Going Once, Going Twice, Sold: Celebrating Arab Art Through Dubai’s Latest Auction

The UAE is making a name for itself as the ultimate Middle Eastern art hub. From the country’s annual international art fair, Art Dubai to the upcoming Abu Dhabi art fair scheduled for November, paintings, murals and everything in between get to be celebrated and admired by the masses. This year, the festivities continue with a contemporary Middle Eastern art exhibition and auction hosted by Christie’s, a British auction house.

Seeped with controversy, Christie’s is known to cause scandal and has received a lot of backlash for selling priceless looted Middle Eastern artefacts. The biggest outrage so far was during the King Tut statue auction where the 3000 year old artefact was sold for almost 6 million US dollars to an unknown bidder. Yet, this year’s auction proves to be different as each artist consented to the selling of their pieces.

Currently held at Dubai’s International Financial Center until the 24th of September, the exhibition is open to the public while the auction itself will begin on October 12th. The art on display showcases a wide array of local Middle Eastern as well as global talents. Ridha Moumni, Deputy Chairman of Christie’s said “we decided to bring a variety of art representing not only the region, but the global stage”. Each piece takes a dip into modernity and experimentation while exuding powerful, poignant messages to its viewers.

The Innovative Art Selection

On entering the exhibition, you will be met with Palestinian Artist Kamal Boullata’s abstract painting dubbed Angelus II-1, a slashing zig-zag of what looks to be the sky at different times of the day. Boullata’s art is said to be inspired by the Dome of the Rock, that is why most of his pieces are characterized by geometric shapes. Its estimated worth ranges from GBP £25,000-£35,000

Hazem Harb, another Palestinian artist, takes a shift away from painted art and enters into the world of photography. His piece brings together two distant worlds: a backdrop of an archival photo of Jerusalem’s landscape with a white Acrylic lettering inscription that spells out “Hollyland”, a play with words using LA’s famous Hollywood. Its estimated at GBP £25,000-£35,000.

Saudi Arabia also brought in its talent through Ahmed Mater’s daunting artwork “Evolution of Man”, illuminated through a lightbox. It represents a shift from an X-ray human figure pointing a gun to its head to a petrol pump. The transition and change between the two may indicate Saudi Arabia’s transformation into an oil kingdom or a more ominous interpretation because of the gun pointing figure. The piece is estimated at GBP £25,000-£30,000

Other prominent artists taking part in the auction include Morocco’s Mohamed Melehi, a gamechanger when it comes to the Arab art world. During the 60s and 70s, Melehi and a group of artists created a movement to change art education in Moroccan schools, aiming to shift the lens from Western Art History towards local based origins.

In the same vein, the auction also brings to light the work of Saudi Palestinian Dana Awartani, an artist stuck between binaries: her Fine Arts education at the London Art School versus her revitalization of Islamic geometric artwork through her unique pieces.

With the Dubai lineup of upcoming art fairs as well as Christie’s auction, special artists like Melehi and their contributions get to be celebrated.

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