Sotheby’s writes A Love Letter to Beirut in Dubai before UK auction - GulfToday

Sotheby’s writes A Love Letter to Beirut in Dubai before UK auction

Sotheby 1

An artwork being put in place.

Muhammad Yusuf, Features Writer

A Love Letter to Beirut, a Sotheby’s Dubai exhibition dedicated to artists from and inspired by Beirut, the Paris of the Middle East from the 1960s to the present day, was unveiled on February 26 at Sotheby’s gallery in DIFC.

To run till March 1, the show will be followed by an exhibition in London (Apr. 19 – 22), ahead of the auction on April 23.

The DIFC exhibition also showcases auction highlights from Sotheby’s Sale of Arts of the Islamic World and India to take place on April 24 and spotlights the Modern and Contemporary artworks auction (Apr. 23), which includes two paintings by Iranian pioneer Bahman Mohasses.

Artists figuring in Sotheby’s include Etel Adnan; Mahmoud Said; Aref El Rayess; Nabil Nahas; Saliba Douaihy; Paul Guiragossian; Huguette Caland; Helen Khal; Cici Sursock; Ayman Baalbaki; Mona Saudi and Saloua Raouda Choucair. They bring paintings, watercolours, mixed-media and sculptures to the event. “Lebanon has long been home to an artistic community whose contributions to the cultural landscape cannot be overstated, whether these are artists who are native to the country, painted its beautiful landscapes and architecture, or who studied and worked there,” said Alexandra Roy, Sotheby’s Head of Sale, Modern & Contemporary Middle East.

“We wanted to create a moment to savour the richness of this culture and history, casting a lens on Lebanon as a place of magic and inspiration, and in doing so, sparking new cross-cultural dialogues amidst the growing global appetite for these artists.” “One of Dubai’s greatest attributes is that it is melting pot, where art lovers from across the world convene, discuss, and forge fresh paths. It is only fitting, given these close cultural ties, that we will celebrate another of the region’s artistic spheres, which is itself a magnet for creativity,” said Katia Nounou-Boueiz, Head of Sotheby’s UAE.

Sotheby 2  Artworks from the auction.

Beirut is a city where art is ubiquitous to the landscape – each area has its own unique culture and past where one can trace the history of many of the leading artists of the Middle East. The sale offers a look at just under fifty artists, anchored by some thirty Lebanese artists, alongside artists from Iraq, Egypt, Syria and Palestine, whose practice has been shaped by their interaction with the country – be it through residency, friendship, teaching, travels or showcasing their works.

Together, the works trace the influence of Lebanon from the beginnings of mid-century modernism to the present day, in the art of the region and the wider world. Born in Beirut in 1925, Etel Adnan is today considered one of the most internationally celebrated artists from the region, and this year she is set to be represented in the Venice Biennale and honoured with a major retrospective at Ithra in Saudi Arabia. Considered to be the founder of modern Egyptian art, Mahmoud Said was at his core a master of landscape painting, bringing to life not only his beloved Egypt but also views of the places he visited on holiday.

Aref El Rayess was born in Beirut in 1928 and displayed talent from a young age, progressing as a self-taught artist to become a pioneer of the avant-garde in Lebanon. Born in Beirut in 1932, Huguette Caland was the only daughter of Lebanon’s first president. In 1970, she left her family behind and relocated to Paris – a move that indicated art was to become her whole life. One of the leading 20th century painters in Lebanon, Saliba Douaihy was fascinated with the landscapes of his homeland, expressing them through distinct planes of deep colour. Born in Amman in Jordan, as a child, Mona Saudi would explore the ancient ruins surrounding her home, playing among the stone statues and Roman columns that dated back millennia. At the age of seventeen, she moved to a bustling Beirut to become an artist. The cosmopolitan Lebanese capital of the 1960s was the centre of the Arab intelligentsia and home to a thriving artistic and literary community. Saudi’s first solo exhibition was held at Beirut’s Cafe de la Press in the winter of 1963, and was a ground-breaking moment in the artist’s life – enabling her to fund a trip to Paris, where she would go on to attend Ecole des Beaux-Arts.

Sotheby 3  A colourful work in Sotheby’s auction.

Born in Beirut in 1916, Saloua Raouda Choucair is regarded as Lebanon’s first true modern abstract artist, and a leading sculptor of the Arab world. A sculpture in the auction by renowned Iraqi artist Mohammed Ghani Hikmat, was formerly in the collection of Lebanese artist Alfred Basbous – a giant in the field of Arab sculpture – who displayed it as part of his International Sculpture Symposium (founded in his native town of Rachana). The journey of the piece demonstrates the influence of the artists from different countries on each other. Here, Hikmat explores the traditional theme of motherhood, through the lens of the people of Baghdad and Iraqi daily life, executed in a pared down, abstract and timeless manner.

The auction also presents a painting of a Marionette by Marwan (a professor of art under whose tutelage were many of the leading Lebanese Contemporary artists, including Ayman Baalbaki), a portrait by Cici Sursock (a member of the aristocratic family behind the city’s Sursock museum) and a multifaceted work by Nabil Nahas (inspired by the geometric patterns found in the decorative Islamic art of his birth city, Beirut).

Related articles