Art & Culture

Design From The Middle East

Middle Eastern Modern & Contemporary Art & Design Auction Browsing online: 4-10 November Bidding online: 11-24 November
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Christie’s celebrates its 15th sale season with a revisited approach to our traditional sale format, including a newly curated design section to its longstanding Middle Eastern Modern & Contemporary Art auction. For the first time the auction will offer a section of Middle Eastern Design curated by the renowned architect and designer Viktor Udzenija, who’s studio is based in Dubai. Between 14-23 November all lots from this auction as well as from Matters of Material and the charity auction We Are All Beirut will be on view at Christie’s London.

Maintaining our strong caliber of modern art, we also are presenting a diverse selection of contemporary works. Strong modern works by Farid Belkahia and Sohrab Sepehri, are met with important works by Farhad Moshiri and Samia Halaby, reflecting the diversity of artistic talent, and the ever-changing and versatile tastes of an evolving art collecting community.

Caroline Louca-Kirkland, Managing Director Christie’s Middle East commented: “We mark this autumn season with kickstarting a fresh strategy for the category, in alignment with the evolving and maturing regional market and focusing on strong quality works of art and design. We will be infusing our traditional auctions with a design section and presenting a separate guest curated sale connecting the Middle East with other geographies.”

There is a vast depth of ingenuity, innovation and sustainability in these selected works, made by designers from all over the Middle East. Everything that a piece of design should have these works have – their purpose/function, innovative use of material, pushing and reinventing old techniques and applying them with a new contemporary language, sensitive and sensible use of natural materials or re-use of recyclable materials to give them a new life, thus making them sustainable. Christie’s London will emerge into 100 years of creativity and productivity from the Middle East this November when paintings, sculptures and pieces of design will be exhibited during the live bidding period. Last but not least, I like to express my gratitude to Christie’s for giving Design and Designers from the Middle East such a platform to shine.”, continued Viktor Udzenija.


Ranya Sarakbi Ouroboros, 2019, Cast Bronze, 11 meters length

“It is hard to pinpoint and describe this incredible work without being whisked away into the land of myths and legends. It is just exquisite. I think Maria Felix would have worn it if she was still around … “

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The Lebanese sculptor and painter is represented by a monumental looped serpent constructed painstakingly out of over 16,000 single units of cast bronze. The entirely handmade entangled band is 11 meters long and boasts of a dramatic, everunfolding geometric patterns. Called 'Ouroboros', the commanding sculpture takes inspiration from the ancient allegory of the serpent eating its tail, which represents the cycle of life.

Mainly portrayed as a force of darkness, the serpent was once emblematic of life. 'Ancient Egypt and Greece used to view it as a symbol of cyclicality, of chaos versus order or of life feeding on itself,' notes Sarakbi, who lives and works between Beirut and Milan. In her own 'Ouroboros', the artist plays with the metaphor of eternal recurrence, a notion that resonates with contemporary culture and bears an archetypal significance to the struggle of the human psyche.

David / Nicolas, Constellation C060, 2018, palm wood and satin brass

“Rising from the ashes like the city of Beirut this table tells a story of a supernova

bursting to create new life. Stardust at its finest.”

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Since launching their studio 2011 in Beirut, David / Nicolas have become known for their combination of Eastern and Western influences and a wide range of luxurious materials. David Raffoul and his design partner, Nicolas Moussallem, breakout year came in 2014 at the Salone del Mobile in Milan, when the New York Times named them one of three emerging design stars.

The death of star results in either a black hole or a supernova, in Constallation C060, death is only a transformation; it outshines everything else and evolves into a new life. It reminds the viewer of Beirut, the city that was reborn repeatedly, a place where time and space are different, where beauty is in the small things or even in the memories of it. The Constellation pieces revolve around the relativity of perception and how such a phenomenon can be interpreted into palpable matter.

Ammar Kalo, Carabus Mirror, 2019, Copper Sheets, Camel Leather, Walnut hardwood, Tinted Mirrors

“A true translation of traditional craft into the new age. Visual and sensual qualities of a hand crafted

copper dish entirely reinterpreted by a robot.”

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During the 2015 Milan Design Week, the UAE designer Ammar Kalo received a Silver Design Award for his chair design Stratum. Also, in October 2015, Harper's Bazaar Interiors awarded him the Emerging Designer award during the inaugural Dubai Design Week. In 2016 the Cooper-Hewitt Smithsonian Design Museum in New York acquired two pieces, Stratum and N-bowl, for its permanent collection.

The Carabus Collection is the result of conflating concepts of traditional craft with processes of advanced robotic fabrication. Carabus embraces the imperfections of the process and highlights both machine and handcraft using robotically formed copper as well as camel leather and walnut wood. Forming tool marks are celebrated throughout the object and recall the qualities of handcrafted objects. The forms and textures are loosely inspired by beetles.

Taher Asad Bakhtiari, Small Square #7, 2015, hand woven-wool

“Despite being clearly rooted in the traditional Gabbeh carpets the innovative approach of exposed warps and bold geometries give this carpet a unique contemporary architectural aesthetic. The use of hand spun wool and natural dies make this work an epitome of sustainability.”

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The Iranian Asad Bakhtiari opened a creative agency in Tehran and later in New York, where he lives and works today. He has developed several bodies of work including “The tribal weave project”, a multi-tiered and ongoing reimagination of tribal artifacts of which Small Square #7 is part of. Woven by semi-nomadic tribal women using entirely natur ally-dyed, hand-spun wool, each piece can require up to four months to create, depending on size.

Unlike the traditional Iranian carpet, Iranian tribal weaves display quite simple patterns, because tribal people weave what they see: the sky, the mountains, the earth, the animals. Inspired by the power of this puritan philosophy, Asad-Bakhtiari imagines a process to further strip the tribal weave to its bare elements, starting with the weaving process itself.

Hassan Hajjaj, Crate Stools

“The nonchalance with which this transformation of common everyday imagery into a functional object is ingenious.”

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The Moroccan born Hassan Hijaj moved in early childhood to London and had been influenced throughout his life by both cultures. Therefore, his multi-layered works fuse traditional and contemporary North African culture with familiar Western imagery and iconography through appropriation and adaption. In Crate Stools he has combined one of Western culture’s most iconic image Coca Cola and transformed one of its crate into a stool by adding an upholstery with North African design. Today, his work is in the collections of the Los Angeles Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles; the Victoria & Albert Museum, London; the Farjam Collection, Dubai; Institut des Cultures d’Islam, Paris; Kamel Lazaar Foundation, Tunisia; Virginia Museum of Fine Art, Richmond, VA; and more.

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