Sotheby’s To Hold First Contemporary Art Auction in Doha

Sotheby’s first ever sale of Contemporary Art in Doha will offer works by many of the major artists of the last 50 years. Leading the sale is an important work by Andy Warhol, Round Jackie, a poignant image of Jackie Kennedy beaming with joy which is based on a news photograph taken shortly before her husband’s assassination (est. $2.5–3.5 million). Spearheading an exquisite selection of works by Arab and Iranian artists is a brilliant calligraphic work by Iranian artist Mohammad Ehsai that uses the technical expertise gained during the artist’s formal calligraphic training to create a stunning contemporary visual scheme (est. $300,000-400,000).

Andy Warhol
Round Jackie by Andy Warhol, a museum-quality masterpiece of pop art, is one of just eight gold canvases, a tondo, and is thought to be the first work from the Jackie series as displayed in Warhol’s catalogue raisonée. Making a rare appearance on the auction market, the important painting shows First Lady Jackie Kennedy on the day of the assassination of her husband, President John F Kennedy. Round Jackie is now widely regarded as one of the foremost paintings of the pop art movement – an area central to 20th Century art. As the nation mourned its fallen President, the young widow personified the grief felt by so many Americans and Warhol has brilliantly captured this US icon with the present work.

The tension between public and private personae is at the root of much of Andy Warhol’s art. He had earlier portrayed Jackie Kennedy in 1962 in the frontal movie-star format used in his similar paintings of Marilyn Monroe and Elizabeth Taylor. Although these three celebrities each possessed private turmoil and personal tragedy, it was the glittering surface persona that the public wanted and that the media celebrated. Warhol grasped intuitively that a public image shown pervasively through the mass media was a merely artificial construct. For Jackie Kennedy, the enormity of her tragedy in 1963 was mirrored in a wider sense of national loss, and her inner trauma became her public persona. For the viewer, there is an overwhelming sense of dramatic irony in knowing the subsequent outcome of the day’s events: Jackie’s radiant smile is soon to be transformed by mourning into the widow’s desolation, holding a fading memory of the iconic husband. Indeed, by appropriating potent imagery and re-presenting narrative through implication and absence Round Jackie should be considered as a poignant history painting of the Twentieth Century.

Gerhard Richter
Lina Lazaar, Sotheby’s Specialist in Contemporary Art, said: “We are extremely pleased that our inaugural sale of Contemporary Art in Doha will include a stunning work by Gerhard Richter, one of the most important artists of the 20th and 21st Century who has enjoyed a meteoritic rise over the past decade, with worldwide acclaim and museum shows.”

Gerhard Richter’s large and important painting Heu belongs to a series of five paintings that constitute the largest works produced by the artist between 1995 and the end of 1997 (est. $2.6–3.6 million) and it is widely accepted that by this stage in his career Richter was no longer experimenting but had reached a point at which he had developed a flawless technique as both an established and prolific painter. It is a remarkable composition that immediately fills the viewer’s field of vision with rich and complex layering of changing paint colours and textures. The current painting is an abstract work that has abandoned all reference to the real world. The viewer is therefore left with a sensory experience born out of the many different shades of green, grey and blue that make up the piece.

Whilst the differing shades and patches of colour may appear chaotic, the method used to produce the work was anything but. Richter applied a soft-coloured ground layer before running a rubber squeegee down the canvas to scrape off some of the paint. This is repeated several times until the harmonious finished painting is complete.

Farhad Moshiri
One of the most talented of a new generation of Iranian artists, Farhad Moshiri manipulates the tensions between conventional notions of beauty and issues of presentation in a world dominated by homogenising mass-media and popular culture. For Moshiri, this conceptual dynamism is the ideal metaphor for deeper cultural anomalies which arise when western culture is ‘translated’ for consumption in the Middle East.

In his painting Diamond Head (est. $250,000–350,000) a bird whose species is indistinct bears the features of both an eagle and a falcon, both being signifiers of various cultural hallmarks: falconry being a time-honoured tradition within the Gulf Peninsula, whilst the eagle is universally recognised as the emblem of courage, fortitude and aristocracy and believed by some ancients to be a symbol of closeness to God in its capacity to withstand the glare of the sun.

Moshiri’s depiction is embellished by crystals, pointing both to the ambiguity of the creature in question and, perhaps more subtly, to the bejewelled hoods often placed over the heads of falcons to pacify them. Diamond Head therefore intelligently exploits this marriage between different socio-cultural priorities, contrasting conflicting expectations and enticing us to re-evaluate our presumptions.

Damien Hirst
Damien Hirst’s Papilio Ulysses (est. $650,000–850,000), executed in 2008 presents the first work in which the artist has used butterfly wings to create a monumental image of a butterfly’s entire form. In this case Hirst has chosen startling lapis-blue shades suggestive of the ancient Middle Eastern stone. Also working with butterflies to create a powerful effect through the subtle and delicate composition of butterfly wings, Temptation (est. $800,000–1.2 million), is an extraordinary example of the Middle Eastern colour contrasts, conjuring the dazzling visual effect of the sun and sand.

Mohammad Ehsai
Mohammad Ehsai is – without doubt – one of the most gifted Iranian calligraphers of the past century. A master and lifelong disciple of traditional Persian calligraphy, he manages to synthesise the technical expertise of his formal training with a strictly contemporary visual scheme. He combines the vision of an artist with the craft of a calligrapher. His composition Creation, estimated at $300,000-400,000, shows not only his accomplished technical skill on a large-scale but also his versatility and willingness to move away from the classical formalism of the calligraphic orthodoxy. Best known for his tightly composed intricate calligraphy, Creation breaks away from his usual rigid structure and introduces a fluency of form and brightness. In it, he gives his letter forms new life by accentuating them with a bright outline, imposing script and fanning them elegantly outwards in streaming, stem-like strokes from an intertwined nucleus. The composition’s theme relates to divine and benedictory phrases and terms denoting the chief attributes of God. Dominant, graceful and profound, Ehsai’s works are testament to the continuation of a historical practice contextualised in a modern era.

Charles Hossein Zenderoudi
Charles Hossein Zenderoudi is one of the founding fathers of Iranian neo-traditionalism as well as one of its most prolific and talented leaders. Captivated and inspired by the overt, spiritual imagery of urban, Islamic landscapes, Zenderoudi extracts the prominent elements of Islam’s popular religious aesthetic and gives it a stylistic uniformity, synthesising centuries-long sacred concepts into a mature artistic language.

Zenderoudi is best known for his deftly executed, vibrant calligraphic depictions and also highly symbolic talismanic imagery. His Untitled composition, estimated at $40,000-60,000,encompasses both of these stylistic hallmarks in a perfect visual harmony. The composition is dominated by delicately rendered scrolling talismans, astrological charts, numeral sequences and benedictory couplets, all of which reveal the artist’s deep connection with Islamic spirituality. In addition to the use of talismanic images is the depiction of a bold, classical calligraphic overlay, which is characteristic of the artist’s later work.

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