On 16 December Sotheby's is delighted to present the first ever auction held by an international auction house dedicated entirely to calligraphy.
In selecting some of the most talented, revered and innovative calligraphers working with the Arabic script from Japan to the United States through Turkey, the Middle East, China and the Indian Sub-Continent, the auction aims to represent the development of an art form that has entered its second millenium.
The sale traces the development of the Arabic script from its inception, with kufic leaves dating from the 8th century, through popular calligraphy of the 19th century, to the highest calibre works by international calligraphers working today. Featuring monumental pieces on canvas, in bronze and even neon by artists such as Ahmed Moustafa, Parviz Tanavoli and Mohammad El Baz.
The significance of calligraphy as an intellectual and cultural art form stems from the very essence of Islamic culture: the first Qur'anic verses revealed to the Prophet Muhammad comprised an instruction to "recite in the name of your Lord Who taught by the pen" (Surah XCVI, 1-5) and in this, the art of writing became sacrosanct.
Calligraphy played a vital role in the establishment of the Islamic empire, differentiating it from previous regimes. Governmental edicts featured beautifully calligraphed signatures, and Arab coinage departed from Byzantine motifs in its use of inscription. Quite apart from establishing the identity of the Islamic empire, calligraphy became an important art form representing the word of God in the spirituality of its geometry, and can be appreciated universally for its superb graphic and abstract qualities.
With this auction Sotheby's hopes to present a retrospective of calligraphy through the ages, highlighting the very genesis of this technique - proof of how the art of the word has influenced artists, poets and intellectuals from across the world for centuries.