Madhloom, who ran the Al Wasiti gallery with Mohamed Makiya and Henry Svoboda in the 1960s.
The auction house successfully offered the first installment of the sale in June, earning more than Â£ 3million, of which 75% was sold by lot. A number of works went to collectors in the United Arab Emirates.
Madhloom’s works here include three paintings of tawny landscapes by Lorna Selim and a more colorful work of geometric figures filled with figures by the same artist, the wife of Jewad Selim, titled Window and priced at Â£ 3,000-5,000, as well as works by Ghazi Al Saudi and others.
Orin and Rita Parker for Christie’s
Christie’s 21 Offers works from the collection of Orin and Rita Parker, an American couple who lived in Baghdad from 1960 to 1965.
The sale takes place online until Wednesday, November 3. Orin led the American Friends of the Middle East, which advocated for cultural dialogue between the United States and Arab nations.
One of his first assignments in Baghdad was to help secure the publication of a number of paintings by Jewad Selim which had been blocked at customs after Selim’s touring show in the United States in 1954.
Orin befriended Selim and was introduced to the circle around him, collecting works of Selim, Lorna, Hassan, Hayder and others – which are now on sale at Christie’s.
The relationship, though brief, was obviously deep: Orin was one of Selim’s carriers when he died in 1965.
The Parkers also received an unexpected artistic afterlife, as they are featured in Iraqi photographer Latif Al Ani’s tourist footage at the Ctesiphon Arch.
The star of the collection is Hayder He’s destroyed so he can come back (1963), part of cycle 35 The epic of the martyr which allegorizes the battle of Kerbala.
This canvas offers a freer rendering than most of the controlled and stable canvases in the series, with its visible, almost agitated brushstrokes. Christie’s estimated it between Â£ 25,000 and Â£ 35,000, a relatively low estimate which probably reflects the smaller scale of work.
The collection also includes three works of the school of Basra, whose painters are less known but of historical importance for scholarship in this field.
One of the non-commercial benefits of the Parker legacy is the couple’s detailed notes and records. These were donated to Brigham Young University in Utah, their alma mater.
âMy mother was a great chronicler of our lives abroad in the Middle East, and she kept what we called ‘family journals’, like a logbook,â says David Parker, their youngest child. and now an architect in California.
âIt was like a journal and almost every day she wrote in it and included photos, party invitations or artwork of her children. My father also loved to write and he compiled an informal memoir of his time in Baghdad, where his life revolved around art.
While the Parker collections are not on the scale of Madhloom or even Jawdat collections, they are still important.
Many of the collections that remained in Iraq, as well as the State Collection of the National Museum of Modern Art, were dispersed, destroyed or looted during the Iraq War.
This made works from established origins all the more sought after. It should be noted here, for example, that all of these collections have resided outside Iraq since the 1960s and 1970s.
A new base of collectors
There have been staff changes in recent years in the Middle East departments of Christie’s and Sotheby’s, and Christie’s has gone from two sales to one per year.
This created an opening for Bonhams, who did particularly well last year, and in terms of supply, is slightly at the top of the charts.
Bonhams sale offers 92 lots in October, with a total estimate of Â£ 1.1m to Â£ 1.8m, similar to Sotheby’s sale of 78 lots, with an estimate of Â£ 1.3m to 1.8m M Â£.
The sale of 56 lots of Christie’s is estimated at Â£ 1.1million and Â£ 1.5million.
Suzy Sikorski, Associate Specialist in the Middle East Department of Christie’s, explains that the auction house is now incorporating the best lots from the region into major modern and contemporary day and evening auctions, to expose these artists to a new base. of collectors.
Sotheby’s has not indicated such a policy, although they recently had substantial success with an untitled Etel Adnan painting dating from around 1973 at their contemporary October 14 auction. It sold for Â£ 352,800, from an estimate of Â£ 60,000 to Â£ 80,000.
Although prices for Adnan’s work have climbed based on his increased critical and popular appreciation, the price (a record for the artist) is significantly higher than his recent Middle East auction results – although ‘a May 2020 offer in a non-Middle Eastern country contemporary sale at Sotheby’s failed to make the same leap.
In their next sale, this Tuesday in London, Sotheby’s offers a watercolor of Adnan from 1990 (estimate of Â£ 15,000 to Â£ 20,000) and a rather trippy Caland acrylic from 2003 when she lived in Venice, California (estimate of 30 Â£ 000- Â£ 40,000), and a number of Iranian lots and a spooky painting by Fahrelnissa Zeid from the 1950s (estimate Â£ 60,000- Â£ 80,000).
Update: October 25, 2021 9:36 a.m.