GB Bajaj with the artwork of Ismail Shammout - Massirat Sha'ab (Odyssey of a People)

Christie's Dubai held an exceptional Modern and Contemporary Middle Eastern art auction with their first Important Watch auction of the year. The Modern and Contemporary Art auction was comprised of works by Arab, Iranian and Turkish artists from prestigious international collections. Among their works were the monumental Odyssey of a People by Ismail Shammout (1930–2006) and six works by Mahmoud Saïd (1897–1964).  Also offered was Introspection, the artist's most famous self-portrait, executed in charcoal. Paintings by Lebanese master Paul Guiragossian (1926–1993) and the pioneering Iraqi artist Faeq Hassan (1914–1992) were also included in the collection.

Mahmoud Saïd's Assouan – ile et dunes oil

The top lot of the sales were Mahmoud Saïd's Assouan – ile et dunes oil painting, accompanied by its preparatory oil sketch, selling for $685,500 / AED2,517,156. This tripled its pre-sale estimate.

Michael Jeha, Managing Director of Christie's Middle East commented, “Christie's reinforced its position as market leader in the region for the 12th consecutive year. The demand for top quality art remains extremely strong and the buyer base for Middle Eastern art continues to deepen and internationalize. There was fierce bidding in the room for the most established artists, with eighteen new auction records being set in the process."

The Modern and Contemporary Middle Eastern Art sale was held during Art Dubai Week and achieved a total of $8,079,375 /AED29,667,465, setting new world auction records for 18 artists. These artists included Marwan Sahmarani (Lebanese, b. 1970), Nazir Nabaa (Syrian, 1941-2016), Mahmoud Sabri (Iraqi, 1927-2012) and Koorosh Shishegaran (Iranian, b. 1945).

There was serious interest from global art collectors. They were from 22 countries and the top lots from the picture sale were bought by clients from Lebanon, Canada, The UAE and The UK.

Ismail Shammout (1930-2006) has long been recognised as one of Palestine's leading modernist painters. "He really laid the foundations for an artistic visual lexicon used by the Palestinians of the 1950s up until today," explained Masa Al-Kutoubi, Specialist and Head of Sales at Christies. "He helped to produce a national identity through artistic practice — one that rallied Palestinians and the wider Arab population." Offered directly from the artist's estate, Odyssey of a People (1980) is "highly political, poignant and haunting," said Al-Kutoubi.

In the Important Watches auction, there were 184 iconic and exclusive timepieces from the world's most reputable brands. Among them, the most sought after were the bespoke Rolex ‘Lacquered Stella.' It was made for the Sultanate of Oman. It is an elegant Haute Joaillerie lady's timepiece, set with over 26 carats of pink, yellow, fancy and white diamonds. It was the iconic Patek Philippe ref. 2499/100, which was offered in the Middle East for the first time.

The top lot of the sales for the watches and the highest price was achieved for the Patek Philippe ref. 2499/100, manufactured in 1981, selling for just under $500,000. It was also the most expensive vintage watch sold at auction in the Middle East.

The Important Watches auction realized $5,358,313 / AED19,675,725, the highest total for any watch auction in the Middle East. It set a record for the region's most expensive watch sold at auction.