Christie’s third ‘Middle Eastern Modern & Contemporary Art’ auction to take place outside of Dubai will take place on 23 October and is included as part of the rich and traditional Islamic Art Week in London.

Around ninety works of Middle Eastern art have been consigned from around the globe, including Los Angeles, New York, London, Dubai, Paris, Beirut, Buenos Aires, Milan, Perth, Casablanca, among others. The auction is mainly focused on modern Arab and Iranian works, with an emphasis on contemporary practice. Strong modern artists from the region include Louay Kayyali (Syrian), Manoucher Yektai (Iranian), Ismail Shammout (Palestinian), Fateh Moudarres (Syrian), as well as strong selection of modern female artists, including Bibi Zogbé (Lebanense), Chaïbia Talal (Moroccan), Monir Shahroudy Farmanfarmaian (Iranian), Zeinab Abd El Hamid (Egyptian), Tahia Halim (Egyptian). Contemporary artists include Farhad Moshiri (Iranian), Hadieh Shafie – detail, top of page – (Iranian), Marwan Sahmarani (Lebanese), Reza Derakshani (Iranian), and Ali Banisadr (Iranian).

“A diversity of mediums, subject matter, geographies, and sale estimates characterize Christie’s third Middle East art sale in London, providing a global platform for art and artists from this ever-evolving region,” said Hala Khayat, Christie’s Director and Head of Sale in the Middle East.  “From masterworks by some of Iran, Egypt, and Syria’s most celebrated artists to contemporary pieces from emerging talents, there is something compelling for every collector.”


A work by the late Monir Shahroudy Farmanfarmaian (1924-2019 – illustrated above), one of Iran’s most celebrated artists who passed just this April 2019, will highlight the auction. Executed in 2008, Untitled (Faravahar Wings, Zarathustra) is a beautiful and rare masterpiece inspired by the wings of Faravahar, which is one of the most common symbols of the ancient religion of Zoroastrianism. Kaleidoscopic in its magnificent form, the work depicts a series of triangular mirrors that reflects light in every direction, touching upon the concept of the fravashi,which is part of the human soul acting as a divine blessing and entirely good. Standing in front of the work, the viewer can admire the abstracted and simplified version of the Faravahar, as Farmanfarmaian has broken it down to its foundational essence (estimate: £240,000-400,000). The inclusion of Farmanfarmaian’s piece in the auction coincides with major exhibitions of her work this year at the Sharjah Art Foundation and the Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago. In 2017 a dedicated museum to the artist opened in Tehran in 2017.

Ismail Shammout, The Way

A group of five works by the Palestinian modernist Ismail Shammout (1930-2006) will also be offered by two different collections, which includes the featured work here, The Way, along with a few nice watercolours from the acclaimed Tall Al Zaater series. Painted in 1964 and consigned from a private Italian collection, The Way (estimate: £50,000-70,000), was previously exhibited in Berlin’s National Galerie in the 1970s, reflecting the artist’s international recognition. The work reflects the tone of the dramatic and tragic events unfolding in Palestine during the 1950s and 60s. Viewed as a whole, the profiles create a melancholic, aggrieved tone. The depicted men and women decisively appear to advance together, moving forward, towards the viewer, in constructing a visual narrative of Palestinian nationalism.

A pioneer member of the revolutionary Iranian neo-calligraphists group, Nasrollah Afjehei (b.1933) played a major role in the Naqqashi-khatt trend, in the 1970s. The present work is one of the largest to come to auction (estimate: £60,000-80,000), measuring over 3 meters wide, an impressive work attesting to the artist’s perfect technical mastery. Being interested in calligraphy from a very young age, Afjehei practiced under the tutelage of many of the great Iranian calligraphers such as Mir Khani, Kimia Qalam, and Kaveh. After completing the very renowned Society of Iranian Calligraphers course in 1963-1964, the artist started working on the combination of Naqqashi – painting – and Khatt – script.

A Master of Syrian Modern Art, Louay Kayyali produced an extensive oeuvre in his short-lived life, documenting people in his country and portraying the beauty and vulnerability of life. The epitome of feminine grace, the spirit of the Portrait of Umayma Hussein Ibishpainted in 1962, dominates the composition, a rare to find work with such luminosity and stunning gold palette (estimate: £30,000-50,000), demarcated by the artist’s strong fluid lines and a contrasting colour palette. During the 1960s, the artist moved from Aleppo to Damascus, quickly building a name for himself as he depicted the Syrian upper class as well as the lower working classes, finding the beauty and wisdom within, regardless of class or attire.

Jafar Rouhbakhsh, Abstract Composition in Turquoise and Blue

Activities for collectors and patrons scheduled during Christie’s Middle East and Iranian art week in London include book launches, gallery talks, and private tours, A discussion with Syrian contemporary artist, Sara Shamma, a previous National Portrait Gallery BP prize-winner, whose 2016 Self-Portrait (estimate: £12,000-18,000) is being offered in the 23 October auction, will take place on Monday 21 October 2019.