Turning Points in History: 20th Century Art / Middle East Highlights

Launch Slideshow

Approaching the anniversary of the relaunch of our Arab, Iranian and Turkish art sales in London, Sotheby's are delighted to present a cohort of masterworks spanning an array of countries and regions. Highlights of the sale include exceptional works by Samia Halaby, Paul Guiragossian and Charles Hossein Zenderoudi, whose paintings sold for nearly double their estimates in our last April sale. Sotheby’s October sale surveys some of the most significant artists and artworks of the 20th century — artworks influential enough to be considered turning points in history.

20th Century Art / Middle East
23 October 2017 | London

Turning Points in History: 20th Century Art / Middle East Highlights

  • Antoine Malliarakis Mayo, 1905–1990. La Vie Augmente Toujours (Life Always Evolves). Estimate: £8,000–12,000.
    The paintings of Mayo revolved around the common themes of sensuality and eroticism, which took different forms within his oeuvre. In particular, after the 1960s, Mayo would paint the hands, then the bird nests - which for him housed and protected the root of life - followed by the egg, as these common themes reached a pinnacle within his scope of work. The egg for Mayo represented the principle of life, rebirth and the fruit of life. La Vie Augmente Toujours (1970), painted in the later part of Mayo’s artistic career, is an exceptional work that weaves through this visual language created by Mayo and incorporating the vegetal life, the egg, the stones and the male figure.

  • Antoine Malliarakis Mayo, 1905–1990. Homme de Profil (Profile of a Man). Estimate: £6,000–8,000.
    Beyond its vibrant burst of warm colours, Homme de Profil showcases the complexity of the human mind, culminating in an enigmatic yet animated composition. This moment in Mayo’s oeuvre displays his elevated attention to gradation of light and luminosity of colour.

  • Antoine Malliarakis Mayo, 1905–1990. Le Beau Gilles (The Handsome Gilles). Estimate: £6,000–8,000.
    By the 1940s, Mayo supplemented his artistic output with costume and set design for theatrical and cinematic productions. His paintings at this time showcase a marriage between dramatic and cinematic conventions, and a distinctly expressionist-painterly approach. It is a rare privilege to have at auction both Mayo’s Homme de Profil (1940) ( Lot 18 ) and Le Beau Gilles (1943) ( Lot 19 ) which act as a testament to his style in this period.

  • Sohrab Sepehri, 1928–1980. Untitled. Estimate: £30,000–40,000
    At one particular time in his career, Sepehri turned to purely abstract painting, creating fresh works with the aid of geometrical figures in which squares are increasingly used. As this was a short-lived period, paintings from this series are quite rare. Sotheby’s is especially pleased therefore to present this oil on canvas Cubist abstract composition dating from 1971.

  • Sohrab Sepehri, 1928–1980. Untitled (From the Tree Trunk Series). Estimate: £220,000–280,000.
    A reclusive, humble, figure, Sepehri rarely gave interviews; it was as if he only spoke through his extensive body of poetic and artistic works. He was known for his passionate love of nature, especially of the desert around his native Kashan. His work is a testament to a repeated desire to return to the solace of his homeland’s colours and inspiration. Sotheby's is proud to present an iconic work by this exceptional artist from his Tree Series, (1972) in which he uses a rare green, brown and grey palette with a strong compositional structure. Rich in detail, sharp in its execution,  lofty and beautifully textured, this particular work — which has been in prestigious collections since its creation — is a one-of-a-kind work by the artist. 

  • Abdel Hadi El-Gazzar, 1925–1966. Untitled (Nude).
    Estimate: £100,000–120,000
    Abdel Hadi El-Gazzar’s relationship with the nude form was one imbued with internal controversy: he questioned the sustainability of this hollow, decorative trope in Egypt, beyond its superficial beauty. As a result, this exceptionally rare painting is truly an anomaly for the artist. El-Gazzar's odalisque is shrouded in mystery. Maybe for El-Gazzar, she is the likeness of the ancient Egyptian goddess of love and beauty, Hathour.

  • Mahmoud Said, 1897–1964. Nu Couche au Divan Bleu (Nude Lying on a Blue Sofa). Estimate: £120,000–140,000.
    In Said's Nu couche au divan bleu (c.1937-1947), the young woman places her polished, elongated finger tips gently on her womb, alluding to her fertile potential. This serene painting is naturally lyrical in its composition: like the bashful waves of the Mediterranean against Alexandria’s shores, the turquoise blue divan caresses the nude woman’s warm olive tone.

  • Bahman Mohasses, 1931–2010. Untitled.
    Estimate: £80,000–120,000.
    Mohasses' seminal paintings, including Untitled from 1965, portray a reference to the great Italian sculptor and painter, Marino Marini. In Marini’s eyes, these men on horseback show the powerful harmony between man and steed, while illuminating the grace and balance of the warrior. Mohasses draws from Marini’s statues during a slightly later period through new mediums and new contexts. For Mohasses, the empty brown space around this abstract character illuminates the privileged position associated with being a quintessential hero figure, but in that same vein, Mohasses seeks to explore the subsequent element of solitude.

  • Charles Hossein Zenderoudi, Einak Azad Asst.
    Estimate: £150,000–250,000.
    Among the most renowned artist in Europe and America in the 1960s, Zenderoudi’s style is truly a cerebral spectacle. Taking from the audacious colour palette, this 1963 masterpiece draws from the fundamentals of the visual vocabulary that Zenderoudi explored and developed throughout his oeuvre. The present lot also features aspects of Zenderoudi’s recurring philosophical thematics, namely his personal interest in cosmology to which Zenderoudi pays homage to in a mathematical and poetic way.

  • Mahmoud Mokhtar, Au Bord du Nil (On the Banks of the Nile). Estimate: £100,000–150,000
    This exquisite piece has a particulary beautiful story. The sculpture was bought by a French collector after returning home from Egypt, where she had developed a deep admiration of the country. Once she returned to Paris, she came across Mokthar's works and fell in love with the iconic representation of the Egyptian fellaha, which reminded her of her trip to Egypt. It is then that she most probably acquired the sculpture at the Bernheim Jeune Galerie or Susse Foundry who were both selling the artist's work during that period. With its strong provenance and iconographic subject matter, the present work is a collector's item at its best.


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