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'American Embassy' by Ayman Baalbaki leads Bonhams Middle Eastern Art Sale
American Embassy by Ayman Baalbaki. Estimate: £70,000-100,000. Photo: Bonhams.

LONDON.- American Embassy by Lebanese painter Ayman Baalbaki leads Bonhams Modern and Contemporary Middle Eastern Art sale on Wednesday 1 May in London. Baalbaki’s haunting work shows the destruction of the American Embassy in Beirut after it was bombed during the Lebanese civil war in 1983. Amongst the wreckage hangs the American flag, the only thing unharmed by the explosion. It has an estimate of £70,000-100,000.

The attack came in the wake of an intervention from the US and the West in an attempt to restore a central government to the country. The explosion, which killed 63 people, was the deadliest attack on a U.S. diplomatic mission up to that point. The scale of American Embassy, which stands at 205.5 x 115cm, captures both the enormous size of the building and the damage it suffered, portraying a city whose landscape was punctured and mutilated by war.

Born in 1975, the same year as the outbreak of the Lebanese Civil War, Baalbaki is no stranger to conflict. His family were forced to flee Rass-el Dikweneh when he was only a few months old and his home in Haret Hreik was demolished during the 2006 Israeli attacks. In his art, Baalbaki repeatedly focuses on the aftermath of war and the remnants of its destructive influence, using his practice as a moving aide-memoire to the conflict that constantly plagued Beirut.

Nima Sagharchi, Director of Bonhams Director of Middle Eastern, Islamic and South Asian Art, said, “We are honoured to offer this moving and emotive painting by Baalbaki in our sale. The work reflects and documents the atrocities of war while paying tribute to the resilience of its victims. It is part of Baalbaki’s oeuvre to use the destruction of buildings as a metaphor for strife and yet to provide a glimmer of hope.”

Other highlights in the sale include:

• Composition No.104 by Lebanese artist, Shafic Abboud (Lebanon 1926-2004), is a monumental abstract composition. The work, which featured in two of the artist’s major solo exhibitions, established Abboud as one of the most acclaimed Lebanese artists of the modern era. Estimate £100,000-150,000.

• Sohrab Sepehri (Iran, 1928-1980), Untitled (from the Tree Trunk Series) is an exceptional example of Sepehri’s celebrated Tree paintings. It is one of the largest, most refined and accomplished works in the series ever to appear at auction. It has an impressive estimate of £100,000-200,000.

• Parviz Tanavoli, Twisted Heech (Heech looking Skywards), has an estimate of £80,000-100,000. Tanavoli gave new depth to two-dimensional calligraphy on paper by transforming it into three dimensional 'Heech' sculptures. It is a fine example of Tanavoli's use of bronze.

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