October was an exciting time for CAF as we ventured across borders to take part in this years much acclaimed Christie's Fine Art auction in Dubai. Support for CAF was unprecedented as we had a generous number of donated pieces from various up and coming artists; all works were sold raising a relatively substantial amount for our annual scholarship budget. 

A considerate mention of CAF was made in the Post Sale Press Release:

'This evening we are delighted to have added another $370,000, which will support two further charities: Caspian Art Foundation, which aims to help young students from the region to complete their postgraduate studies at the University of the Arts London'

Read the official press release on our blog, below. 

Christie's held the event at Dubai's International Financial Center and the auction spanned two days; Part I was held on the 23rd October and the second part followed on the proceeding day. CAFs donated lots were all sold on the latter day which which proved to be the more successful day of the two; Part II realised an impressive $2,260,250 and the top lot sold for $170,500.

The top lot was the aesthetically pleasing, 1962 Louay Kayyali painting named the 'The Strange Lady Arlette Arhoury'. To hear Hala Khayat - a specialist in modern and contemporary Arab, Iranian and Turkish Art - discuss the painting, click on the following link:

The auction was indeed a platform for new and upcoming Middle Eastern Artists; Part II saw 16 artists who had never been represented at auction before, sell within or above their highest estimates. 

New Strokes: The Rise of Middle Eastern and North African Art


‘Art is one of the few reliable loudspeakers that can help one understand what exactly has taken place in a region where memory is constantly interrupted and distorted by chronic violence’ (Arie Amaya Akermans:2012:Re-Orient) (1)

It is a given to say that the political tensions that have surrounded the Middle East and North Africa, and the subsequent media exposure of such events to western societies have steered the world’s attention to parts of the region.

The media spotlight has encouraged the recognition of art within the region as well as provided a platform for those artists to express themselves and be heard without the constraints of censorship. Evocative articles such as: ‘Think Middle East Politics Are Hot? Try Middle Eastern Art’[2] and ‘Art in the Middle East: Foment of the Moment’ [3] to name but a few, have been an important factor in putting Middle Eastern Art ‘on the map’. This publicity has also provided support and a sense of solidarity amongst the entire art community; as artists come together, collaborate and express themselves on both a national and international stage. 

Their voices aren't just limited to making a statement or documenting events. There is a keen agenda amongst some artists to attempt to evoke thought amongst civil society. Reminding them that the ‘fight’ isn't over, and that as a society they have a civil responsibility to ensure that they are part of building a Middle East that is authentic to them. 

Abdulnasser Gharems: Capitol Dome
One such artist is the leading Saudi artist Abdulnasser Gharem, known to many as a pioneer in conceptual art. His contribution to the political discussion is his miniature version of the US Capitol Dome which was recently part of the ‘#COMETOGETHER’ exhibition in London’s Brick Lane. The Dome’s exterior is an exact copy of the original Dome; however the interior has been designed to resemble a Mosque. The piece is representative of the current situation the countries involved with the Arab Spring now face, as their battle deepens and their search for a political structure continues. Gharem notes a lot of attention is being paid to the US model of democracy; as the history of ‘no democracy’[4] within these countries creates a situation of unease and confusion with regard to the direction that should be followed.  However he is keen to assert and remind civil society that the Middle East isn’t the US and they have their own destiny to follow. He urges the Middle Eastern community to ‘talk’, and explains his work as a platform for conversation, thought and new perspective. 

Theatrical directors/writers as well as visual artists within the MENA[5] region have also experienced a revival, and their social and political relevance has been re-discovered. Ibraaz’s Cleo Jay notes that:

‘Egyptian artist Hanaa Abdel Fattah called for a revolution in Egyptian theatre in a March 2011 interview for Ahram Online, noting that 'Prior to the 25 January Revolution, Egyptian theatre productions were totally isolated and distanced from the social and political situation in the country. Theatre did not hear the social voices calling for democracy.’[6]

The play L’isoloir (The Voting Booth) directed by Taoufik Jebali, is a play about taking the next steps to democracy after the fall of Ben Ali in Tunisia. It represents the new challenges faced by Tunisians as they elect a new government. Writers such as Kamel Bouaouina (2012) and Jay Cleo (2012) note that the play invites thought and questions within the audience, and sends out a similar message as that of Gharem’s  Capitol Dome.

The revolution in politics has offset a revolution in art, and there is a clear message of solidarity and empowerment.  The ‘movement’ has not only set to bring together the art genres and the art community, but the entire Middle Eastern community on a wider level.

In essence these artists are working as mediators within society; working to empower civil society and encourage them to be proactive within the current situation and essentially be that society that not only pioneered a revolution, but made it work.

Written By Kiran Sahib: CAF Writer/Editor

(1)Arie Amaya-Akkermans on October 31, 2012, 
Forbes Online Magazine, Contributor: Abigail. R. Esman,18/4/2012
The Economist Online Magazine, 24/05/2012
 Abdul Nasser Gharem, October 2012
 Middle East and North Africa
STAGING THE TRANSITION IN NORTH AFRICA: Theatre As a Tool of Empowerment, Ibraaz Online Magazine, Cleo Jay, 2/11/2012

The London MENA Film Festival 2012 - Opening Night


The London MENA Film Festival kicked off on the 26th October at the Tricycle theater,  with the screening of ‘How Big is Your Love’, directed by the very talented Fatma Zohra Zamoum. It is a touching tale about a young boy, Adel who is sent to stay with his grandparents Rachid and Kadidja- played by Nordine Alane and Nadjia Debahi- Laraaf- as his parents contemplate their marriage. Adel’s life becomes very much a part of his grandparents and together they explore the simple pleasure in life that is unconditional love.

Adel is played by the exceptionally gifted young actor, Racim Zennadi, whom Zamoum couldn’t give enough praise to at the Q&A that followed the screening. His raw innocence gave the film a certain depth and allowed for the audience to connect with the plight of his situation.  

The film is set in contemporary Lounès, Algeria and is adamant on representing an image of North Africa that is far from the popular images that are currently coming out from the region. Bold colours, rustic foods, familiar images of cigars and coffee, and images of a lit up Lounes from a balcony view, together create a sense of normality and home. Fatma commented that she was tired of the war and terrorism represented in Algerian cinema and wanted to create something more wholesome. She was determined to cater for an important part of society that has usually been ignored in Algerian cinema.‘I made this film because children and the aged are absent in North African Cinema’ she commented with an interview with

Preceding the film were three short films ‘Granny Flag’, ‘The Secret Room’ and ‘Here’, which all had clear revolutionary themes, displaying the angst felt about the Arab Spring amongst so many. They each provide an individual angle and provide much impact in their 4 minutes.

All in all the London MENA Film Festival picked a great line-up to start of their week -long festival, which most definitely warmed the chill of the autumn evening.

By Kiran Sahib : Writer/Editor for CAF