Sotheby’s London Book Department was honoured to auction the impressive Library of Mohamed and Margaret Makiya, which resulted in an extraordinary total of £2.7million, more than six times the pre-sale estimate. The news of the sale had generated much media coverage which attracted many new bidders who were keen to acquire books from the Makiyas’ library. Many of the record prices achieved were due to strong competing bids from clients around the world, and especially from bidders in the Middle East, where Dr Makiya was well known as an architect.
The library of Mohamed and Margaret Makiya is a testament to their shared passion for books and works on paper. The collection embraces the culture of the Middle East and the wider Islamic world, and its connections with Europe. It also represents the particular interest of Margaret Makiya in accounts of European travellers (especially women) in the Middle East, and Dr Makiya in Islamic art and architecture. The library is therefore rich in books on art and design, archaeology, travel, history, literature, and, of course, architecture.
It was as an architect that Mohamed Makiya made his name. Born in Baghdad, Makiya came to Britain in 1935 to take his matriculation exams. He studied architecture and civil design at Liverpool University where he met Margaret Crawford, a student of History. By 1946 Makiya had been awarded a Ph.D from King’s College Cambridge, and had returned to his native Iraq where he established Makiya Associates. Margaret joined him in Baghdad, where they were married, having been appointed as a lecturer at Baghdad University in English Language and History.
One of Dr Makiya’s most important commissions was the extension to the Khulafa Mosque in Baghdad, undertaken in 1960. The site was notable for the thirteenth-century Suq al-Gazl Minaret, which had to be incorporated into the overall design. The resulting extension, completed in 1965, was widely hailed as a highly successful synthesis of past and present traditions of Islamic architecture. In 1953 Dr Makiya founded the Department of Architecture at Baghdad University where he remained as head until 1968.
Makiya Associates continued to grow during the second half of the twentieth century and by the mid-1980s the firm had expanded from Iraq into many Arab countries, including Kuwait, Bahrain, Oman, Abu Dhabi, Dubai and Qatar, together with an office in London. Notable projects include the Sheikh Mubarak Building in Bahrain (1973), the International Hilton Hotel in Dubai (1974), the Headquarters of the League of Arab States in Tunis (1983), and the headquarters for the Regional Arab Organisers in Kuwait (1982-87).
The late 1980s saw a natural progression of the Makiyas’ interests, with the founding of the Kufa Gallery in London. This non-profit charity devoted to the promotion of the art and architecture of the Middle East would play an important role in promoting Iraqi and Arab culture in London.
The impressive number of volumes described in the present sale catalogue is illustrative of the tremendous appetite that the Makiyas had for collecting. From the early 1940s they were indefatigable buyers of any books that touched on their interests, from recent scholarly studies to rare colour-plate books and literature on the Middle East, together with photographs, postcards, drawings, watercolours, prints and maps.