Saudi artists join roster for prestigious Sotheby’s auction 

Saudi artists join roster for prestigious Sotheby’s auction 
Taha Al-Sabban’s ‘Untitled (Boats).’ (Supplied) 
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Updated 11 April 2024

Saudi artists join roster for prestigious Sotheby’s auction 

Saudi artists join roster for prestigious Sotheby’s auction 
  • Highlights from Sotheby’s Modern & Contemporary Middle East sale, which runs April 11-25 

DUBAI: Here are the highlights from Sotheby’s Modern & Contemporary Middle East sale, which runs Apr. 11-25.


Abdulhalim Radwi 


Radwi’s ability “to merge popular culture and sentiments with newly acquired artistic techniques serves as a precursor to contemporary Saudi art today,” Sotheby’s states in its auction notes. Radwi’s mother — an artist herself — is credited with nurturing his ability as a child, but it was in Rome in the 1960s that his skills truly flourished as he began to explore abstraction. He is recognized as one of the first Saudis to pursue further education abroad, and in the seven years he lived in Italy, he exhibited nine times. When he returned to his homeland in 1968, he began to teach art. “Though absorbed by Western artistic discourses, Radwi did not stray from local heritage and traditions, and instead invoked his own narrative of the Arab world through cubism and expressionism, setting himself apart from his contemporaries,” the auction notes state. 

This piece, according to Sotheby’s is “exemplary” of Radwi’s later work, “which became more engaged with the artist’s cultural identity.” It depicts the old neighborhoods of Saudi towns “through a futurist scene blending traditional Ottoman architecture with contemporary influences.”  

The notes continue: “The very essence of his works lies not in their physicality but in the emotions they trigger.”  


Taha Al-Sabban  

‘Untitled (Boats)’ 

Al-Sabban was born in Makkah in 1948, just eight years after Abdulhalim Radwi. The latter became something of a mentor to Al-Sabban, having, according to Sotheby’s “a profound effect” on his development as an artist, selecting him for one of the first exhibitions at the Jeddah Centre of Fine Arts. Encouraged by Radwi, Al-Sabban, too, studied abroad, first in Beirut and then in Rome. 

“Al-Sabban recognized the cultural necessity of art in Europe, which lent itself to his enduring fascination with his own culture and traditions. The holy city of Mecca, his birthplace, and the ancient city of Jeddah, to which he relocated, are central influences to the artist’s oeuvre; he derived inspiration from the rich history and variety of the people that he encountered in the city, its rituals, landscape, and social life,” the auction notes state. This expressionistic work was produced while he lived in Jeddah, where he had developed a deep love for the sea. “Here, he captures in abstract the nature of the ocean through a cool, deep palette and vertical energy, as if the forms rise, swaying, from the sea floor.” 


Inji Efflatoun 

‘Untitled (Baking)’ 

Efflatoun was an important figure in Egyptian culture not just for her artworks, but for her social activism. As a young adult, she shunned her privileged aristocratic background, joining several left-wing organizations, and promoting anti-imperialist and anti-nationalist causes. “Her political convictions are mirrored in her compositions, depicting the predicaments of Egyptians under social inequalities,” Sotheby’s states. 

In 1959, Efflatoun was imprisoned as part of a crackdown on communism in Egypt. Upon her release four years later, she continued to paint, but produced less overtly political work. However, as Sotheby’s notes, and as this 1971 work shows, “she persisted in representing the working class and its living conditions, the one cause which always animated her.” 


Mohamed Hamidi  


This veteran painter is considered one of Morocco’s finest artists. He studied in France before returning to teach in his homeland, where he took part in the seminal “Manifesto” exhibition in Marrakech in 1969, as one of the co-founders of the Moroccan Association of Plastic Arts. 

Morocco’s Loft Art Gallery says of the artist, “The whole of Hamidi's work focuses on the body, whose representation he pushes to the limits of abstraction with the use of increasingly refined forms. He demonstrates a keen interest in African art and its symbols. Bright colors also characterize his work.” 


Faik Hassan 

‘Untitled (The Three Wise Men)’ 

Recognized as a central figure in Iraqi contemporary art, Hassan’s work, Sotheby’s states, is “marked by technical skill and variation through a vast exploration of stylistic genres, Hassan has been labelled a primitivist, an impressionist, and a cubist,” according to the auction notes. “His exploration of styles prompted a break with academic restrictions. He is most commonly known for his realistic depictions of everyday life in Iraq. His works are dominated by Iraqi villagers, laborers, horsemen, and landscapes, all conveyed with an emotional fragility, regardless of style.” 


Tarek Al-Ghoussein 

‘K Files – 655’ 

This work is from the late Kuwaiti artist’s “K Files” series, which, according to The Third Line gallery in Dubai, “documents found material from family albums, antique shops, the Internet and other sources in an ongoing process. The performative photographs feature interactions between the artist and sites of grandness and importance in an attempt to track significant places in Kuwait’s development.” 


Chant Avedissian 

‘Tahiya Carioca (no 45)’  

Much of Avedissian’s work focuses on figures from Cairo’s “Golden Age,” although the vibrant images are inspired by the often-dark nationalism of those times. In this work, Sotheby’s states, “the artist’s nostalgia manifests itself through an image of Tahiya Carioca, the Egyptian belly dancer and film actress who is a household name across the Middle East. Carioca’s life intertwined with the forces of liberation and was filled with art and rebellion. Avedissian deploys sophisticated stencils to readapt a popular picture of Carioca. In doing so, he linked himself directly to media imagery from the mid-20th century.” 

Sofia Carson shows off Elie Saab gown on the red carpet

Sofia Carson shows off Elie Saab gown on the red carpet
Updated 26 May 2024

Sofia Carson shows off Elie Saab gown on the red carpet

Sofia Carson shows off Elie Saab gown on the red carpet

DUBAI: US actress Sofia Carson showed off a gown by Lebanese designer Elie Saab at the closing ceremony of the 77th annual Cannes Film Festival.

The star, who has showed off Lebanese labels on multiple red carpets in the past, opted for an olive-toned ensemble from the designer’s Spring/ Summer 2024 couture collection.


A post shared by ELIE SAAB (@eliesaabworld)

Styled by Erin Walsh, Carson posed for photos on the red carpet in the look that featured a draped skirt and embellishments on the neckline.

The latest red carpet appearance proves Carson is something of a fan of Lebanon’s couturiers — In 2022 the “Purple Hearts” actress was spotted in New York wearing an ensemble by Zuhair Murad. Carson attended the Global Citizen Festival in a coordinating look from Murad’s Resort 2023 collection. The outfit featured an embellished crop top and mini skirt set with matching thigh-high leather boots.

In late 2023, the actress cut an elegant figure in a Zuhair Murad gown at the second annual Cam for a Cause event in memory of her former co-star Cameron Boyce, who died at the age of 20 due to an epileptic seizure.

Fast forward to 2024 and the now-concluded Cannes Film Festival has played host to a number of Arab-created looks.

Saudi designer Eman Al-Ajlan dressed Leomie Anderson. (Getty Images)

Saudi designer Eman Al-Ajlan dressed British model and TV presenter Leomie Anderson in a structured look featuring a mini dress with a net-like skirt fitted underneath at the 2024 amfAR Gala in Cannes.

A few celebrities opted for gowns by Murad at the same event, including German model Toni Garrn, sports commentator Alex Scott and Brazilian model Thayna Soares.

Meanwhile, German model Kim Dammer dazzled on the red carpet in a glamorous halter-neck black gown, intricately embroidered with geometric shapes by Lebanese couturier Rami Kadi. Lebanese designer Nicolas Jebran was championed by Turkish actress Hande Ercel, who wore a black gown adorned with red and blue beads.

Egyptian actress Yasmine Sabri was also in attendance, wearing a sparkling silver dress by Lebanese designer Jean Pierre Khoury. The dress featured thousands of mirrored tube beads hand-sewn onto a corseted silhouette, according to the fashion house.

Saudi animation on pandemic-era worship in Makkah draws praise in Cannes

Saudi animation on pandemic-era worship in Makkah draws praise in Cannes
Soraya Al-Shehri, Nabila Abu Al-Jadayel, Kariman Abuljadayel, and Salwa Abuljadayel. (Supplied)
Updated 26 May 2024

Saudi animation on pandemic-era worship in Makkah draws praise in Cannes

Saudi animation on pandemic-era worship in Makkah draws praise in Cannes

JEDDAH: Saudi film “Wa Isjod Wa Iqtareb” (“Prostrate and Draw Near”) won the “Animation That Matters” award during the Animaze Animation Day event at Marché du Film, the industry networking section of the Cannes Film Festival.

Directed, produced, and written mother-daughter duo Suraya Al-Shehry and Nabila Abuljadayel, the film was created via production company Suraya Productions and explores the period of time during the COVID-19 pandemic when cleaning staff replaced the usual mix of international worshippers at the Grand Mosque in Makkah.

The film integrates traditional art and 2-D animation, but it is its subject matter that makes it unique, according to Al-Shehry.

“In the history of cinema, there has been a noticeable lack of films focusing on Makkah and the Holy Mosque, particularly in the realm of animation. Collaborating with my daughter … on our short animated film has brought me immense joy and a profound sense of fulfilment,” she said.

She added that the film portrays a significant moment in global and Islamic history by showcasing the Grand Mosque devoid of pilgrims, with the exception of the cleaning and maintenance staff who had the unique opportunity to pray there during the pandemic when no one else could.

Abuljadayel reflected on the nearly two-year project, saying: “For me, the best reward was the chance to collaborate with my mother, an experience that transcends any accolade.”

She emphasized that receiving the award aligned with the film’s core message of celebrating shared humanity.

“I firmly believe that what comes from the heart resonates with others, whether expressed through animation or my artwork, and the greatest testimony of that is the success of this film,” she said.

The creative duo seem to be keen to continue their success, with another project scheduled for completion next year.


British-Pakistani opera singer receives royal honor for recording national anthem post-coronation

British-Pakistani opera singer receives royal honor for recording national anthem post-coronation
Updated 25 May 2024

British-Pakistani opera singer receives royal honor for recording national anthem post-coronation

British-Pakistani opera singer receives royal honor for recording national anthem post-coronation
  • Saira Peter says she is privileged to contribute her voice to British government’s public events, citizenship ceremonies
  • She also recorded ‘God Save the Queen’ in 2018 and received acknowledgement and gratitude of Queen Elizabeth II

ISLAMABAD: A British-Pakistani Sufi Opera singer, Saira Peter, announced in a video message circulated on Saturday she received a letter of appreciation from Buckingham Palace for recording the British national anthem, “God Save the King,” following the coronation of King Charles III.
The British king’s coronation took place last May at Westminster Abbey in London. The event brought leaders and high-profile personalities from around the world and marked his official accession to the throne after the passing of Queen Elizabeth II in September 2022.
Upon receiving the recording, performed in the soprano vocal range, the highest of the female voice types in classical singing, the king sent Peter a letter conveying his good wishes and sincere thanks for her public services.
She also received a signed photo card from him and Queen Camilla.
“I want to share with all my followers how excited I am to receive a letter and card of appreciation and gratitude from His Majesty King Charles the Third,” Peter said in the video, where she mentioned she was Pakistan’s first opera singer. “This arrived in response to my civic service of recording the British national anthem, ‘God Save the King.’”
“Being British-Pakistani, I feel so privileged to contribute my skill and voice to the British government’s public events and citizenship ceremonies,” she added.
Peter informed the British national anthem was recorded at the request of UK Government offices at Hastings Town Hall in East Sussex. The recording is now used across her adopted country for official government events.
Previously, she recorded “God Save the Queen” in 2018, making her the first Asian and the only Pakistani officially invited to undertake the task. Peter also received acknowledgment and gratitude from the late queen.
Born in Karachi, the opera singer told Arab News during her visit to Pakistan last year she used to sing in church choirs and began her Western classical journey, learning from Paul Knight, a disciple of Benjamin Britten, in London in the early 2000s after her family moved there.
Peter’s father, Zafar Francis, pioneered the Noor Jehan Arts Center in London, which was opened by British superstar Sir Cliff Richard in 1998.
She is the director of the performing arts center and teaches both Western and Pakistani classical music there.
She said her work in Britain was projecting “a positive image of Pakistan.”

UK literary festival cancels sponsor after pro-Palestine boycott

UK literary festival cancels sponsor after pro-Palestine boycott
Updated 25 May 2024

UK literary festival cancels sponsor after pro-Palestine boycott

UK literary festival cancels sponsor after pro-Palestine boycott
  • Speakers, performers pull out from scheduled appearances in protest over Baillie Gifford sponsorship
  • Boycott organizer: Hay must shun future sponsorship by companies with links to ‘Israeli occupation, apartheid or genocide’

LONDON: The UK’s Hay literary festival has dropped its main sponsor over a boycott criticizing its links to Israel and fossil fuel companies.

Speakers and performers at the festival pulled out from scheduled appearances in protest over investment firm Baillie Gifford’s sponsorship of the event, The Guardian reported.

On Friday, the festival said it was canceling its sponsorship deal with the firm.

Singer Charlotte Church and comedian Nish Kumar had earlier pulled out of appearing at the event.

In a statement on her social media channels, Church said she had taken part in the boycott “in solidarity with the people in Palestine and in protest of the artwashing and greenwashing that is apparent in this sponsorship.”

Fossil Free Books, the group that has led the campaign against Baillie Gifford’s sponsorship of the event, has demanded that the firm divest from companies “that profit from Israeli apartheid, occupation and genocide.”

More than 700 writers and publishing professionals have signed a statement by FFB concerning the Hay festival campaign.

Kumar shared the statement online in announcing the cancelation of his appearance.

An FFB organizer said: “Hay festival is right to listen to the concerns of hundreds of book workers who are working to create fossil-free and genocide-free festivals.

“Hay must now develop a fundraising policy that rules out any future sponsorship by companies that invest or profit from the fossil fuel industry, Israeli occupation, apartheid or genocide, and any other human rights abuses.”

Hay CEO Julie Finch said the festival’s decision to cancel the sponsorship deal with the firm was taken “in light of claims raised by campaigners and intense pressure on artists to withdraw.”

She added: “Our first priority is to our audience and our artists. Above all else, we must preserve the freedom of our stages and spaces for open debate and discussion, where audiences can hear a range of perspectives.”

Baillie Gifford began its relationship with the festival in 2016 as a principal sponsor. A spokesperson said: “It is regrettable our sponsorship with the festival cannot continue.”

Saudi’s ‘Norah’ receives the Special Mention accolade at Cannes

Saudi’s ‘Norah’ receives the Special Mention accolade at Cannes
Updated 25 May 2024

Saudi’s ‘Norah’ receives the Special Mention accolade at Cannes

Saudi’s ‘Norah’ receives the Special Mention accolade at Cannes

DUBAI: Saudi film “Norah,” starring actress Maria Bahrawi, this week received the Special Mention accolade, which recognizes films for outstanding achievements, at the 77th Cannes Film Festival’s Un Certain Regard awards.

The cast and crew, accompanied by director Tawfik Al-Zaidi, stepped onto the stage to accept the accolade in front of a full house.

The film, shot entirely in AlUla, is set in 1990s Saudi Arabia when conservatism ruled and the professional pursuit of all art, including painting, was frowned upon. Besides Bahrawi, the movie also stars Yaqoub Al-Farhan and Abdullah Al-Satian. It follows the story of Norah and failed artist Nader as they encourage each other to realize their artistic potential in rural Saudi Arabia.

“Norah” had its official screening at the festival on Thursday, becoming the first film from the Kingdom to screen as part of the official calendar at the event.

The movie was backed by the Red Sea Fund — one of the Red Sea Film Foundation’s programs — and was filmed entirely in AlUla in northwest Saudi Arabia with an all-Saudi cast and a 40 percent Saudi crew.

Un Certain Regard’s mission is to highlight new trends in cinema and encourage innovative cinematic works.

Chaired by Canadian actor, director, screenwriter and producer Xavier Dolan, the jury included French Senegalese screenwriter and director Maimouna Doucoure, Moroccan director, screenwriter and producer Asmae El Moudir, German-Luxembourg actress Vicky Krieps, and American film critic, director and writer Todd McCarthy.

Chinese director Guan Hu’s “Black Dog” won the top prize in the Un Certain Regard section.

Marking Guan’s debut at Cannes, the film follows a former convict who forms an unexpected bond with the titular animal while clearing stray dogs in his remote hometown on the edge of the Gobi Desert.

The jury prize was awarded to “The Story of Souleymane,” directed by Boris Lojkine, marking his return to the festival after a decade since his 2014 feature “Hope.”

The film portrays the journey of a Guinean food delivery man who must create a compelling narrative for his asylum application interview in Lyon within a two-day timeframe.