Bonhams will auction 'the father of Modern Arab Art' in Dubai

A masterpiece by Jewad Selim, one of the most important Arab artists, is one of the many exciting works of art in Bonhams' latest sale of South Asian and Middle East Art.

The auction is taking place on October 11 at the Royal Mirage Hotel Dubai - the sixth time Bonhams has held a sale in the city.

Bonhams also holds the record for a work sold at auction by Jewad Selim (Iraq 1919-1961) with a $336,000 price achieved in the March 2008 sale in Dubai.

This latest sculpture is a very important piece from a lifetime of artistic output. Titled Mother and Child, it is constructed in fruitwood and mixed media and is estimated to sell for $60,000-80,000.

The work was acquired directly from the artist and thence by descent. The sculpture was brought to the UK by the owner's mother in 1961-62.

Iraq's Jewad Selim is considered the father of Modern Arab Art. His life came to an untimely end at the age of just 41, and so the surviving body of work of this young artist, whose influence inspired generations, is extremely important to the history of modern art in the Middle East.

Jewad Selim's Young Man and his Wife sold for $336,000 at
Bonhams' first Dubai sale, in 2008

Born in Iraq in 1919, soon after its creation, Jewad practised both painting and sculpture during his career. The government sent him to Paris in 1938 and Rome in 1939 on scholarships.

He spent the rest of the war in Baghdad, then continued his studies at the Slade School of Art in London from 1946 to 1948, where he also exhibited at the ICA and the Tate Gallery.

After his return to Iraq he was made head of the Sculpture Department at the Institute of Fine Arts and established the Baghdad Group for Modern Art, which was made up of painters, sculptors and architects.

After the monarchy was replaced in 1958 by the regime of Abd al-Karim Qasim, he created the Freedom Monument (Nasb al-Hurriya) in Tehrir Square bronze, the largest monument built in Iraq in 2500 years. He died in 1961.

"It is impossible to understand the modern art movement in Iraq without taking into account the works of this pioneer artist," said Mehreen Rizvi, Head of South Asian and Middle East Art at Bonhams.

"To Jewad, art was a tool to reassert national self esteem and build a distinctive Iraqi identity."

Middle Eastern art offers unrivalled opportunities for collectors:
Ahmed Moustafa, The Transcendental Mansions of the Moon,
previously sold for $408,000

"His early death was a shock to the artistic community of Iraq, but his spirit remained and was reignited by a new wave of young artists.  After paving the way forward, this new wave picked up Jewad's mantle of extending Iraqi art and influence into the rest of the Arab world and globally."

The sale also features an extremely important picture, Man in a rocking chair, from the leading Egyptian artist, Ahmed Moustafa (born 1943), which is estimated to sell for $180,000 -$240,000. 

"We are very pleased with the offering in this sale. There are some very strong works by the region's leading artists," said Mehreen Rizvi.

"If current trends continue I expect an exciting sale with more records achieved. It gives Bonhams great satisfaction to promote the art of the Middle East and South Asia, bringing it to the wider world's attention via sales in London, New York as well as Dubai."

Watch this space for images from the sale.


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