On October 13th, Sotheby’s will put Passage, a 2001 video piece by Iranian artist Shirin Neshat, up for auction at its outpost in Doha, Qatar. Filmed in Essouaria, Morocco, Passage is a single channel work depicting three parts of an Islamic funeral procession moving separately and eventually together. Punctuated by an original Philip Glass soundtrack, the piece has a haunting quality. It is Neshat’s defining work, and the artist’s first video to be sold at auction. Sotheby’s estimates that the piece, taken from The Sender Collection, will fetch between $200,000-300,000.
Sotheby’s will be putting Passage—as well as other works from the likes of Tracy Emin, Lucien Smith and Sterling Ruby—on view at the company’s New York headquarters from September 20-25. “Pictures don’t do justice for a video instillation,” said Aileen Agopian, Sotheby’s International Senior Specialist and one of the specialists in charge of the Doha sale. “We wanted to ensure that interested people all over the world had the opportunity to see it in person, both for the auction and to showcase an important piece.”
Passage–which exists in an edition of 6 with one artist proof–is already included in collections at The Guggenheim, the Museum of Modern Art in New York and the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, with two copies of the video in undisclosed private collections. Agopian, who called the work “a momentous and compelling film,” said Sotheby’s “strategically went after” the video to get it in the sale.
Since video, unlike painting and sculpture, has less to do with owning a specific object, it is often rare in an auction setting. A print of Matthew Barney’s Cremaster 2 sold at Sotheby’s in 2007 for $571,000, but it’s more common to see objects and ephemera related to a video work at auction than the video itself. (The potential buyer of Passage will receive a DVD with a signed certificate of authenticity and a “digital beta master clone,” which turns out to be a fancy word for a VHS tape.) Agopian said the tide is turning and “collectors and curators are more open” to seeing video and film sold at auction than they were even five years ago. Other work in the sale includes more traditional auction mainstays like Damien Hirst, whose Tranquility is estimated at $1-1.5 million