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Wednesday, October 20, 2021

PHOTOS: Colorful, controversial Sotheby’s exhibit opens at Katara


All photos by Chantelle D’mello

Days before its highly publicized contemporary art auction in Qatar, Sotheby’s has opened its doors to a pre-sale exhibition showcasing the best of the artwork that will go on sale.

The collection, previously shown in galleries in London, Abu Dhabi, Jeddah and New York, is now housed at the Katara Art Center (Building 5) at Katara Cultural Village.

Sotheby’s opened an office in Qatar in 2009, but Doha became an especially favorite place to hold auctions after a contemporary art show last April fetched more than $15 million, setting a regional record.

The new exhibition will run from 2pm to 10pm daily at Building 5 until Oct. 13, when the auction will take place at the same venue at 7pm.

Key pieces

On display are works by several regional and international artists from Qatar, Iran, Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, Egypt, Algeria, Morocco, Tunisia, Palestine, the UK and US.

Tranquility by Damien Hirst.
Tranquility by Damien Hirst.

Two artworks by British artist Damien Hirst, whose controversial exhibit in Qatar last year drew large crowds, are up for auction. The pieces, Tranquility and Black Sun, are expected to fetch a combined total of QR5,840,000 to QR8,390,000.

Other highly appraised pieces by regional artists include:

  • Passage, an audio visual installation by Iranian visual artist Shirin Neshat, which is going for QR730,000 to QR1.1 million;
  • The Refugees, by late Tunisian painter Hatem El-Mekki (QR915,000 to QR1.28 million); and
  • Ikhtilej, by Tunisian calligrapher and artist Nja Mahdaoui (QR1.1 to QR1.46 million).

Untitled by Indian sculptor Anish Kapoor
Untitled by Indian sculptor Anish Kapoor

Untitled, a massive stainless steel disc-like installation by Indian sculptor Anish Kapoor, is also one of the auction’s most prized pieces, and is expected to sell for QR2.55 million to QR3.28 million.

Some of the more unusual pieces include Farewell Kiss, I Could Have Really Loved You and Heaven’s Doors.

The first, by Iraqi artist Mahmud Obaidi is an allusion to the infamous shoe-throwing incident of 2008, when Iraqi journalist Muntadhar al-Zaidi threw his shoe at then US President George W. Bush, saying “This is a farewell kiss from the Iraqi people…”

According to the Sotheby’s online auction catalog, I Could Have Really Loved You by English artist Tracey Emin is part of her seminal series of neon signs.

It continues:

“Emin employs neon as a compelling means of personal expression, utilising carefully chosen phrases or statements with an eloquence that belies their brevity…I could have really loved you superbly embodies these significant strands of Emin’s own closely intertwined life and art, whilst standing as a tribute to the myriad complexities of human relationships and interactions.”

Untitled by Iraqi artist Jananne Al-Ani
Untitled I and II by Iraqi artist Jananne Al-Ani

There are also two untitled pieces by Iraqi artist Jananne Al-Ani, who features her mother and her sisters in various garments and “veiled in varying degrees.”

According to Al-Ani, the work is a commentary on the idea that costumes or dresses represent groups of people, and a “response to the clichéd, exoticised depictions of women in late-nineteenth century Orientalist photography and painting…(and) Western preconceptions of Middle Eastern society.”

Meanwhile, Heaven’s Doors by Saudi Arabian artist Rashed Al Shashai pays homage to stained glass windows of cathedrals, albeit made with mundane everyday objects like baskets, food storage pots, plastic plates and strainers. The piece asks audiences to “consider what we ascribe value to – the material or the truly spiritual.”

See the full list of artworks and their histories here.

Do you plan to check out the exhibition? Thoughts?


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7 years ago

Do we think that in this place of new money, excess and ostentation, there may be a few bidders, able to meet any price, who will purchase expensive art for all the wrong reasons? I of course wouldn’t be so cynical……

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