Major Work by Father of Modern Arab Art at Bonhams Inaugural Dubai Auction

. February 25, 2008

Dubai, UAE. Bonhams, the international fine art auction house established in the UK since 1793, will feature a major work by Iraq’s Jewad Selim – considered the father of Modern Arab Art – at the company’s inaugural Middle East auction on Monday 3rd March 2008 at the Royal Mirage Hotel. This will be the first time worldwide this piece has been offered at auction.

Arab, Iranian, Indian and Pakistani art including India’s Francis Newton Souza, Syria’s Louay Kayyali and Iran’s Nasser Ovissi. Fine jewellery and watches will also be included in the sale.

selim.jpgSelim’s ‘Young Man and his Wife’ was painted in 1953 for Selim’s one-man touring exhibition of America. Selected to remain within the family after the exhibition, the piece has been rarely viewed and was contributed to Bonham’s upcoming auction by the artists’ family, with an estimate of US$200,000-300,000.

“We are honoured to be able to offer such an important work by Jewad Selim, the father of modern Iraqi art, in our inaugural Middle East sale,” said Claire Penhallurick, Bonhams’ Director of Islamic and Indian Art.

“Works by Jewad Selim are very rare and particularly such a fine oil painting as ‘Young Man and his Wife’, which has come direct from the artist’s family’s private collection.

“Jewad’s life came to an untimely end at the age of just forty-one, and so the surviving body of work of this young artist, whose influence was to inspire generations to follow, is extremely important to the history of modern art in the Middle East.”

Born in Iraq in 1919, soon after its creation, Jewad practised both painting and sculpture during his career. The government sent him to Paris in 1938 and Rome in 1939 on scholarships. He spent the rest of the war in Baghdad, then continued his studies at the Slade School of Art in London from 1946 to 1948, where he also exhibited at the ICA and the Tate Gallery.

After his return to Iraq he was made head of the Sculpture Department at the Institute of Fine Arts and established the Baghdad Group for Modern Art, which was made up of painters, sculptors and architects. After the monarchy was replaced in 1958 by the regime of Abd al-Karim Qasim, he created the Freedom Monument (Nasb al-Hurriya) in Tehrir Sq uare bronze, the largest monument built in Iraq in 2500 years. He died in 1961.

“It is impossible to understand the modern art movement in Iraq without taking into account the works of this pioneer artist. To Jewad, art was a tool to reassert national self esteem and build a distinctive Iraqi identity,” explained Penhallurick.

“His early death was a shock to the artistic community of Iraq, but his spirit remained and was reignited by a new wave of young artists. After paving the way forward, this new wave picked up Jewad’s mantle of extending Iraqi art and influence into the rest of the Arab world and globally.”

Bonhams will hold its first Middle East art auction sale in Dubai at the One & Only, Royal Mirage Hotel at 7pm on 3rd March 2008. A jewellery and watches auction will be held on the 4th March at the Royal Mirage Hotel.

Viewings are open to the public on Friday 29th February (2-10pm), Saturday 1st March (12-5pm) and Sunday 2nd March (2-10pm). For more information contact

Category: Auction News

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