20th Century Art / Middle East

Online Auction: 20–27 October 2020 • 2:00 PM GMT • London
20th Century Art / Middle East 20–27 October 2020 • 2:00 PM GMT • London

T he 20th Century Art / Middle East sale (20- 27 October) will feature a stunning selection of works from the most sought after artists from the modern era to the contemporary period. We are thrilled to present a carefully selected and diverse cohort of masterworks from the region, including works by formidable Iranian Masters, dynamic and exciting artists from the GCC, as well as powerful artistic voices from North Africa and the wider Middle East.


Featured Highlights

Trailblazing Modernism From Tehran to LA: The Azari Collection

With a powerful vision and relentless dedication to collecting Sheila and Eric Azari played an invaluable role in the trajectory of the Iranian Modern Art movement.

Ardeshir Zahedi (a former Iranian ambassador to the United States) dancing at a cultural event hosted and curated by Sheila and Eric Azari in Los Angeles Image courtesy of The Azari Family

Having met at university in Berkeley, California, Eric and Sheila moved to Tehran in 1959, remaining there for five years and becoming heavily steeped in the discovery of Iran’s heritage and past. Their home, covered wall to wall with art, became a salon where artists, socialites and foreign dignitaries would mingle, share ideas and talk freely. On their return to Los Angeles, the Azaris succeeded in bringing ancient Persian folklore to Hollywood, hosting events to benefit LACMA (Los Angeles County Museum of Art) and creating a synergy between the artists.

The ‘neo-traditional’ Saqqakaneh group was formed during this time, establishing a modernist approach to a national artistic identity that combined folkloric and religious idioms of their country within a forward looking, progressive movement.

Among these works are a zen-like, abstract watercolour by Sohrab Sepheri (est. £8,000-12,000), a spiritual metallic work on paper by Faramarz Pilaram (est. £60,000-80,000) alongside two pieces by Massoud Arabshahi (est. £12,000-18,000 and £6,000-8,000 respectively).

Two of the artists have never appeared at auction, their works largely unknown to the public until now: Hassan Ghaemi and Fereydoun Rahimi-Assa. Ghaemi was a raw, self-taught talent, who picked up a brush aged nine and never looked back, his mysterious trajectory feeding into his modern aesthetic narrative. Drawing on the traditional craft of his hometown in the Caspian region with a poet’s sensibility, his works seamlessly bring together the decorative design of woven rugs, the patterns of tiles in mosques and the colours of traditional dresses. Rahimi-Assa too drew on memory in his vivid canvases, but blended his Persian heritage with the influence of contemporary American society and secular themes.

Artists from the GCC

We are proud to present seven works by artists from the GCC, three of whom are formidable women artists. We also include a painting by modern Saudi master, Abdulrahman Al Soliman. Timely and exciting is the news that Mohammed Ahmed Ibrahim has just been chosen to represent the UAE at the Venice Biennial in 2022 – we include three outstanding works in our sale.

Featured Lots

A New Vernacular: Searching for a Unique Identity in North Africa

Between the 1950s and 1960s the creative output in North Africa was significant; the caliber of artistic talent was sizable, diverse and united by an overarching sentiment that called for the reclaiming of a national narrative. The majority of countries in the region were historically rooted in a Euro-colonialist past, with traces of this influence still very much present today. These artists, many of whom we present in this sale, were striving to create a new vernacular and take ownership of their own cultural and artistic discourse. This in turn became an extension of the search to articulate and define a new sense of self-identity – one that shed the constraints or influences of their colonial histories. Through different styles, mediums and compositions these works all share the same thematic explorations.

Artworks from Palestine

We are proud to present one of our finest selections, to date, of Palestinian art at Sotheby’s, and are privileged to be able to bring together an important group of artists and some of their most significant works to auction. This grouping of works is a reflection of the depth of Palestinian art and the continual importance of articulating identity and self-expression.

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