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Bonhams’ Middle Eastern and Lebanese art sales set ten new world records

Bonhams has hosted a groundbreaking sale dedicated to Lebanese art in London, the first of its kind ever held by an international auction house.
The special auction was conducted alongside another featuring Middle Eastern Modern and Contemporary Art, and together the two sales achieved ten new world record prices for artists.

Leading the Lebanese sale was Portrait of Mrs Alexander Morten by Kahlil Gibran, the Lebanese-American artist, poet, and writer described as "a towering figure in 20th century art and literature".

The work had remained unseen for 100 years, having been painted and originally exhibited in New York in 1914, and was the first painting by Gibran ever offered at public auction.

The exceptionally rare work eventually sold for £182,500 ($266,930) against a top estimate of £30,000, and will now return to Lebanon after a century in the west.

It was one of seven artworks which set new auction records for Lebanese artists. Other standout lots included Opera Garnier by Farid Aouad, which sold for £74,500, and The Beirut City Centre Egg by Ayman Baalbaki which sold for £86,500.

The Middle Eastern Modern and Contemporary Art sale was topped by Nubian House by Hussein Bicar, the pioneering Egyptian artist, illustrator, painter and poet. Estimated at £70,000- £100,000, it soared to a final price of £319,300, making it the most valuable Modern Arab painting ever sold in London.

"It’s been a ground-breaking sale," said Nima Sagarchi, head of Modern and Contemporary Middle Eastern art at Bonhams. "Despite the fact that many of the artists are well-established, both in Lebanon and elsewhere, this is the first time that many of them have come to the market.

"A number of pieces have been purchased by Lebanese buyers and in many ways it’s a great homecoming for the country’s modern and contemporary masterpieces. But it also marks a turning point in the importance of Middle Eastern art on an international stage."

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