Christie’s sale in London set to be immersive journey through Arab art - GulfToday

Christie’s sale in London set to be immersive journey through Arab art


Human Highway composed by Ahmed Mater.

Muhammad Yusuf, Features Writer

Christie’s has announced Marhala: Highlights from the Dalloul Collection, a single owner evening sale comprising 48 masterpieces from the Dalloul Art Collection. The auction will take place at Christie’s headquarters in London on November 9 and represents an immersive journey through modern and contemporary Arab art history from the 1930s up until the 2010s. Formed by the late visionary art collector Dr. Ramzi Dalloul and his wife Saeda El Husseini and advanced by their son Dr. Basel Dalloul, the Dalloul Art Collection, located in Beirut, Lebanon, is known for its breadth and depth, reflecting the collectors’ high level of connoisseurship. Their decades of travel across the Arab region combined with their intimate relationships with artists, have shaped a collection that boldly celebrates Arab artistic diversity and culture.

The sale is led by Mahmoud Said’s Fille à l’imprimé (Girl in a printed dress), an iconic masterpiece previously held in the collection of Hussein Pasha Sirry and exhibited four times during Said’s lifetime, notably at the 1939 Salon du Cairo. Painted at the height of the artist’s career, the work explores one of Said’s favoured subjects, an Egyptian peasant woman or fellaha. With his play on light and unparalleled mastery of colour, Said depicts the young women with a contemplative yet seductive gaze, glowing in her flowery dress against the dark background.

Other significant works include an abstract by Kadhim Haydar, Dia Al Azzawi’s Summeria Face, which was one of the highlights of the recent travelling exhibition Beirut and the Golden Sixties, a distinctive Mohamed Melehi wave painting from the 1980s, and a mystifying Marionette by Marwan painted in 2014. The collection has a strong Lebanese contingent including works by Etel Adnan, Helen Khal, Paul Guiragossian, Shafic Abboud and Chaouki Choukini. The contemporary section highlights leading figures of the region like Ibrahim El Salahi, Ahmed Mater and Samia Halaby, with a monumental composition painted in 2014 and a captivating geometric abstract from 1978.

A group of works by Moroccan artists includes Mohamed Melehi’s (1936, Asilah, Morocco - 2020, Boulogne-Billancourt, France), Untitled, 1982. Melehi was a pivotal figure in the Casablanca Art School in Morocco in the 1960-1970s. Combining Moroccan arts, crafts and architecture with avant-garde art movements of the 1960s including Abstract Expressionism and Pop Art, the work is a fusion of Melehi’s distinctive wave pattern, radiant colour palette and Arabic calligraphy.

Ibrahim El-Salahi (b. 1930, Omdurman, Sudan) has been recognised as a key figure in the development of contemporary African Modernism, pioneering the integration of African, Islamic, Arab and Western artistic traditions in his practice. Palm Tree, 2001, is a work from The Tree series, a body of geometrically complex and spiritually captivating pieces inspired by the artist’s fascination for the Haraz tree native to Sudan.

Mahmoud Said’s artwork Fille a l’imprime.

Lebanese-American painter, art critic and educator Helen Khal (1923, Allentown, US - 2009, Ajaltoun, Lebanon) was born in Pennsylvania; she, however, embarked on her formal art education in Beirut in 1946 and would go on to make significant contributions to the Lebanese art scene. Her Untitled work, 1970, is an evocative colour field abstract in which the artist imbues life onto the surface through carefully building forms from numerous layers of thinned oil paint and sweeping modulations of colour.

Kopf links gedreht (Head turned left), 1972, is an early example of the iconic Head series by Marwan (1934, Damascus – 2016, Berlin). In the present work, he employs expressive brushstrokes in watercolour to explore the psychological depth of the human visage. The auction also includes a monumental Marionette canvas by the artist from 2014 and features two works by Saudi Arabian artist Ahmed Mater (Tabuk, b.1979), one of the most esteemed cultural voices documenting and scrutinising the realities of contemporary Saudi Arabia today. In Human Highway (Mina), Mater captures an aerial perspective of the revered ‘Stoning of Jamarat’ rite during Hajj, reflecting on the spiritual forces that has upheld human faith. Dr Basel Dalloul said that “the Dalloul Collection will continue to ensure that Arab artists from different backgrounds, cultures and disciplines are represented and specifically showcase a diverse range of talent and perspectives from across the Arab world. Many of these works were purchased from Christie’s; so it is fitting to collaborate with them to offer a selection in London this Autumn for the next chapter of their treasured lives to unfold.”

Dr. Ridha Moumni, Deputy Chairman, Christie’s Middle East and North African said: “It’s truly a privilege to present these masterpieces during a period when Modern and Contemporary Arab art is flourishing and drawing increasing attention from an international client base. Beyond the Gulf States traditionally leading this market, a broader audience of clients, collectors and dealers continues to emerge. The Dalloul Collection stands out as one of the most important collections of Arab art in the Middle East. I look forward to seeing these museum-quality pieces from this unique collection achieving exceptional results.”

Marie-Claire Thijsen, Head of Sale, Middle Eastern Modern and Contemporary Art said that “when I first had the pleasure of seeing the Dalloul Collection, I was struck by its magnitude, taking the viewer on a voyage through the modern and contemporary art history of the Arab world. This evening auction reflects the connoisseurship of the Dalloul family and celebrates their passion for Arab art and culture.” Founded in 1766, Christie’s auction house has sold eight of the ten most important single-owner collections in history.

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