Christie’s Paris is hosting an online charity auction of Middle Eastern art to benefit artists through the Institut du Monde Arabe (IMA).
Entitled ‘I.M.A.GINATION, the sale will feature 44 works by Middle Eastern, Japanese and French artists, donated from the personal collection of Parisian collectors Claude and France Lemand. Bidding will open on June 24 and close on July 16. The proceeds from the sale will go to assist young artists struggling due to the effects of COVID-19, as well as to benefit the Claude and France Lemand-IMA fund, set up in 2018 to enrich the museum’s collections.
Lemand, who left his native Lebanon in the mid-1970s at the outset of the civil war, founded his gallery in Paris in 1988 and dedicated it to showcasing works by Arab artists, many of whom like himself had settled abroad due to turmoil back home.
“In October 2018 we donated to the museum of the Institut du Monde Arabe 1,300 works by over 100 artists, which increased to 1,500 works a year later,” said Lemand. “We also created the Claude and France Lemand-IMA fund, the purpose of which is to continue to enrich and to promote the museum’s collections, which is today the most important museum in the West in terms of modern and contemporary Arab art. The fund supports contemporary creativity and contributes to the dynamism and outreach of this institution in France and in the world.”
The fund also secures future acquisitions, undertakes research-based work, organizes exhibitions and publishes exhibition catalogues.
The 44 works in the sale span 60 years of artistic development in the Middle East, with estimated values ranging from €1,000 ($1,100) to €40,000. The artists featured are already represented in the collection of the IMA.
The top lot of the sale is Shafic Abboud’s 1959 work entitled Saison, which is estimated at €40,000-60,000. One of the most revered Arab artists of the 20th century, the late Lebanese artist is known for his dreamy canvases that reveal abstract and vibrant compositions signaling freedom, light and joy. He was particularly drawn to Lebanon’s landscapes. He, too, left Lebanon for Paris, arriving in the city in 1947. Another of his works in the sale is Composition, executed in 1960, which has an estimate of €5,000-7,000.
Other highlights are three works by Iraqi London-based artist Dia Al-Azzawi, including Search for a Symbol (2006) with an estimate of €20,000-30,000 and Arabic Letter (1984-2005) with an estimate of €15,000-20,000. Al-Azzawi is one of nine artists in the sale who created tributes to the fire of Notre-Dame cathedral. Lemand initiated the project, given that the IMA overlooks Notre-Dame, so the museum was a first-hand witness of the destruction of the historical monument. Al-Azzawi’s My tribute to Notre Dame (2019) has an estimate of €20,000-30,000.
Another artist who paid tribute to the fire of Notre-Dame is French Moroccan female artist Najia Mehadji. She created a 180 x 110 cm painting of La Vierge à l’Enfant (2019), priced between €15,000-20.000.
“We have kept in touch with the artists of our collection. Without putting aside the eldest and the most established artists whose origins are in the Arab world, today we are monitoring the creativity and supporting the projects of the youngest and most vulnerable artists, especially during these difficult times which will last for a few months more,” Lemand told Arab News. “They are just over twenty artists and they live in France and in Europe (Syrians, Iraqis, Lebanese, Palestinians, Yemenites), in Morocco, in Algeria, in Tunisia, in Syria, in Jordan and in Lebanon.”
Valerie Didier Hess, Christie’s Impressionist and Modern Art Specialist who formerly worked at Christie’s Dubai, said the sale also looks to provide a “boost to the Middle Eastern art market.”
“Especially given the current situation,” she told Arab News. “The sale also gives a boost to cultural institutions and museums like the IMA that have been struggling for years.”
All the proceeds of the sale will go to the Claude and France Lemand-IMA Fund, though the buyer’s premium will go to Christie’s Paris.
“The idea here is to benefit the fund and support the artists and IMA,” Hess said. “Unfortunately, with or without Covid not many events and exhibitions have been taking place recently at IMA due to a lack in funds. The money raised from this sale will go to good use. These esteemed collectors are using their legacy to give back.”
The Lemands, Hess continued, have been supporters of Middle Eastern art abroad for decades. “He treats his artists like his family; they are like his children. These collectors have dedicated their entire life to these artists from the Arab World.”
Jack Lang, former French Minister of Culture and President of the Institut du Monde Arabe, who has maintained a close friendship with the Lemands, echoed Hess’s sentiments in a statement:
“Claude and France Lemand were among the first to believe in the creativity of contemporary artists in the Arab world. They are also known for their generosity. A donation is always a human adventure. It continues and grows, since the benefactors of the IMA Museum are now also becoming benefactors of artists from the Arab world. I am pleased to bring my patronage to this charity sale.”