Christie’s Art of the Islamic and Indian Worlds auction highlights rare finds in London

The Elephant Mawla Bakhsh, a  'Fraser Album' artist, Delhi, North India, 1815-19). (Supplied)
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The Elephant Mawla Bakhsh, a 'Fraser Album' artist, Delhi, North India, 1815-19). (Supplied)
An impressive silk and metal-thread Koum Kapi prayer rug, signed by the master weaver Zareh Penyamin, circa 1920. (Supplied)
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An impressive silk and metal-thread Koum Kapi prayer rug, signed by the master weaver Zareh Penyamin, circa 1920. (Supplied)
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Updated 22 April 2024
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Christie’s Art of the Islamic and Indian Worlds auction highlights rare finds in London

Christie’s Art of the Islamic and Indian Worlds auction highlights rare finds in London

LONDON: Christie’s Art of the Islamic and Indian Worlds spring sale will see 261 lots —including paintings, ceramics, metal work, works on paper, textiles, rugs and carpets — go under the hammer at a live auction at their London headquarters on April 25.

Arab News was given an exclusive viewing of some of the works prior to their public pre-sale showing from April 21-24.

Sara Plumbly, Christie’s Head of Department for Islamic and Indian Art, gave her expert insights into some selected pieces.

These included lot 45, an exquisite miniature octagonal Qur’an, dated AH 985/1577-8 AD, which was made in Madinah, the Qur’an has an estimate of $13,000-19,000.

“We very rarely see manuscripts that were copied in the holy cities. So this being copied in Madinah makes it very rare,” she explained.

“It has a Naskh script. This a very steady, cursive script which is relatively easy to read — unlike some of the others. For example, Nastaliq script, which is copied on the diagonal, is much trickier to read. For Qur’ans you would almost always see a Naskh script for ease of reading. Nastaliq is usually reserved for poetic manuscripts,” she said.

This miniature Qur’an would be small enough to carry with the owner on a daily basis, usually around the neck. Alternatively, they would be hung in their silver boxes on an ‘alam (standard or flag) and carried into battle.

Plumbly, who completed her master’s degree in Islamic Art and Archaeology at the University of Oxford, has lived and travelled extensively across the Middle East and North Africa, including extended periods in Egypt, Syria, Lebanon, Saudi Arabia and Sudan.

Another stunning item in the sale is a Watercolor Album depicting a selection of known prestigious and rare Iznik ceramics from the Louis Huth collection. It comprises 44 single and double-page watercolor paintings of Iznik bowls, flasks, ewers and dishes.




Watercolor paintings of Iznik bowls, flasks, ewers and dishes will go under the hammer. (Supplied)

It was also fascinating to see a rare and complete illustrated manuscript copy of the Khamsa of Nizami by 12th century Persian poet Nizami Ganjavi, together with the Khamsa of Amir Khusraw Dihlavi, a 13th century Persian Sufi singer, musician, poet and scholar. The colors in the illuminations leap off the pages as though created yesterday.

Plumbly also pointed out the exceptional workmanship of an early 13th century Kashan pottery bowl, excavated in Iran’s Kashan in 1934.




A Khashan pottery bowl inscribed with three Persian quatrains, or poetic verses. (Supplied)

“This type of Kashan ceramics have a wonderful luster. It’s a very difficult technique to perfect. This bowl has a really beautiful dark gold color which is very well controlled. The condition is remarkable. It’s one of those ‘best of type’ objects,” Plumbly observed.


Saudi film ‘Norah’ makes history with Cannes Film Festival screening

Saudi film ‘Norah’ makes history with Cannes Film Festival screening
Updated 23 May 2024
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Saudi film ‘Norah’ makes history with Cannes Film Festival screening

Saudi film ‘Norah’ makes history with Cannes Film Festival screening

DUBAI: Saudi film “Norah” had its official screening at the 77th Cannes Film Festival on Thursday, becoming the first film from the Kingdom to screen as part of the official calendar at the event.

The movie, filmed entirely in AlUla and directed by Tawfik Al-Zaidi, is running in the “Un Certain Regard” section of the festival.

The movie is running in the “Un Certain Regard” section of the festival. (AN/ Ammar Abd Rabbo)

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

“Norah” is in competition with 19 other films from around the world.

The cast, director and CEO and chairwoman of the Red Sea International Film Festival appeared together on the red carpet for French adventure drama film “Le Comte de Monte-Cristo.” (AN/ Ammar Abd Rabbo)

On Wednesday, the cast, director and CEO and chairwoman of the Red Sea International Film Festival Mohammed Al-Turki and Jumana Al-Rashed, respectively, appeared together on the red carpet for French adventure drama film “Le Comte de Monte-Cristo.”

“Norah” 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.


‘Bridgerton’ star Nicola Coughlan ‘hyper-aware of what’s happening in Rafah’

‘Bridgerton’ star Nicola Coughlan ‘hyper-aware of what’s happening in Rafah’
Updated 23 May 2024
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‘Bridgerton’ star Nicola Coughlan ‘hyper-aware of what’s happening in Rafah’

‘Bridgerton’ star Nicola Coughlan ‘hyper-aware of what’s happening in Rafah’
  • The first four episodes of Season 3, in which Nicola Coughlan plays the revolving lead role, reached 45.1 million views during its opening weekend

DUBAI: Irish actress Nicola Coughlan, known for her role as Penelope Featherington in Netflix’s hit series “Bridgerton,” demonstrated her solidarity with Palestine this week by wearing the Artists for Ceasefire pin during an interview with USA Today as she promoted the latest season of the show, in which she plays the lead role.

When asked about the pin, the artist said: “It’s very important for me because I feel like I’m a very privileged person. I’m doing my dream job and I’m getting to travel the world, but then I’m hyper-aware of what’s happening in Rafah at the moment.”

The actress, whose family lived in Jerusalem in the late 70s, said her father was in the Irish army and was part of the United Nation’s Truce Supervision Organisation which worked towards brokering peace in the Middle East.

@splendiferous Nicola Coughlan speaks about her Ceasefire pin she has been wearing during the Bridgerton Press Tour #NicolaCoughlan original sound - splendiferous

“I feel very passionately about it. I’m Irish also, so it’s sort of a different perspective,” Coughlan added. “I just feel, if I have this global platform, which I do at the minute, I think if I can hopefully raise funds for aid organizations — I have a fundraiser on my Instagram right now for Medical Aid for Palestine and if people would like to donate to that or share it, I think it would be a wonderful thing to do.”

Coughlan has continuously shown her support by wearing the pin during various occasions, including the premieres of the third season of “Bridgerton,” promotional events and her television appearances such as “Late Night with Seth Meyers” and “Good Morning America.”

Season three of Netflix’s Regency-era drama has become the most successful season so far based on viewership numbers, Forbes reported this week.

With part two set to drop in June, “Bridgerton” Season 3: Part 1 was the most-watched title on Netflix from the period of May 13 - 18, according to Variety. The first four episodes, released on May 16, reached 45.1 million views during its opening weekend.


‘Untouched’ Red Sea shores inspire designers of luxury resort  

‘Untouched’ Red Sea shores inspire designers of luxury resort  
Updated 23 May 2024
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‘Untouched’ Red Sea shores inspire designers of luxury resort  

‘Untouched’ Red Sea shores inspire designers of luxury resort  

RIYADH: Located on the private Ummahat Island, which can only be accessed by chartered boat or seaplane, The St. Regis Red Sea Resort is quickly making a name for itself as something of a celebrity magnet.  

It’s easy to see why Saudi Arabia’s football elite vacationed here this spring — with 90 overwater and beachfront villas, a signature spa, high-tech gym, outdoor pools, water sports center, and a children’s club, the resort would impress even a seasoned luxury traveler.  

The hotel offers overwater villas. (Supplied)

But besides the butler service and handful of culinary options, what really stands out about the resort is its design. This is no cookie-cutter hotel — Japanese architect Kengo Kuma and interior design firm Kristina Zanic Consultants made sure of that.  

“One of the briefs was that we had to make sure that this whole project was offering a barefoot luxury experience that really works in harmony with the nature,” Zanic told Arab News. “This was an untapped, untouched part of Saudi Arabia and a lot of those islands are pristine.” 

The view from a bedroom in one of the resort's Coral Villas. (Supplied)

Considering the white sand beaches and azure water, it’s no surprise that the Red Sea’s famous coastline was designed to be the star of the show, but Zanic and her team decided to base their design pitch on something rather unexpected — the wind.  

“The way the wind flows … the breeze flows through the actual resort itself, you know, keeping it cool. The whole narrative we created was about wind that you experience there. A lot of our patterns and materials were inspired by the way the wind shapes the island,” she said, referencing, in part, the high-to-low pile carpets in the Dune Villas that mirror maps of the area’s wind vectors.   

Respect for nature is also visible in the structures themselves, with Nicola Maniero, Partner at Kengo Kuma & Associates, explaining that the project “does not seek a camouflage with nature, but aims to establish a relationship of continuity with it through a language that departs from merely imitating the basic reference.” 

Dune Villas reflect the shape of sweeping desert sand formations. (Supplied)

To that end, the Dune Villas reflect the shape of sweeping desert sand formations while the Maldives-style overwater Coral Villas take the form of shells.  

A nature-inspired design ethos did not come without its challenges, however.  

A living room in an overwater Coral Villa. (Supplied)

“The water villas were initially supposed to rest on the surface of the sea as if emerging from it in a continuous spiral. However, the level of the villas had to be raised to 2.6 meters due to possible storms and rising water levels caused by climate change,” Maniero said.   

He added that the villas’ circular floor plan “adds interest, but poses difficulties in terms of layout solutions.”  

A living area in one of the Dune Villas. (Supplied)

It’s a sentiment mirrored by Zanic, who explained that the Dune Villas’ striking curved formations posed unique hurdles due to differing ceiling heights from room to room.  

Challenges aside, the design team did manage to have some fun with aesthetic quirks. The wooden floors of the villas, for example, consist not of planks, but of angular slabs of tessellated wood resembling a turtle’s shell.

The wooden floors of the villas consist not of planks, but of angular slabs of tessellated wood resembling a turtle’s shell. (Supplied)

 That attention to detail is visible in everything from bespoke door handles and durable wall finishings designed to withstand the salty sea air, to the handmade textile art that is slightly different in each of the villas.  

“Each piece looks sort of the same, but they (aren’t). That feeds into the whole concept of a luxury experience. Each person gets their own little piece of art for the weekend,” Zanic said. “Everything is bespoke and it gives the resort a unique identity.”  

The spa, too, has its own defining motif — a henna-like detailing embossed on the walls — while the St. Regis Bar hosts a large mural depicting a local folk tale. 

The St. Regis Bar hosts a large mural depicting a local folk tale. (Supplied)

Tilina, the resort’s overwater restaurant, features exposed radial beams on the ceiling that mirror sea waves, while the tiles on the walls reference iridescent fish scales. 

Maniero highlighted Tilina’s unique structure.  

“It diverges from completely imitating the water villas because it doesn’t have a central courtyard, it’s more like a shell with a split circular floor plan that is slightly shifted,” he said. “However, there is still a connection to the water villas derived from the use of materials and the circular, organic floor plan.”  


Will Smith, Martin Lawrence attend ‘Bad Boys’ premiere in Dubai 

Will Smith, Martin Lawrence attend ‘Bad Boys’ premiere in Dubai 
Updated 23 May 2024
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Will Smith, Martin Lawrence attend ‘Bad Boys’ premiere in Dubai 

Will Smith, Martin Lawrence attend ‘Bad Boys’ premiere in Dubai 

DUBAI: Hollywood stars Will Smith and Martin Lawrence were in Dubai this week to attend the premiere of their new movie, “Bad Boys: Ride or Die,” the fourth installment of their hit buddy cop franchise.

The event, held on Tuesday at the Coca-Cola Arena, drew a large crowd of fans eager to meet the celebrities and take pictures with them.

Will Smith posed for pictures with fans. (Getty Images)

The screening of the high-octane action film, filled with humor and camaraderie, was also attended by Moroccan-Belgian directors Adil El Arbi and Bilall Fallah.

“Bad Boys: Ride or Die” follows Miami detectives Mike Lowrey (Smith) and Marcus Burnett (Lawrence) as they face their most dangerous mission yet. The duo battles a powerful crime syndicate threatening their city while dealing with personal challenges and their evolving partnership. 

The event drew a large crowd of fans eager to meet the celebrities and take pictures with them. (Getty Images)

The movie will be released in theaters across the Middle East on June 6.


Saudi Arabia’s Film AlUla scores trophies at Global Production Awards

Saudi Arabia’s Film AlUla scores trophies at Global Production Awards
Updated 22 May 2024
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Saudi Arabia’s Film AlUla scores trophies at Global Production Awards

Saudi Arabia’s Film AlUla scores trophies at Global Production Awards

DUBAI: The Royal Commission for AlUla’s film agency Film AlUla on Wednesday received the Emerging Location Award and Film Commission Award at the Global Production Awards held on the sidelines of the 77th Cannes Film Festival.

The award show recognizes efforts in producing and filming movies and shows. It highlights projects that set high standards in sustainability, diversity and local economic benefits from production activities.

Charlene Deleon-Jones, the executive director of Film AlUla, said in a statement: “Less than five years ago, Film AlUla was established to develop a vibrant film industry, while diversifying the local economy, providing opportunities for local filmmakers and fostering global collaboration.

“Since then, we have been dedicated to building the infrastructure, policies, and teams that will transform the lives of a generation of filmmakers and filmgoers alike,” she added. 

Film AlUla this week hosted a screening of clips from short films by the first four winners of the AlUla Creates Film Programme, which supports Saudi female directors. The winners received mentoring to turn their ideas into festival-ready films.

On May 23, the film “Norah,” shot entirely on location in AlUla with an all-Saudi cast, will become the first Saudi feature to appear as part of the official selection at Cannes in the 77-year history of the festival.