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Auction PR Publicity Announcements News and Information

Bonhams Offer Masterpiece From One of the Greatest Arab Artists in Dubai Auction

A masterpiece by Jewad Selim, one of the most important Arab artists, is one of the many exciting works of art in Bonhams latest sale of South Asian and Middle East Art taking place on October 11 at the Royal Mirage Hotel Dubai. This will be the sixth time Bonhams hold a sale in Dubai.

Bonhams hold the record for a work sold at auction by Jewad Selim (Iraq 1919-1961), with a $336,000 price achieved in the March 2008 sale in Dubai.

This latest sculpture is a very important piece from a lifetime of artistic output. Titled ‘Mother and Child’, it is constructed in fruitwood and mixed media, and is estimated to sell for $60,000-80,000. The work was acquired directly from the artist and thence by descent. The sculpture was brought to the UK by the owner’s mother in 1961/62.

Iraq’s Jewad Selim is considered the father of Modern Arab Art. His 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 Square 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,” explains Mehreen Rizvi, Head of South Asian and Middle East Art at Bonhams.

“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.”

The sale also features an extremely important picture, ‘Man in a rocking chair’, from the leading Egyptian artist, Ahmed Moustafa (born 1943), which is estimated to sell for $180,000 -$240,000.

Mehreen Rizvi, comments: “We are very pleased with the offering in this sale. There are some very strong works by the region’s leading artists. If current trends continue I expect an exciting sale with more records achieved. It gives Bonhams great satisfaction to promote the art of the Middle East and South Asia, bringing it to the wider world’s attention via sales in London, New York as well as Dubai.”

A museum quality work by the Pakistani artist, Ustad Allah Bux (1895-1978), of a scene from Punjabi folklore, an oil on canvas, signed and dated 1960, is estimated to sell for $100,000-150,000.

Bonhams Dubai sales have regularly made world record prices for artists from across the region. In March 2008 Gulgee’s Polo Players sold for $339,000, a world record for an auctioned Pakistani work. In this latest sale Bonhams offers, an Ismail Gulgee (Pakistan, 1926-2007) work titled ‘In the remembrance of God do hearts find satisfaction’, words from the Qur’an, it is an agate mosaic set within a brass mount and is estimated at$15,000-25,000. The ninety-nine names of Allah are also inscribed on a brass band around the edge of the mosaic.

Bonham’s last Dubai sale on October 12th 2009 did very well for the Indian artworks such as F.N. Souza (1924-2002), which sold for $86,000. In this latest sale there is a Souza ‘Still life’, oil on canvas, signed, dated 1960 and inscribed Rome. It is estimated to sell for $30,000-50,000. This picture is from a distinguished private collection; acquired from a New York gallery in 2005.

In 1960 Souza travelled to Italy on an Italian Government scholarship and produced a number of works covering various subjects. Upon his return he staged an exhibition at Victor Musgrave’s Gallery One entitled Twenty-Seven Paintings from Rome and it is possible that this painting featured in that exhibition.

Souza’s works from this period are characterised by brightly coloured geometric shapes hemmed in by strong black lines, giving a feeling of ordered chaos to the composition.

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