A DOZEN IRAQI WORKS FROM THE FADHIL CHALABI COLLECTION RETURN TO THE REGION IN CHRISTIE’S MIDDLE EAST FORTHCOMING SALE

Twelve paintings from Modern Iraqi Masters included in 22 March auction

A dozen seminal artworks by Iraq’s modern masters from the extensive collection of Fadhil Chalabi have been included in Christie’s Middle East’s upcoming Dubai sale on 22 March. Chalabi’s passion for works by Iraqi artists, which provided a link to the homeland he loved, resulted in a massive collection of works solely from that country, and contributed to the support of both established and emerging artists.

 

KADHIM HAIDER (IRAQI, 1932-1985)
And a Horse is Selling

Pieces in the forthcoming Christie’s Dubai sale include two untitled, abstract paintings by Shakir Hassan Al Said (Iraqi, 1925-2004), an artist with whom Chalabi had a close friendship, as well as two works created in the late 1980s by the prolific and versatile artist Dia Azzawi (Iraqi, b, 1939). These pieces, along with the majority of the 12 artworks from the Chalabi Collection offered by Christie’s, were acquired directly from the artists themselves, attesting to the longstanding relationships that Chalabi maintained with his compatriots despite living abroad.

 

DIA AZZAWI (IRAQI, B. 1939)
Diary #3

“Mr. Chalabi’s intention in studying and working in the oil sector was to develop skills in other markets that could then be brought back to Iraq for the country’s development and benefit; his passion for Iraqi art was a way to maintain his connection with his homeland and its most creative communities,” said Hala Khayat, Director and Head of Sale, Christie’s Middle East.

 

“Offering twelve of the most prominent and relevant works from the Chalabi Collection shows the breadth and depth in Iraq’s artistic evolution, bringing back to the region that same insight and talent that Mr. Chalabi intended in amassing only works from many of Iraq’s most celebrated artists,” she added.

 

DIA AZZAWI (IRAQI, B. 1939)
Standing Figure

Also included in the sale is an untitled work by Naziha Selim (Iraqi, 1927-2008), who was described by Iraq’s former president, Jalal Talabani (1933-2017), as “the first Iraqi woman who anchored the pillars of Iraqi contemporary art.” Iraq’s artistic tradition was strong in the Selim family; Naziha’s father was a painter and a work by her artist brother, Jewad Selim, The Watermelon Seller, set a world auction record for at Christie’s in October 2017 by selling for £668,750 ($876,731), more than double its high pre-sale estimate of £250,000.

 

Two paintings by Kadhim Haider (Iraqi, 1932-1985), a pioneer of Iraqi Modern art, are featured in the Chalabi Collection offered by Christie’s: And a Horse is Selling, painted in 1965 and featuring an equine motif that would later dominate many of his pieces, and A View of Palm Trees in Taarimiyah Baghdad.

 

All twelve of the Fadhil Chalabi Collection works will be on view at Christie’s Dubai in Jumeirah Emirates Towers from Monday, 19 March.

* 8

SHAKIR HASSAN AL SAID (IRAQI, 1925-2004)

Untitled

 

LOT NOTE:

 

Teacher of art history at the Institute of Fine Arts, from 1970 to 1980, Shakir Hassan Al-Said developed in the meantime an innovative theoretical and philosophic approach while participating in the One Dimension Group, Al-Bu’d Al-Wahid. Since, he investigated the limit between visual reality and surrealism, which belong to one dimension. Thus, this question on contemplation is in the heart of his oeuvre during the 1970’s to the extent that he regarded a painting not only as a plastic creation but also a spiritual quest.

These two untitled, mysterious and abstract compositions, completely demonstrate the structures of the painter’s new thought. Applying mainly earthy tones on the background which seems to be a damaged wall, Shakir Hassan Al-Said maintains a certain peculiarity and intrigue through the striking colors he chooses to place to contrast the banality of the earth tones. Lot 8 contains a striking red line that goes from top to bottom and drags the viewer’s sight throughout the entire painting. The line at first sight may seem like a continuous brushstroke but it is in fact a tear from a red paper. On the other hand, Lot 7 is more subtle in its color presentation as it has several small dots of colors going through and through the composition.

Unlike some of his other graffiti-like pieces, these compositions don’t include written inscriptions, however they still contain the essence of artistic vandalism. Belonging to the physical and material world, the subject turns into a vision that is only perceived by the viewer who lives a deep and emotional experience.

 

9

DIA AZZAWI (IRAQI, B. 1939)

Diary #3

 

10

DIA AZZAWI (IRAQI, B. 1939)

Standing Figure

 

LOT NOTE:

 

An unparalleled dignitary of modern Arab arts and culture in which he intensely participated for its influence all around the world, Dia Al-Azzawi still preserves an extraordinary style proper to his identity. Born in Baghdad in 1939, the Iraqi artist completed his studies at the Institute of Fine Arts in Baghdad while he obtained a degree in archaeology in 1962. He is one of the main figures of several movements such as the New Vision group (Al-Ru’yya Al- Jadidah) that he founded in 1969 with his contemporaries, among the others, Rafa Nasiri (1940-2013) and Ismael Fattah (1934-2004) and later, he joined Shakir Hassan Al Saïd (1925-2004) in the One Dimension Group (‘Al-Bu’d Al-Wahid’) created in 1971. Through his prolific career which started in 1964, he showed a remarkably versatile profile mastering art as well as poetry and he has created a narrative where his strong knowledge of the two is clearly visible in his entire oeuvre.

He effectively reused a variety of themes notably from the popular folk literature (al-adaab al-sha’biyyah) including the tales of One Thousand and One Nights or the ancient episode relating the adventure of the semi-god Gilgamesh from the Mesopotamian mythology. Besides, he is above all an artist of his time and he always managed to reflect the hopes and fears of Arabs especially during politically disturbing times such as the first coup of Ba’ath party which rattled the region of Middle-East in 1963. From 1968 to 1976, in parallel of practicing art, he also enrolled in its preservation as a director of the Iraqi Antiquities Department in Baghdad; and in its promotion working as an editor of the magazines Ur (1978 – 1984) and Funoon Arabiyyah (1981- 1982). Incredibly creative, he has worked with a multitude of means, through a unique style, and his own sensibility.

Dia Al-Azzawi rapidly presented a fascination for the work of the illustrious Jewad Selim (1919-1961) who encouraged him to take a path in line of Iraq’s modern art movement, the Baghdad Group of Modern Art, founded in 1951. These exceptional compositions, created in the late 1980’s, Diary #3 and Standing Figure, purely demonstrate his talent for blending the past and the present. Diary #3, painted between 1985 and 1986, is an intriguing piece that displays geometric elements from abstract art that the artist experimented with as an aesthetic referring to the arts of ancient Mesopotamia. As a real archaeologist, he conscientiously observed the footprints of the history of the region, such as clay tablets inscribed with cuneiform. Here, each geometric element seems to interlock into one piece as a veritable construction. The representation perfectly embodies the style of the artist insofar as he uses visual elements combining them and thus he succeeds in making them appeared to be engraved, such as archaeological pieces, in a dark background.

Standing Figure, which he painted in 1989, merges abstraction and figuration flawlessly. By combining elements of the two, Azzawi attempts to create a space for the viewer to delve into a link drawn by Azzawi between interpretation and his reality. The figure is seemingly hugging himself while a flow of abstract shapes unravels from between his arms. These abstract shapes emanating from the figure, while at the same time the figure is attempting to keep them close to him, could symbolize that the figure is losing a part of himself while trying to hold on the rest.

As an heir to an ancient civilization to which he is firmly attached, Azzawi is undeniably a pioneering artist of his time. His works define his undeniable talent with which he constructed a bridge between tradition and modernity, expressing his pride to belonging to a creative people.

 

11

NAZIHA SELIM (IRAQI, 1927-2008)

Untitled

 

LOT NOTE:

 

Described by Iraq’s former president, Jalal Talabani (1933-2017), as “the first Iraqi woman who anchored the pillars of Iraqi contemporary art,” Naziha Selim was born in 1927 in Istanbul into an Iraqi family of artists living in Turkey. Her father was a painter, while her brother, Jewad Selim (1921–1961), has been cited as one of Iraq’s most important modern sculptors. In the 1940s, she graduated from the Baghdad Fine Arts Institution and went on to continue her education in Paris at the École Nationale Supérieure des Beaux-Arts, Paris, where she specialized in fresco and mural painting and studied under Fernand Léger (1881-1955), graduating in 1951. She remained in Europe for seven years before returning to Baghdad in the 1960s to teach at the Fine Arts Institute and remained at the school until her retirement in the 1980s.

When she returned to Iraq, she became more actively involved in the contemporary art scene, exhibiting her work with the Baghdad Modern Art Group and her work became clearly influenced by the philosophies of the group. Her work demonstrates an interest in the contemporary stylistic experiments of Baghdadi painting, as well as portraiture, Baghdadi street scenes and mosques, and subjects relating to Iraqi women. In this present lot, Selim depicts a man who appears to be sewing. With a palette consisting mainly of warms hues of yellow and orange, the artist is giving a new take on approaching light and shadow by using deeply contrasted colors to do so. Noticeably inspired by the works of her contemporary and brother, Jewad, Naziha takes geometric plains of colors and combines them with more organic and sensual lines going throughout the composition.

12

LORNA SELIM (IRAQI, B. 1928)

Untitled

LOT NOTE:

 

Born in 1928 in Sheffield, UK, Lorna Selim, wife of renowned Iraqi artist Jewad Selim (1921–1961), received a scholarship to study at the Slade School of Fine Arts, London, where she received a diploma in painting and design in 1948. Soon thereafter, she met her husband and they married in 1950 in Baghdad. They returned to Baghdad where she became a member of new-founded group, Baghdad Modern Art Group.

 

This work depicts an age-old building that from time to time, Lorna would enjoy going to draw. The building, Beit El Yehud (House of Jews), was one of many of its kind. In fact, at the time of this painting, dating to even before that, the entire length of the bank of the Tigris and Euphrates rivers were covered in similar wooden structures called qasrs or castles/palaces. These structures were a masterpiece of architectural design, and Lorna was drawn to this particular one.

 

Spending days on end going out in the early mornings, she would have to be done by 8 AM, as it would be too hot to continue after that. So she would sketch the base of the structure as fast and as accurately as she could ‘‘I never took any photographs of the houses as I wanted the paintings to be my own interpretation of what I saw. I do regret that now, but I was right at the time.’

 

The present piece is one of the many paintings she created of this site. She created the sketches and paintings between 1963 and 1970. During that time, most of the houses were in poor repair or were falling down as she sketched them. It was the time when these beautiful homes were coming under the wrecker’s ball. However, Lorna chose to specifically depict the houses that were going to be demolished. As a house was being demolished she would quickly go to the site and bring out her sketchpad. She then would go home to paint the base and outline ‘she would be lost for the rest of the day in her studio,’ recalled her daughter, Miriam. Lorna would fully intend to return to the location and fill in the details later. However, when she returns, it would sometime be too late and she would have to paint from memory or from properties that were the same or similar.

 

13

MOHAMMAD MOHREDDIN (IRAQI, B. 1938)

Untitled

 

LOT NOTE:

 

Mohammad Mohreddin took upon himself the great responsibility of humanity, becoming aware of the value of the exciting subjects that control the fate of the people and their lives threatened on his Iraqi land. His style addresses important issues that interact with human life and influence them, such as issues of national liberation, support for vulnerable people and the detection of international policy misfortunes that inevitably lead to poverty, hunger and the planting of evil ideas of humanity, and collective conscience.

This work represents the entirety of his oeuvre, creating a space where the viewer has a chance to create their own narrative while also being guided by the narrative the artist has created. Using his deeply embedded knowledge of graphic design and implying them into a more painterly atmosphere allows Mohreddin to create a narrative through geometrical shapes, inscriptions, and an overall sense of chance. The audience can clearly see how inspired he was by automaticity.

Mohammad Mohreddin took upon himself the great responsibility of humanity, he became aware of the value of the exciting subjects that control the fate of the people and their lives threatened on this land. Born in 1938 in Iraq, Mohreddin has introduced a genre of art like no other. Called “committed art”, this style addresses important issues that interact with human life and influence them, such as issues of national liberation, support for vulnerable people and the detection of international policy misfortunes that inevitably lead to poverty, hunger and the planting of evil ideas of humanity, and collective conscience.

This work represents the entirety of his oeuvre, creating a space where the viewer has a chance to create their own narrative while also being guided by the narrative the artist has created. Using his deeply embedded knowledge of graphic design and implying them into a more painterly atmosphere allows Mohreddin to create a narrative through geometrical shapes, inscriptions, and an overall sense of chance. The audience can clearly see how inspired he was by automaticity.

The artist witnessed the birth of new styles of art and allowed himself to become familiar with many international artists and to participate with them in international exhibitions. He also studied the latest techniques and technical achievements in the fields of investment of raw materials and adapting them for artistic work. The designs, drawings and manual printing “Graphic” that we have always found consistent in the completion of paintings in artistic and aesthetic values ​​in the art of design was this art is the art of the era and one of the most important elements of painting artist.
14

LOT NOTE:

 

Using abstract figuration as his main source of content, Rafa Al Nasiri creates compelling compositions that represent nature as well as Arabic calligraphy. Most notably inspired by Chinese arts, mainly the technique of ink drawing and the use of negative space, Al Nasiri merges deeply saturated colours together with fluid gestural lines to create enveloping abstracted and spatial landscapes. A prolific writer on the history of printmaking, we can always see how his works use printmaking as a base.

Born in 1940 in Tikrit, Iraq, Rafa al-Nasiri earned a bachelor’s degree in printmaking from the Institute of Fine Arts in Baghdad in 1959. Upon graduating, he took interest in Chinese art and decided to further pursue his studies at the Central Academy of Fine Arts in Beijing, where he studied printmaking with Huang Yu Yi from 1959 to 1963. Later, Al Nasiri obtained a scholarship to attend the Gulbenkian Foundation at Gravura Lisbon, Portugal. In the late 1960’s, he returned to Iraq with a new outlook on approaching his works. He had gained a high level of technical skills and professional knowledge that his work was incomparable to those of his contemporaries. Upon his return, he co-founded the New Vision Group (Al Ru’yya Al Jadidah), alongside Dia Azzawi (B. 1939), Saleh al-Jumaie (B. 1939), Ismail Fattah (1934-2004), Mohammed Muhriddin (b. 1938) and Hashim Samarchi (B. 1939), in 1967 as a response to the Arab war against Israel.

Al Nasiri created works that celebrate beauty, love and his homeland. By devoting his palette to both bright and more subdued colors, he is able to merge poetry and the element of time in his compositions. This piece, proudly presented by Christie’s embodies Al Nasiri’s urge to convey simplicity while simultaneously expressing a link between the spirit and the soul, between balance and harmony. His aim is to convey “the unison of the individual with himself and his environment.” (in interview with Martina Sabra, 2008). Through his need for space and tranquility, Al Nasiri uses art to help strengthen the Iraqi identity.

 

 

 

15

KADHIM HAIDER (IRAQI, 1932-1985)

A View of Palm Trees in Taarimiyah Baghdad

 

16

KADHIM HAIDER (IRAQI, 1932-1985)

And a Horse is Selling

 

LOT NOTE:

 

In the aftershock of the first Ba’th coup in February 1963, Haider began work on a series of paintings based on imagery from the street performances that annually mourn the martyrdom of the Imam Husayn. Utilizing modern design techniques as well as aesthetic principles, Haider’s subjects ranged wide from ancient Mesopotamian art to horses that animate the demonstrations and reenactments of the Battle of Karbala. The imagery neither depicted the ritual performances nor did it depict the historical events of the battle; instead, Haider gave it an abstract make over where his aesthetic adjustments defused their ritualistic and historical meanings. Through these adjustments, Haider made the imagery from the mourning celebrations available through a narrated vocabulary to depict the struggle of an unnamed martyr. The paintings came to be immersed with the pathos and witness of the ritual remembrance of the martyrdom of the Imam Husayn. However, that pathos and testimony had nothing to do with the death of the Imam Husayn, rather with the experience of the first Ba’th coup in 1963.

In lot 16 Haider depicts an abstracted horse, a motif recurring in much of his oeuvre accompanied by a figure that seems to be guiding the horse as well as a group of figures behind the horse. In this piece, along with many of his works, he is exploring the mythological space created by those acts of remembrance. Because of his involvement in stage design in the late 1950’s, we can always see certain theatrical elements throughout his work.

Haider also has the ability to render landscapes in a way that was obviously inspired by his involvement in the Pioneers group. Employing color plains to instigate light and shadow as opposed to smaller brushstrokes, Haider seemed to push figurative forms into a particular kind of abstraction. Lot 15 is a prime example of how Haider combines different elements to create an affixed painterly narrative.

 

17

RAKAN DABDOUB (IRAQI, 1941-2017)

Women of Crafty Mysteries

 

LOT NOTE:

 

In his early years at the academy in Rome, Dabdoub initiated his artistic practice in wood carvings; because of this, we can clearly see elements of these carvings in his paintings. It is actually said of his works that he paints as he carves; his paintings possess a certain strength and color density which suggest a third dimension. Haunted with the lights and shadows of his hometown, Mosul, his talent is to capture what’s in front of him. Art consumes his life, and his life obviously consumes his art. In each of his panels, we clearly see the influences of his Arab heritage.

Using warm colors, mostly yellow and orange, it’s clear that Dabdoub uses his surroundings as his main influencers. The almost square canvas seems to have a frame within itself. Within this frame, we see clear connotations to symbolism with graffiti-like inscriptions and figurative forms. Expressing himself through this canvas does not seem like a difficult task for Dabdoub, as his brushstrokes create a sense of three dimensionality and as he allows the audience’s view to really seep into the painting as this dimensionality doesn’t seem to end.

 

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