Christie’s will present the largest exhibition of Arab Art in London to date between July 20 and August 23, at the auction house’s Headquarters in London. Titled ‘Modern and Contemporary Art of the Arab World,’ the exhibition will bring together works of art across mediums to collectively celebrate the creativity, diversity and history of Arab Art.
The exhibition will be presented within two distinct sections – ‘Kawkaba: Highlights from the Barjeel Art Foundation’ and ‘Emirati Art Reimagined: Hassan Sharif and the Contemporary Voices.’ This will be the first time that such an extensive exhibition of Arab art will be on view in London. It was made possible via a partnership with the UAE Ministry of Culture and Youth and the Barjeel Art Foundation.
- Left: Four Shapes by Hassan Sharif signed in Arabic and dated ‘1985’ (lower left). Zinc, linseed oil and oil on canvas 35 x 35.1/8in. (89 x 89.5cm). Right: Space Exploration/Universe, 1973, by Menhat Helmy (Egypt, b. 1925). Oil on canvas 123 x 123cm. Images courtesy of Barjeel Art Foundation.
Dr Ridha Moumni, Deputy Chairman, Christie’s Middle East and North Africa, and the curator of the exhibition commented: “Modern and Contemporary Art of the region is a unique opportunity to bring together masterpieces by leading artists of the Arab World. The exhibition not only celebrates high-profile artists such as Hassan Sharif but shines a light on the unparalleled creativity, diversity, and rich histories of North African and West Asian cultures.
“Christie’s is honoured to partner with two prestigious cultural institutions, the Barjeel Art Foundation and The Ministry of Culture and Youth, United Arab Emirates, for what will be an exceptional moment for the arts and culture of the Arab World in London this summer.”
- Left: Black and White, 1985, by Hassan Sharif. Oil on canvas, 90 × 90 cm. Right: The Last Sound, 1964, by Ibrahim El-Salahi (Sudan, b.1930). Oil on canvas, 121.5 × 121.5 cm. Images courtesy of Barjeel Art Foundation.
The Kawkaba section of the exhibition will display 100 masterpieces on loan from the Barjeel Art Foundation, created in 2010 by Sultan Sooud Al Qassemi. A member of the ruling family of Sharjah, Sultan Sooud is a prominent art collector, scholar, and columnist as well as co-founding the Indian financial advisory firm Barjeel Geojit. He founded the Sharjah-based Barjeel Art Foundation to promote works by Arab artists through exhibitions. The last major exhibition organised by the foundation was ‘Taking Shape: Abstraction from the Arab World, 1950’s-1980’s.’ Presented at NYU’s Grey Art Gallery, it was the largest collection of abstract art by Arab artists.
The Kawkaba section of the upcoming exhibition at Christie’s will feature works from across the region, and pays homage to the rich artistic diversity in the Middle East and North Africa. Kawkaba, meaning ‘constellations’ in Arabic, is a gender-balanced exhibition that will shed light on both regionally celebrated and underrepresented artists.
- Left: Head (1975-76) by Marwan Kassab-Bachi (Syria, 1934–2016). Oil on canvas, 195 × 260 cm. Right: Formative Radiation (1968-1970) by Samia Osserian Joumblat (Lebanon, b. 1944). Oil on canvas, 100 × 100 cm. Images courtesy of Barjeel Art Foundation.
“The exhibition is a rare opportunity to view in person a selection of artworks from some of the most prominent artists from West Asia and North Africa that have been collected over 20 years,” said Sultan Sooud Al Qassemi. “The vast majority of the artworks in the exhibition have never been seen in the UK before.
“The works include a gender balanced selection which allows for visitors to appreciate the role that modern women artists played in the establishment of a flourishing Modern art movement in the region. Barjeel Art Foundation is especially proud to be collaborating with Christie’s on this unique exhibition from whom many of these works have been collected over the years.”
- Left: Wedding A by Hassan Sharif, signed in Arabic and dated ‘1985’ (lower left). Cloth on canvas 76 x 76.5cm. Image courtesy of Hassan Sharif Estate. Right: Untitled Work by Hassan Sharif. Iron wires 75 x 60 x 55 cm. Image courtesy of the UAE Ministry of Culture and Youth.
Emirati Art Reimagined: Hassan Sharif and the Contemporary Voices part of the exhibition is a selling and loan exhibition. It is anchored by the multi-disciplinary body of work by pioneering Emirati artist Hassan Sharif.
Sharif is widely regarded as a central figure in contemporary and conceptual art in the region. The collection showcases the breadth and depth of his practice with paintings, works on paper, sculpture, installations and textile-based works from the 1980s to 2015, a year before the artist passed away.
- Left: Curtain Shop by Farah Al Qassimi. Archival print 102 x 76 cm. Right: Untitled Work by Hassan Sharif. Acrylic On Canvas 60 x 45 cm. Images courtesy of the UAE Ministry of Culture and Youth.
Sharif lived most of his life in Dubai moving between roles as an artist, an educator and a mentor to many contemporary artists in the UAE and also inspired many of the established and emerging talent that are prevalent across the Gulf today where his enduring influence on the Emirati art scene continues to be seen.
Pieces by Hassan Sharif will be presented alongside works by contemporary Emirati artists representative of the youth and female practitioners, in collaboration with the UAE Ministry of Culture and Youth. The Ministry has committed to supporting, nurturing and promoting the presence of Emirati arts globally and their collection includes works by Hussain Sharif, Mohammed Kazem, Farah Al Qasimi, Mohamed Ahmed Ibrahim, and others.
Note: The image at the head of this article features Dreams of the Detainee (1961), by Egyptian artist Inji Efflatoun (1924–1989). Oil on canvas, 50 × 40 cm. Image courtesy of Barjeel Art Foundation.