Sotheby’s Edward Gibbs on the Arts of the Islamic World Sale

LONDON - Edward Gibbs Chairman and Head of the Middle East and India Departments at Sotheby’s London, talks about growing up in the Middle East, Islamic calligraphy and the upcoming Arts of the Islamic World sale.

You have spent a lot of time in the Middle East throughout your life. Do you have a favourite spot? It would have to be Istanbul. Riding the Bosphorus ferry from Eminönü to Kadıköy.
What is your favourite Middle Eastern dish? Roast beef and Yorkshire pudding. Sorry, I am English. But I do have a soft spot for fesenjoon.
Do you have an anecdote that has stayed in your memory over time? One memory stands out, that of spending a day in prison in eastern Turkey in 1984, detained on suspicion of espionage. An occupational hazard for any vagabonding student with a camera in the 1980s. It happened to me again in Algeria in 1989, and in Tunisia a few months later.
If you were to save one item from a fire in the upcoming sale, which one would it be and why? Impossible to choose, but I do have a personal favourite, the sixteenth-century calligraphy by Mir ‘Ali Al Harawi. The verses have a timeless resonance:

    Of adversity a man spoke with his son
    Fear not, said he, and give succour to the man in need
    Help the out-stretched hand and answer his need
    For till then you yourself are not a man.

A Persian quatrain, signed by Mir ‘Ali Al-Harawi, with Royal Mugal Illumination, India, Mughal, 16th Century.

Arts of the Islamic World, Sotheby’s London, April 24 2013