NEW YORK—Sotheby’s sale of modern and contemporary Arab and Iranian art, held in London on Oct. 23, more than doubled the total of the Arab and Iranian sale of a year ago. The house realized £3.2 million ($5.2 million), within the presale estimate of £2.9 million/4.3 million and double the £1.5 million total achieved last year. Of 143 lots on offer, 102, or 71 percent, were sold. By value, the auction was 76 percent sold.
The top lot was an oil and silver leaf on canvas by Mohammed Ehsai, Setayesh-e Mahtab (Homage to the Moon), 2008, which sold for £313,250 ($510,754) against an estimate of £150,000/250,000. That was followed by The Old Poet and The Babe, 2007, a painting by Farhad Moshiri (b. 1963), which brought in £277,250 ($452,056) on an estimate of £150,000/250,000.
Sotheby’s specialists Lina Lazaar and Dalya Islam said that the results were encouraging, particularly given that the auction was “put together during a different economic climate to that which currently exists.” They also pointed out three new artist records set in the sale, for Mounir Fatmi, Youssef Nabil and Sohrab Sepehri.
“The young market for contemporary Arab and Iranian art continues to evolve and is still finding its level in the international art market. What we are seeing is that the high-quality, well-estimated works are performing best,” Lazaar and Islam said in a statement after the sale.
Sepehri’s oil Derakhtan Hamische (Always the Trees), 1967, was among the top lots, selling for £145,250 ($236,830) to a Middle Eastern collector (estimate: £120,000/180,000).
The price set a record for a work by the artist; that record, however, was broken at Christie’s Dubai sale the following week (See story, page 4)