A Myriad of Masterworks in Dubai

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Launch Slideshow

Sotheby’s biggest-ever public exhibition in Dubai brings together highlights from the upcoming 20th Century Art: Middle East, Khosrovani-Diba Collection, Arts of the Islamic World and Modern and Contemporary South Asian Art sales. There will also be a major work from the Bowie/Collector sale, along with a display about the Beyond Limits selling exhibition at Chatsworth. Ahead of the Dubai office opening, the exhibition will be held at Level 1, Gate Village Building 3, Dubai International Financial Centre, UAE from 10am–8pm on Thursday 29 September. This will be accompanied by a series of talks on 28 and 29 September and guided tours. Click ahead to see highlights.

A Myriad of Masterworks in Dubai

  • Monir Farmanfarmaian, Variations on Hexagon of Octagon Mirrors, 2005. Estimate: £120,000–150,000. From 20th Century Art: Middle East.
    Monir Farmanfarmaian’s works have long been met with international acclaim, most recently with her recent retrospective at the Guggenheim Museum in New York in 2015. Farmanfarmain’s oeuvre brings together the decorative elements of Iranian traditional craft with Western abstraction – in playful yet poignant homage to Islamic geometry and the ancient roots of Iranian culture. This timeless yet contemporary work is one of the most exquisite and colourful to appear at auction.



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  • A royal horse attended by three grooms, Mughal, circa 1570–90.
    Estimate £200,000–300,000. From the Khosrovani-Diba Collection.
    This work depicts the scene of an elegant royal horse attended by grooms, one of whom is shoeing him with golden nails – painted in a style that can be associated with the artists of the Hamzanama, the monumental series of paintings made for Emperor Akbar between approximately 1560 and 1580.



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  • Sa'adi (d.1292 AD), Kulliyat, signed by Na’im al-Din al-Katib, Persia, Timurid, dated 890 AH/1486 AD and 899 AH/1494.
    Estimate £80,000–120,000. From Arts of the Islamic World.
    The first-part of the Arts of the Islamic World sale will encompass a selection of 50 manuscripts and calligraphies from the well-known collection of the late Jafar Ghazi. Each of these works bears witness to the high esteem in which calligraphy was held in Turkey, the Middle East and Persia from the medieval period up until the end of the Ottoman era. A highlight of this group is this superb Timurid manuscript of Sa’adi’s Kulliyat in almost pristine condition, complete with fine, crisp illumination and tooled and filigree-work binding. The manuscript includes Sa’adi’s entire work with the addition of the preface by ‘Ali ibn Bistun. Na’im al-Din, who worked in Shiraz, copied different parts of the Kulliyyat at different times and that it took him at least nine years to complete this manuscript.



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  • Shakir Hassan Al Said, Boy with a Hat, 1955. Estimate £40,000–60,000. From 20th Century Art: Middle East.
    A painter, sculptor and writer, Shakir Hassan Al Said is considered one of Iraq's most innovative and influential artists. This rare work from the 1950s is from the artist’s most iconic period - a year after he had first travelled to Paris and moved towards Abstraction and Cubism. A seminal portrayal of a boy wearing a traditional Iraqi hat , painted in strikingly vibrant tones, is a strong example of Al Said’s fusion of Expressionism and Cubism with the visual imagery and symbols of his Iraqi heritage.



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  • An Ottoman sabre (Karabela) with silver-gilt mounts set with turquoise and gold-inlaid jade panels, Turkey, second half 17th-century.
    Estimate £30,000–50,000. From Arts of the Islamic World.
    A richly-decorated ceremonial Karabela was a highly-treasured gift among members of the Polish nobility or szlachta. The prestige of the weapon was closely tied to the culture and ideology of Sarmatism, which held that the people of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth were descended from the ancient people who inhabited the steppes north of the Black Sea in Roman times. Many members of the szlachta considered the Ottoman Turks and Crimean Tatars, also of nomadic descent, their peers, even if they were bitter enemies on the battlefield. Thus their arms and armour were modelled on the curved swords and scale armour of the Turks. This example hails from the collection of Karel Javůrek (1815–1909), a known academic painter from Poland.



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  • Francis Newton Souza, The Deposition: Burial of Christ, 1963.
    Estimate £400,000–600,000. From Modern and Contemporary South Asian Art.
    One of Francis Newton Souza’s most moving, sympathetic portrayals of Christ’s agony; here he takes the iconography and composition from Titian’s Entombment of Christ, allowing it to be truly re-born in his own expressionistic language which led to  critics o compare him with the likes of Graham Sutherland and Francis Bacon. This work was celebrated on the cover of Studio International Art magazine in 1964 and represents the pinnacle of Souza’s work form his London years. N.B. The Souza will be represented by a 1:1 size facsimile of this monumental work at the Dubai exhibition.



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  • A Mamluk silver-inlaid brass tray stand, Egypt, 14th-century.
    Estimate £150,000–200,000. From Arts of the Islamic World.
    When Andalusian historian Ibn Khaldun first arrived in Cairo, the capital city of the Mamluks, in 1382 AD, he described the city as ‘the centre of the universe and the garden of the world’. Not only were the monumental mosques and palaces impressive architecturally, but they also housed vast collections of wealthy and generous patrons. A brass tray stand with silver-inlaid decoration from Mamluk Egypt typifies the calligraphic monumentality so favoured by high-ranking Mamluk patrons. This likely belonged to a highly placed official at the Mamluk court – its beautiful thuluth inscription heaping praise on its patron - and is one of a few dozen that have survived to the present day. Its form and design proved so popular that porcelain imitations have been found as far afield as China, made perhaps to evoke the splendour of the distant Mamluk court. Further examples are in the British Museum, London, the Victoria and Albert Museum, London, the Museum of Islamic Art, Doha and the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York.



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  • A study of a Stork, from the Lady Impey, signed by Shaykh Zayn al-Din, Company School, Calcutta, dated 1781. Estimate £60,000–80,000.
    From the Khosrovani-Diba Collection.
    Sir Elijah Impey, his wife, Lady Impey, and their family moved to Calcutta in 1774 following his appointment as Chief Justice in Bengal under the East India Company. As their exotic menagerie of pets grew, so did Lady Impey’s interest in the natural history of the region. She employed three known artists, all trained in the Mughal tradition, to record their animals and birds on a true-to-life scale. The project, which lasted over six years, resulted in over 300 illustrations – which are amongst the finest group of natural history illustrations commissioned by the British in India. This beautiful Indian painting of a Stork is one of two birds from the Lady Impey Series to have been part of Jacqueline Kennedy's estate when it was sold by Sotheby’s in 1996.



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  • Manoucher Yektai, Untitled, 1968. Estimate £40,000–60,000.
    From 20th Century Art: Middle East.
    Untitled is an important imposing still-life by Manoucher Yektai. Yektai established himself among the leading artistic lights of New York in the 1950s, mingling with renowned Abstract Expressionists such as Rothko, De Kooning and Pollock. The movement of Action Painting left a strong impression on the artist, reinforcing his Sufi-like appreciation of colour. A gifted poet with little concern for convention, he had a pioneering spirit and was determined to forge his own path. His paintings are testament to this power of colour, visual brilliance and use of paint – as he brought to life a Still Life in a way that was completely his. Indeed, Yektai was the first Iranian to use layered paint and impasto in this way. His paintings have been described as ‘sculptured poems’, with a profound lyricism running through his bold body of work.



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  • A Northern Goshawk, attributed to Mihr Chand, Lucknow or Faizabad, circa 1770, with borders from a royal album made for Shah Jahan, Mughal, circa 1640–58. Estimate £40,000–60,000.
    From the Khosrovani-Diba Collection.
    This portrait of a bird of prey is an exquisite example of the distinctive landscape style of Mihr Chand – one of the leading artists of the 18th-century, who worked at the court of Nawab Shuja' al-Dawla. The exquisite borders originate from an album prepared for Shah Jahan known as the Late Shah Jahan Album, admired for its ravishingly fine borders decorated with flowers, birds, floral scrolls or trellises, animals and human figures.



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  • Raqib Shaw, Death, Beauty and Justice III, 2007.
    Estimate £30,000–50,000.
    From Modern and Contemporary South Asian Art.
    Raqib Shaw’s imposing and bejewelled works swarm with mythical beasts based in fantastical worlds. Archetypal of the opulent excess that typifies his exotic and hedonistic panoramas, this work portrays all manner of hybrid reptiles and mammals. These intricately enamelled beings wreak havoc, engaged in an epic battle of anthropomorphic-man versus beast, in an explosion of ornate colour. Shaw is inspired by a wealth of tradition, invoking Japanese screens, Kashmiri shawls and Persian miniatures yet within a greater survey of Western art history.



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  • Ali Imam, Untitled (Farmers). Estimate £8,000–12,000.
    From Modern and Contemporary South Asian Art.
    Syed Ali Imam’s greatest ambition in life was to depict a vision of Pakistan that was truly representative of its foundation and formation – with the community at the forefront of this. A member of the Pakistani Communist Party, Imam openly defied capitalism and was imprisoned numerous times for his beliefs. Upon his release in 1952, he moved to London for almost eleven years – where this powerful work was created. His time in prison, along with his socialist tendencies, allowed him to create a dialogue between what was occurring politically in Pakistan and his idealised notions of what could be. Untitled (Farmers) encapsulates Imam’s strong political views, compounded with a strong use of deep colour and thick outline that evoke stained glass windows. The juxtaposition of the religious manner of the figures with the seemingly menial task of ploughing the field elevates the plight of the worker.



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  • Abdur Rahman Chunghtai, Untitled (Woman at her toilette), circa 1970. Estimate £50,000–70,000.
    From Modern and Contemporary South Asian Art.
    Remembered today as one of the most distinguished Pakistani artists of the 20th-century, Chunghtai was a prominent painter of the Swadeshi movement – committed to indigenous themes. Born into a family of court painters and artisans, he was dedicated to the revival of Mughal aesthetics. This is evident in his poetic portrayal of a lady at her toilette , with the delicate lines and soft meditative palette imbuing the work with elegance and poise. His intense yet lyrical paintings portrayed icons from literature and history, from beloved Punjabi folk tales and Hindu mythology to mystical Persian love poetry. 



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  • Etel Adnan, Untitled, 1982. Estimate £15,000–20,000.
    From 20th Century Art: Middle East.
    Lebanese painter, poet and essayist Etel Adnan celebrates the immediate beauty of colour. Her works are very rare at auction, and this seminal canvas is the most important to ever appear from her California series. Adnan exhibited at the Serpentine’s Sackler gallery in London this year, and her artworks also feature in numerous collections, including Centre Pompidou, Paris; Mathaf, Doha, Qatar; Royal Jordanian Museum; Tunis Modern Art Museum; Sursock Museum, Beirut; Institut du Monde Arabe, Paris. This is one of two works by the artist to be offered in the sale.



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  • Ayman Baalbaki, Mulatham series, 2012. Estimate: £50,000–70,000.
    From 20th Century Art: Middle East.
    Ayman Baalbaki’s fierce abstract expressionist Mulatham series is his most celebrated and widely collected, with this work an especially rare example as it is one of only two autumnal backgrounds produced by the artist. The depiction of a face wrapped in a kaffiyeh is communicated through determined, expressive brushstrokes, reminiscent of those of Frank Auerbach. An everyday garment, the kaffiyeh is often misread as a reference to Palestinian resistance, and has morphed, through war depiction and extensive media attention, from a traditional utilitarian object into a powerful symbol of struggle and turmoil in the Middle East. Emphasising the powerful visual imagery of his work is the aesthetic beauty of the ravishing colours juxtaposed with floral textiles.



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  • Ali Banisadr, Creation, 2012. Estimate £120,000–150,000.
    From 20th Century Art: Middle East.
    Born in 1976, the work of internationally acclaimed artist Ali Banisadr is heavily influenced by his childhood experiences as a refugee of the Iran-Iraq war. His intoxicating canvases are dominated by intricate fantastical abstract landscapes that convey something of the chaotic violence he witnessed. Drawing on both Eastern and Western artistic traditions, Banisadr’s work has developed through a prism of art historical references - recalling the complexity of Persian miniatures, the wide-ranging landscapes of the Flemish Old Masters and abstract expressionism. Building on this, Creation is rendered in the rich lavender and grey colours often associated with miniatures from the Shahnameh: The Book of Kings. The auction record for Banisadr was set at a Sotheby’s sale in Doha in 2014.



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  • Ahmed Mater, Illumination XIX & XX, 2005. Estimate £18,000–25,000. From 20th Century Art: Middle East.
    Ahmed Mater’s Illumination series brings together scientific references, X-Ray film images and religious symbols in order to reveal an essential humanity. Inspired by the process of illumination of religious texts, the Saudi Arabian artist prepares his paper in a traditional way. He also employs some of the characteristic elements of Islamic art: such as the geometric designs and Arabesque motifs found in Medieval Egyptian and Syrian versions of the Qu'ran.



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  • A gem-set and enamelled agate box, India, 19th-century.
    Estimate: £30,000–50,000. From Arts of the Islamic World.
    Exemplifying the high quality craftsmanship hailing from India, this opulent octagonal box combines the inclusion of colourful gemstones set into floral patterns using fine gold wires. The technique for juxtaposing semiprecious stones into others, such as agate, reached its zenith under Mughal rule and this trend continued into the 19th-century.



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  • Damien Hirst, Beautiful, Shattering, Slashing, Violent, Pinky, Hacking, Sphincter Painting, 1995. Estimate £250,000–350,000.
    From Bowie/Collector.
    Bursting with a magnificently dynamic energy in its pulsating kaleidoscope of reds, greens, blues and yellows, this is a vibrant and powerful example of Damien Hirst’s trademark ‘spin’ paintings. Hirst was one of only a handful of high-profile contemporary artists for whom Bowie publicly expressed his admiration, interviewing the ‘Young British Artist’ for Modern Painters in 1995. "He’s different. I think his work is extremely emotional, subjective, very tied up with his own personal fears – his fear of death is very strong – and I find his pieces moving and not at all flippant", said Bowie in an interview with the New York Times.

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