ABU DHABI and DUBAI // Revered London auction house Christie's is to launch its Middle East season with an unprecedented international exhibition to include sale highlights. The event, taking place at Abu Dhabi's Emirates Palace on Oct 26 and 27, will be followed by a sale series at the Jumeirah Emirates Towers Hotel in Dubai on Oct 29 and 30. A total of 75 works will go on display, including star attractions from the forthcoming New York auctions of Impressionist and Modern art, and the Post-war and Contemporary collections, most notably Andy Warhol's Statue of Liberty, Roy Lichtenstein's Self-Portrait, and Ozu (in 2 parts) by Gerhard Richter. Though Richter's work, spanning five decades, can be viewed in several parts - paintings, overpainted photographs, drawings, graphic editions, the Atlas collection - it also avoids over-classification; one of the principal reasons for the artist's reputation as an originator and innovator amid the, sometimes, staid contemporary applications of craft-based media such as oils and watercolours. Richter's practice is, in fact, confoundingly diverse. And much of contemporary painting - Damien Hirst's spot paintings, Isa Genzken's Haare Wachsen Wie Sie Wollen (Hair Grows the Way It Wants) project, among others - is noticeably taken from Richter.
Ozu (in 2 parts) is a stunning representation of Richter's mid-1980s abstractions, finished at a time when his painted work was just coming into vogue. It sold at the New York Sotheby's in Nov 1997 for $387,500 (Dh1.42m) - and is expected draw an even higher final bid at the upcoming Christie's sale. Richter, however, seems resigned to the increased prices now commanded by his art and that of his contemporaries: "Maybe it was always like this, so crazy, almost criminal." The corresponding series of sales in May this year, for example, fetched more than $750 million (Dh2.7bn), and sold works by Claude Monet, Pablo Picasso and Lucian Freud, among others. Further highlights of this show include major pieces from the two-day Dubai auction, encompassing contemporary Asian art, Orientalist paintings and a significant selection of jewels and watches from forthcoming auctions in London, Paris, Geneva, New York and Hong Kong. The exhibition will be complemented by 25 works of art on loan from Middle Eastern private collections. "It will give collectors a unique opportunity to view some of the greatest works of art being sold by Christie's International in our leading salesrooms around the globe," said Jussi Pylkkänen, the president of Christie's Europe and Middle East, at the event's launch. The sale series at the Emirates Towers, Dubai, divided into two auctions - Jewels and Watches, and International Modern and Contemporary Art - will include Happy, the iconic light installation by the British duo Tim Noble and Sue Webster, alongside what is being billed as the strongest selection of 1960s Saqqa-khaneh works to have appeared at auction, headlined by the Iranian artist Faramarz Pilaram's Untitled, 1962. Together with Charles Hossein Zenderoudi and Parviz Tanavoli, Pilaram worked at the forefront of the Saqqa-khaneh school, founded around the legendary Atelier Kaboud in Tehran, Iran. The movement fused Iranian folk art with the country's rich literary tradition, deconstructing each element far beyond its original context. Saqqa-khaneh, in the original meaning of the term, are votive structures for public use, found in old districts of towns in Iran, consisting of a small shelf holding a water tank, copper bowl and other such related items. The principal function of saqqa-khaneh is to offer cold water to passers-by. They also fulfill a spiritual need, as a sort of sanctum freed from daily distractions. Thus, Pilaram's neo-traditionalist paintings of the early 1960s incorporated twin traditions of Iranian religious and folk iconography. As with Zenderoudi, by the late 1960s his focus shifted and his mature works were chiefly concerned with the Farsi letterform. Untitled, 1962, one of a number of paintings within the same series, is an oil work on canvas; ochres, oranges and earth tones applied with wide, heavy brushstrokes, swirling in rival directions, crafting a tableau account, to my eye, of a red sandstorm at dusk. Overlaid is a grimy gold calligraphy pattern, seemingly emanating from one point at the bottom right corner of the piece, radiating into multiplex visual moment centre-frame. A kind of molded poetry. This Christie's season is to be held in association with the Tourism Development and Investment Company (TDIC), and will be sponsored by the worldwide financial services group, Credit Suisse. firstname.lastname@example.org