NEWSPAPER ARTICLE. The New York-based online platform artnet opened its inaugural sale of Contemporary Middle Eastern Art earlier this month. In some ways this first thoughtfully curated sale plays it safe with lots by some surefire darlings of Middle Eastern art— including ‘Transparent Body’ a rare 2013 oil on panel from a particularly successful series by Hayv Kahraman who is known for her portrayal of the female figure as delicate yet unstoppably fierce. Other lots include pieces by Shirin Neshat and Manal Al-Dowayan, as well as two hand-coloured gelatin silver prints by Youssef Nabil, which depict the Cairo film scene with such nostalgia that one can practically hear a scratchy soundtrack playing in the background.
Although it’s exciting to watch artnet’s predominantly Western group of collectors gain exposure to established regional forces, what is truly intriguing about this sale is the inclusion of up and coming names. This includes an accessible mixed media piece by breakout artist Sara Al Haddad (who was recently announced as participating in the upcoming UAE National Pavilion at the Venice Biennale), an earlier work by Emirati surrealist Nasir Nasrallah, as well as Mousepad, a riff on traditional Persian carpets by Kour Pour, a British artist of part Iranian descent based in Los Angeles.
The sale, which runs continually until February 27, comes on the heels of an announcement that the online platform has hired Bibi Naz Zavieh as Senior Middle Eastern Art Specialist. A familiar name to many, Zavieh cut her teeth at Christie’s Dubai, spending critical years investigating regional art’s passage from studio, to estate, and ultimately auction room, as all the while the UAE art market steadily emerged.
Zavieh suggests that her new role at artnet is the result of prestigious Western institutions acquiring work by regional artists as well as holding high profile group exhibitions. “All of this has been raising greater international awareness for the art of the region,” she says. “As we see this major shift, it is a natural step for artnet, and other auction houses, to focus more on this field and bring in their expertise on the market.”
As a particularly tense political climate divides North America, it is surely not coincidental that most of the artists included in the sale have been concerned over the long haul with using their practices to, as Zavieh aptly puts it, “build bridges between East and West.”
Founded back in the 90’s by German dealer and artpreneur Hans Neuendorf, artnet first came onto the scene as the home of an invaluable subscription-based price database, but was subsequently one of the daring few to lead the way in launching exclusive online art auctions—a trend which seems to be here to stay around the region and abroad, particularly for work selling at young collector and mid-range entry points.
Zavieh says that moving forward at artnet, “We are hoping to hold three to four general Contemporary Middle Eastern Art sales like this one per year. We will also have themed auctions throughout the year where we will be working across categories, such as bringing together photography and art from the Middle East, or a sale focusing on modern artists from the region.”
-Originally published here by The National, on The Art Blog edited by Anna Seaman. Image courtesy of artnet.
Inkjet and acrylic on canvas laid over panel
9 x 7 x 1.25 in. (22.86 x 17.78 x 3.18 cm.)