Bringing together worldwide highlights from Sotheby’s auction calendar, the exhibition will star highly sought-after masterpieces by celebrated artists from the region alongside myriad pieces of historical importance and utmost rarity. The exhibition will also unveil one
of the finest portraits by ‘Prince of Painters’ Sir Peter Paul Rubens (1577-1640) ever to
come to the market.

The view will take place at Level 1, Gate Village Building 3, Dubai International Financial Centre, UAE from Tuesday 20 March – Saturday 24 March. The exhibition is open to the public from 10am – 8pm with public events including gallery tours and a talk by collector Dr. Houman Sarshar.

Located in the DIFC, Sotheby’s Dubai presents a programme of year-round events, including selling and non-selling exhibitions, events and talks, and jewellery valuations – reflecting the spectrum of Sotheby’s international sales and extensive client services. For more information please see www.sothebys.com/Dubai.

One of the most important artists in Western art history, Rubens was the most celebrated and sought- after artist of his time – courted by all the great royal families of Europe, enriching their palaces with his monumental compositions. Unseen by the public for over 40 years, Rubens’ Portrait of a bearded Venetian nobleman will be offered in Sotheby’s Old Masters sale in London on 4 July 2018, with an estimate in the region of £3 million.

Rubens was not only one of the most celebrated artists of his time, his influence has lived on across the centuries, partly because he painted for the most powerful patrons of his time, including Spanish King Philip IV, the Dowager Queen of France, Marie de’ Medici and Charles I of England. His most famous paintings now hang in internationally-renowned museums, including the Louvre in Paris, The National Gallery in London and The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York. He is also one of the most sought-after artists on the art market: his masterpiece, Massacre of the Innocents (1611-12) sold at Sotheby’s London in 2002 for £49.5 million – then the highest price for any Old Master sold at auction, a record it retained for 15 years, until it was superseded by Leonardo da Vinci’s Salvator Mundi, sold last year for $450.3 million (£342.2 million).

A vibrant international platform for modern and contemporary arts spanning an array of countries and regions, Sotheby’s 20th Century Art / Middle East auction will take place on 24 April in London.

Sohrab Sepehri, Untitled (Tree Trunks and Village Scene), oil on canvas, circa 1972 (est. £200,000-300,000 / $278,000-417,000)

A child of Kashan, Sepehri grew up among the town’s ‘gardens of paradise’. This early influence was crucial, as the shady trees that offered cool respite remained central to the artist’s output throughout his life. A rare feature in this almost abstract series, one can glimpse huts from in between the tree trunks.

At a time when many were seeking a Western education, Sepehri chose to travel to the East – fascinated by what Hinduism and the traditions of Japan had to offer his gentle, reclusive spirit. Following a printmaking apprenticeship in Tokyo, Sepehri assimilated the Zen culture and minimalist aesthetic into his own universe of poetry, calligraphy and dusty deserts. This evocative painting harks back to his homeland, yet has a universal lyricism.

Bahman Mohasses, Il Minotauro fa Paura alla Gente per Bene, oil on canvas, 1966 (est.
£280,000-350,000 / $390,000-487,000)

One of the rarest works by the pioneering icon of Iranian modernism to ever appear at auction, Mohasses’ The Minotaur Scares the Good People is a highly-charged representation of the artist’s lifetime grappling with demons of alienation, loneliness and disenfranchisement. The dreamscape is populated with a plethora of half-human half-beast creatures, one of very few works by the artist to contain quite so many detailed figures. Hailing from the sought-after period of the 1960s, this irreverent avant-garde painting will make its auction debut having remained unseen in a private collection for nearly fifty years.

Filled with movement, anguish and despair, this composition brings to mind Picasso’s renowned series on the Minotaur and Francis Bacon’s anthropomorphic figures. A symbol of mythic power combined with mortality, Mohasses’ Minotaur is a manifestation of ultimate yet truncated power. The humans, though painted in livelier colours, are also symbols of powerlessness – a mother with an infant, a fleeing man – all prisoners of their own condition.

Shakir Hassan Al-Said, Bustan Al-Ma’refa (The Orchard of Knowledge), oil on canvas, 1952
(est. £60,000-80,000 / $83,500-112,000)

One of the most vibrant and iconic works by the pioneer of Iraqi Modernism ever to have
appeared at auction, The Orchard of Knowledgesymbolises a stepping stone into a new artistic era. Painted with an idealistic and ‘naïve’ style inspired by religious mythology and ancient folklore – and a palette drawing from the tribal colours of Iraqi ancient carpets – the work merges past and present in perfect harmony.

Al-Said was the most versatile Iraqi artist of his generation – a curious, emancipated and adventurous explorer who relentlessly pushed boundaries throughout his lifetime. One of the founding members of The Baghdad Group of Modern Art, Al-Said sought to question notions of Iraqi modern art, which had largely been defined by opulence and classical makers of heritage. Alongside the Art and Liberty Movement in Egypt, the group were one of the few to have published a manifesto expressing their vision and concerns – emphasising the importance of innovation in painting at a time of a country’s ‘awakening to real freedom’.

Sotheby’s Arts of the Islamic World auction on 25 April covers myriad works of art produced under the aegis of multiple Islamic Empires, spread over three continents over a period of
over 1,200 years. Prominent among the works are exceptionally rare pieces hailing from prestigious European private collections, including beautiful ceramic wares, refined Indian miniature paintings and Arab, Persian and Turkish manuscripts.

 

Two early copies of Euclid’s Elements and Ptolemy’s Almagest, Egypt and Persia, 13th century (est. £200,000-300,000 each)

Owing to the medieval Arabic scientific tradition during the Islamic Golden Age, many important Greek texts have been preserved and transmitted to future generations through the centuries. These extremely rare early works were both copied in the thirteenth century, in North Africa and Persia respectively, and bear witness to this important phase of conveying Classical knowledge.

Ptolemy’s Almagest is arguably the most influential text on Arabic astronomy. The Greek original was first translated into Arabic by al-Hajaj ibn Yousef ibn Mattar by the order of the Caliph al-Ma’mun during the first half of the ninth century. The ‘Elements’ by Euclid is considered one of the pillars of mathematics. This finely written copy is densely illustrated with finely-executed diagrams and marginal notes, combining elegant naskh script for the main text and thuluth for the titles.

Travelling from America and Europe to the lands known collectively in the 18th and 19th
centuries as the Orient, artists aimed to capture sites, cultures and the bright desert light that few had experienced before. Orientalist art sheds light on the history of these lands from a time when photography was in its infancy and figurative art was not traditionally practised.

Eugène Girardet, Evening Prayers, oil on canvas (est. £150,000-200,000 / $210,000-280,000)

Scenes of prayer occupy a central position in nineteenth-century Orientalist art. Evening Prayers is not only a splendid evocation of the North African desert, but affords a fascinating glimpse into the rituals of Muslim worship. In the cool shade cast by the building behind them, a group of men on a rooftop face Mecca in prayer. In 1874, Girardet embarked for Morocco, then travelled to Tunisia and Algeria, for which he developed a particular fondness.

Charles Wilda, A Souk in Cairo, 1887, oil on panel (est. £120,000-180,000 / $168,000-252,000)

Painted in 1887, this street view of Cairo is a striking example of the nineteenth-century Orientalist views which opened up a new world to European viewers. The hustle and bustle of women carrying water jugs and snake charmers, rendered with photographic realism,
brilliantly evoked the souks and streets of a city beyond the reach of many. In the background, the striated red and white brick buildings so typical of the Egyptian
capital inspired artists and architects alike. Like many of his fellow Orientalist painters, Wilda travelled to Egypt in the early 1880s and set up a studio in Cairo where he developed a keen interest for the depiction of everyday Egyptian life.

Theodoros Ralli, Stringing Pearls, 1882, oil on canvas (est. £80,000-120,000 / $112,000-168,000)

Stringing Pearls is a rediscovery in Ralli’s oeuvre, and perfectly captures the artist’s exceptional skill at depicting intimate scenes of daily life in Egypt. Seated on an ornamented wooden bench adorned with elegant silk cushions, a Nubian man dressed in yellow silk carefully strings white teardrop pearls into a necklace. Picking them one by one from a small ceramic bowl, he appears fully concentrated on his task, unaware that he has dropped two on the floor. Pearl cultivation and the pearl trade were integral to the Middle East region’s economy before the discovery of oil and gas. Fashioned into necklaces and bracelets, natural pearls supplied from the region were prized by jewellers all around Europe.

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