Which painting sold for $459,000 @ Dubai auction?

By Angel Chan

Inaugural Sotheby’s auction nets $3.6 million

DUBAI 16 November 2017: Attracting participants from five continents and 33 countries, with bidders spanning the whole Middle East, Sotheby’s Dubai inaugural auction took in US$ 3.6 million this week.

The Dubai sale achieved a total of $3.6m (Dh13.2m) and a sell-through rate of 80 per cent. Bidders in the room, on the phone and online competed to buy works spanning 20th Century and Contemporary Middle Eastern and International art, Design, Photography, Jewellery, Books and Manuscripts and Arts of the Islamic World. The sale offering attracted a broad span of regional and international participation, said Wam.

The top lot of the sale was Ali Banisadr’s captivatingly explosive canvas, ‘In Media Res’, described as an intoxicating mix of colour and exuberant brushstrokes inspired by elaborate Persian miniatures. It was chased in an extended bidding battle by no less than six bidders to a final sum of $459,000.

Also on sale were works by major international modern artists offered for the first time at auction in the Middle East: French artist and leading proponent of ‘art brut’, Jean Dubuffet, and Polish American art deco painter, Tamara de Lempicka.

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Spending a considerable amount of time with the Bedouin people of the Algerian desert, Dubuffet became fascinated with rituals that reached outside the mainstream of the European art historical tradition. A rare example from the body of early works executed on his travels, ‘Palmiers aux Bedouins’ was pursued by five bidders and sold above high estimate for $137,500. Painted in vivid colours, de Lempicka’s idealised portrait of a man wearing a white turban and traditional gold-rimmed robe, ‘Indian with a Turban’ soared above estimate to bring $150,000.

One of the most influential Italian artists of the twentieth century, Alighiero Boetti’s work engaged with the changing geopolitical situation of his time, much of it made on travels to Afghanistan where he began to work with local craftswomen to create colourful embroideries. ‘Fuso ma non confuse’ from 1988, a jewel-like example of this project, sold for $31,250.

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Zaha Hadid’s voluptuous and highly expressive ‘Prototype Aqua Table’ from the 2005 Principal Collection, met competition from four bidders, selling for double its pre-sale high estimate for $21,240. Three pieces by François-Xavier Lalanne from a prestigious private collection all exceeded their pre-sale estimates, to bring a combined total of $57,500. Cultivating the idea that art and aesthetic pleasure ought to be a part of everyday life, he married the fine and decorative arts whilst infusing his objects with his fixation with birds. The group was led by an avant-garde and whimsical take on a rocking chair, as ‘Oiseau d’Argent, A Rocking Chair’ sold for $30,000.

Meanwhile, the last major collection of its kind, a previously unknown series of letters and works on paper by Khalil Gibran, one of the greatest novelists of modern Arab and American literature, was hotly contested and soared to a combined total of $183,750, three times the pre-sale high estimate. Testament to his importance, each of these extremely rare objects sparked bidding battles and surpassed their estimates, led by a collection of thirty three letters written to his friend and patron, Madame Marie Azeez El-Khoury, that fetched a sum more than three times the pre-sale high estimate, $100,000.

The Sotheby’s Dubai sale also included works by pioneering poet and painter Bahman Mohasses, Iranian American abstract expressionist Manoucher Yektai, and Egyptian Surrealist Antoine Malliarakis.

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Other notable items auctioned at the sale included works from Emirati artist Hassan Sharif, currently the subject of a retrospective at the Sharjah Art Foundation, whose ‘Garden #1’ sold for $23,750, and record prices were achieved for Fouad Elkoury’s ‘Sherihan’, Taher Pourheidari’s ‘Palm’, Effat Nagui’s ‘Untitled (Girl With Her Goat)’, and Yto Barrada’s ‘Untitled (Still Life)’ which sold for $43,750.

Appearing at auction for the first time, benchmark prices were achieved for Mostafa Abdel Moity for his painting NN51 which sold for $43,750, and Milad Mousavi, when his ‘Against Procrastination’ fetched $1,375.

Edward Gibbs, Sotheby’s Chairman for the Middle East, said, “Having seen the number of our UAE clients buying in our sales increase by over 80 per cent in the last five years, [last] night’s sale here in Dubai saw us take the next step. As much as 30 per cent of of the participants in the sale were from the UAE, but of equal importance is our contribution to the market here by drawing international buyers, reflecting just how engaged the art world is with the region, as well as the extraordinary quality of the works.”

Ashkan Baghestani, Head of Sale, said, “We saw as many as six bidders spanning the globe competing for a single work. This auction has been a voyage of discovery on a number of levels: for our clients in the region who have been introduced to international artists and new categories, and the connections we made with new collectors as a result of the sale’s appeal globally, across generations and at all price points.”