I n 2017, a client phoned Sotheby's to describe a painting by the Iranian artist Bahman Mohasses that he had purchased at a flea market. Apparently it had been acquired by the seller in the 1970s directly from the artist. The valuations team were intrigued by the provenance of this fascinating work, so he was invited to bring the work in to the Hamburg office for appraisal, and after closer inspection by specialists, a remarkable discovery was made.
This important piece arrived just as works by Mohasses had begun to flourish in the market, and with this demand the painting was consigned to our sale in Dubai with an estimate of $180,000-250,000, and it went on to sell for $375,000.
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Read the Full Story
I t is the dream of any antiques hunter or art collector to stumble across a potential masterpiece while browsing a thrift store or marketplace. Here, Dr. Katharina Prinzessin zu Sayn-Wittgenstein reveals what happens when the suspicion is confirmed.
"It caught my curiosity as it was not the obvious artist to copy."
“Having worked for Sotheby‘s for almost 20 years, I have often received calls from people who believed they had made a great discovery in a flea market – usually works by artists such as Van Gogh, Monet, Picasso or Rembrandt.
In 2017, the phone rang and a young man called to say that he had purchased a painting by the Iranian artist Bahman Mohasses at a flea market. Apparently it had been acquired in the 1970s directly from the artist. I was not too familiar with Bahman Mohasses at the time, whose work had only recently started to sell well on the international art market. It caught my curiosity though, as it was not the obvious artist to copy.
Having arranged an appointment, the gentleman travelled to Hamburg and came to our office in order to present the painting. The canvas looked original and the painting untouched. We took photographs and emailed those to my colleague Ashkan Baghestani, who at the time was head of sale for Contemporary Arab, Iranian and Turkish Contemporary Art. The client had already left our office with the painting, as we said we would research the work and get in touch, when Ashkan called and was very excited.
He said that we should immediately call the client and ask him to return and leave the painting with us in order for the original to be presented to the internationally acknowledged expert on the artist, who is based in London. I placed the call and was lucky – he was still in Hamburg and prepared to come back.
We thereupon sent the painting to London, its authenticity was established and it was consigned to our sale in Dubai with an estimate of $180,000-250,000. It sold for $375,000, until this day the third highest price ever achieved for a work by the artist. The consignor was of course very pleased, and so was I!
This is a great story. Sotheby‘s was able to establish the authenticity of the painting and by marketing it to an international audience in the appropriate context in Dubai, we achieved a remarkable price for the client. A happy ending!”