Sotheby’s and Dubai galleries partner to raise money for UNHCR COVID-19 fund

Farhad Moshiri, "Rodeo Cowboy" (2018). Supplied
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Updated 15 June 2020

Sotheby’s and Dubai galleries partner to raise money for UNHCR COVID-19 fund

  • The first of its kind, the online sale features 60 works by Middle Eastern artists, and demonstrates to the increase in collaborative initiatives among the Dubai art scene

DUBAI: Even as nations reopen after months of lockdown, the art world continues to be relegated to digital platforms for the foreseeable future.

But the silver lining is the myriad collaborations arising among members of the global art community.

In the Middle East, one such initiative is the “This Too Shall Pass” auction hosted by Sotheby’s in partnership with seven galleries from Dubai’s Al-Serkal Avenue. 




Mohamed Ahmed Ibrahim, "Untitled" (2019). Supplied

Marking the inaugural online sale by an international auction house in the Middle East, 10 percent of the sales from the online event, which opens for bidding from June 18-25, will go to the COVID-19 relief fund of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR).

“In the first few weeks of lockdown there were a lot of calls, discussions and surveys about how to support and preserve our arts community,” William Lawrie, founder of the Lawrie Shabibi art gallery in Dubai, told Arab News.

“In one of the Zoom calls, which included all of the galleries in Al-Serkal Avenue, the idea of an auction to support the galleries and their artists was mooted, with a charitable component to benefit vulnerable people made even more disadvantaged by COVID-19.”




Monir Farmanfarmaian, "Untitled (C5)" (1993-2009). Supplied

The auction house, the galleries decided, needed to be one with an international reach. “We wanted to showcase the best of the galleries’ works to an international audience, express solidarity within our community that we’ve spent 10 years building, and support a cause we all feel strongly about,” Lawrie said. “In the end, we settled on UNHCR programs in the Middle East.”

Participating galleries include The Third Line, Gallery Isabelle van den Eynde, Carbon 12, Lawrie Shabibi, Green Art Gallery, Leila Heller Gallery and 1 x 1 Art Gallery.

Highlights include Beirut-based Mona Saudi’s “Woman/River” (1998), made in Jordanian jade and going for an estimated $50,000-$70,000; Iranian artist Farhad Moshiri’s “Rodeo Cowboy” (2018), made in hand-embroidered beads on canvas on board, estimated at $80,000-$120,000; and an untitled work by Emirati artist Mohamed Ahmed Ibrahim dated to 2019 and made in acrylic on canvas, going for an estimated $10,000-$15,000. 




Hassan Hajjaj, "Exchange" (2020). Supplied

There is also a work by the late pioneering Iranian artist Monir Farmanfarmaian, made between 1993 and 2009 in silk and wool and hand-woven in Tabriz, for an estimated $40,000-$60,000; and a vibrant work by revered Moroccan artist Hassan Hajjaj titled “Exchange,” dated to 2006 and made in metallic lambda print on dibond in wood frame with Big Zoshk tomato and Bled olives noire tins for $8,000-$12,000.

There is also an untitled work dated to 2020 by Emirati artist Mohammed Kazem, made in acrylic on scratched paper selling for $20,000-$30,000; and a work by Shaikha Al-Mazrou, also from the UAE, titled “Isometric” (2019), made in wet coated steel for an estimated $12,000-$18,000.




Mohamed Melehi, "Soleil Oblique" (1971). Supplied

“I am grateful to Sotheby’s for their incredible support and generosity, as well as to all the artists and colleagues,” said Isabelle van den Eynde.

“Together, we hope to generate funding and to donate to the heart-breaking cause of the refugees.”

The sale offers works by established artists already represented in institutions worldwide alongside rising Middle Eastern stars. Importantly, it also demonstrates the vital nature of community during turbulent times.

“We are witnessing a new cultural landscape,” said Ashkan Baghestani, director and head of contemporary curated sale at Sotheby’s London.

“As we all live through unprecedented times, we have shown, as humans, our resilience through the coming together of communities,” he added.




Shaikha Al-Mazrou, "Isometric" (2019). Supplied

“This project was born of close collaboration and indeed friendships. It has come into being in record time — something not many would have expected less than three months ago, when the world went into lockdown and a whole art calendar evaporated within a matter of days.”

It is likely that seasoned art buyers will raise their eyebrows at a collaboration between an auction house and art galleries, given the long and uneasy history between primary contemporary art galleries and auction houses.

Lawrie said: “Something incredible has come out of this situation — a true collaboration between the galleries and the Sotheby’s team, who immediately understood the brief and could grasp this opportunity for what it is: A chance to completely reboot and refresh the auction market in this region.”


Johnny Depp denies ‘wife-beater’ claim in London libel trial

Updated 1 min 48 sec ago

Johnny Depp denies ‘wife-beater’ claim in London libel trial

  • The high-profile case has laid bare Johnny Depp and Amber Heard’s turbulent relationship, which ended in divorce in 2017
  • The couple first met on the set of the 2011 film “The Rum Diary” and married in 2015

LONDON: Hollywood actor Johnny Depp strenuously denied being violent to his ex-wife Amber Heard, as he launched a libel claim in a London court on Tuesday against a British tabloid newspaper that called him a “wife-beater.”
The “Pirates of the Caribbean” star, 57, is suing the publishers of The Sun and the author of the article for the claims, which were made in April 2018.
Depp, wearing a dark suit, white shirt and facemask, was met by a throng of cameras as he arrived at court while Heard, a 34-year-old actress, used a separate entrance.
The high-profile case has laid bare the couple’s turbulent relationship, which ended in divorce in 2017, just two years after they married.
But Depp said in a witness statement submitted to the court: “For the avoidance of any doubt, I have never abused Ms Heard, or, indeed any other woman, in my life.”
He said it was a “strong and central part” of his moral code that he would never hit a woman, having witnessed domestic violence growing up and vowed never to do so.
“I find it simply inconceivable and it would never happen,” he added.
“She (Heard) is a calculating, diagnosed borderline personality; she is sociopathic; she is a narcissist; and she is completely emotionally dishonest,” he went on.
“I am now convinced that she came into my life to take from me anything worth taking, and then destroy what remained of it.
The couple first met on the set of the 2011 film “The Rum Diary” and married in 2015.
News Group Newspapers (NGN) is contesting the case, and is relying for its defense on 14 separate claims of domestic violence said to have occurred between early 2013 and May 2016.
It argues Depp was “controlling and verbally and physically abusive toward Ms Heard, particularly when he was under the influence of alcohol and/or drugs” — and has evidence to prove it.
But Depp said it was the other way round, accusing Heard of violence against him during their “unhappy” time together.
In one alleged incident, he said she repeatedly punched him in the face, and in another severed his finger with a flying vodka bottle and stubbed out a cigarette on his cheek.
Heard has claimed she was physically assaulted over three days in Australia in early 2015 but Depp called the allegations “sick... and completely untrue.”
He rejected claims of being overbearing and instead said Heard had an “obsessive need” to control him, encouraging him to drink and take drugs, despite his well-known addiction issues.
Depp’s lawyers, in a written outline of his case to the court, also argued that although the couple’s relationship was at times “physical,” it was at Heard’s instigation.
Lawyer David Sherborne said his client on occasions had to defend himself from Heard’s violence, calling her allegations “complete lies.”
“He is not a wife-beater and never has been,” he said.
Heard was a “complex individual,” whose behavior was “extremely unpredictable,” with violent rages and prone to extreme mood swings, he added.
She sought attention, was provocative, had affairs, and was on a “wide range” of prescribed medication and other drugs.
Depp loved her but found her behavior “often bewildering” and “very difficult” to understand or deal with, he added.
Depp was the first witness called in the case and under cross-examination admitted using drugs and alcohol from a young age to “numb the pain” of a difficult childhood.
But he rejected suggestions from NGN lawyer Sasha Wass he had a “nasty side,” that saw him turn into a “monster” who would lose control, smash up hotel rooms and assault photographers.
“It wasn’t Dr. Jekyll and Mr.Hyde,” he insisted.
The Sun story — “Gone Potty: How can JK Rowling be ‘genuinely happy’ casting wife beater Johnny Depp in the new Fantastic Beast film?” — came after he had already publicly denied domestic violence.
Depp said he had suffered “significant reputational damage” as a result, both in terms of his career and personally.
The High Court trial is due to last three weeks.