Last night, Sotheby’s Contemporary Art Doha auction achieved the strong total of $15,199,750, solidly between the pre-sale expectations of $11.1/16.1 million, establishing the highest price for an auction of Contemporary Art in the Middle East region. The sale was 89.1% sold by lot. Records were set for nine artists, including a record for a living Arab artist. The top lot of tonight’s sale was Donald Judd’s Untitled (Bernstein 90-01), which sold – after an extended bidding battle among four people – for $3,525,000.
Robin Woodhead, Chairman of Sotheby’s International, said: “Tonight’s sale in Doha demonstrates unequivocally Qatar’s central role as a cultural hub of the entire MENA Region. Sotheby’s ability to attract bidding from collectors from 15 countries across four continents here this evening affirms the growing importance of Qatar in the international art world.”
Commenting on this evening’s sale, Lina Lazaar Jameel, Head of Sale and Sotheby’s International Contemporary Art Specialist, said: “We are thrilled with the results of this evening’s sale, which achieved records for nine artists and set the highest total for a sale of Contemporary Art in the Middle East region. It is extraordinarily gratifying to see the market’s response to the exceptional range of art we sourced for this evening’s carefully curated auction. Interest grew throughout the pre-sale tour of highlights to both Jeddah and Dubai, culminating in tonight’s exciting auction.”
The cover lot for tonight’s sale, Rising Down, set an auction record for Ethiopian-born artist Julie Mehretu titled when it achieved the strong price of $3,077,000*, over its high estimate of $3 million, after competition from four bidders. Executed in 2008 in ink and synthetic polymer paint on canvas, the monumental work (243.8cm x 365.8cm) is one of the most visually arresting works ever produced by the artist.
Four bidders competed for a commanding installation work by Minimalist artist Donald Judd, Untitled (Bernstein 90-01), dating from 1990, which achieved $3,525,000 against a high estimate of $3.5 million. Judd was one of the leading pioneers of new sculptural forms and concepts within America during the latter half of the twentieth century and this work shows his brilliantly imaginative mind at the very pinnacle of its creative powers.
Four bidders competed for a work of monumental scale by Chant Avedissian, Icons of the Nile, which set a record for a living Arab artist when it fetched $1,565,000 (est. $1/1.5 million). Created in 2010, this gouache, stencil and acrylic paint on cardboard, in one hundred and twenty parts, is the largest piece the artist has created to date. It presents a mosaic of Egyptian culture that retraces the country’s past through nostalgic imagery and iconographical motifs.
Prominent among the group of works sold tonight is a supreme series of paintings by the influential Iranian artist Mohammed Ehsai, entitled ‘Eshgh’ or ‘Love’ and dated 2012, which fetched $437,000 (est. $300/400,000). His distinctive style is shown at its best in the ‘Eshgh’ series, which blends traditional calligraphic techniques with modern graphics.
Suspended Together fetched the remarkable sum of $329,000 (est. $100/150,000), achieving an auction record for the artist. Magnificent in scale and epic in conception, Suspended Together is one of the most important and celebrated works of Manal Al Dowayan’s career to date and the first of her installation works to appear at auction. Utterly elegiac in its beauty, the work has a distinguished exhibition history, having been displayed at major international shows, such as Edge of Arabia in Dubai and The Future of a Promise at the 54th Venice Biennale (both in 2011). A myriad of snow white porcelain doves hover in the air, the wings and body of each bird stamped with an exact reproduction of the permission document a Saudi woman needs from their male guardian to travel.
Ya’illahi (Dear Lord), one of the most important paintings ever to come to auction by Ayman Baalbaki, achieved a record for the artist when it reached a final sum of $377,000 (est. $100/150,000). Depicting the shrouded face of a lone, heroic figure gazing up to the skies, the powerfully charged work explores the acute tension and ambiguity within the kaffiyeh, an everyday garment.
The highly desirable portrait by Mahmoud Said, Profil, dating from 1950, attracted competition from no fewer than five bidders and achieving $125,000, many multiples of its high estimate of $50,000.