The Saatchi Gallery gets set for its new art fair, and Islamic Art Week celebrates the Qajar dynasty

Victor Vasarely painted relief 

Anew pop-up fair is to take place in the Saatchi Gallery at the end of June, coinciding with the established London season of auctions and art fairs.

Focusing on modern and contemporary British and international art, it will open on June 26, the same day as Sotheby’s major contemporary art sale and the opening of the leading art and antiques fair, Masterpiece, also in Chelsea.

The new fair is the brainchild of dealer Robert Sandelson, and his brother, property investor Johnny, working together with fair organiser Gay Hutson, from whom they acquired the 20/21 British Art Fair, relaunching it as the British Art Fair at the Saatchi Gallery last year.

Sandelson has christened the event “Fair for Saatchi” and has given first option to exhibit to dealers from the British Art Fair. Among them will be the Mayor gallery with a collection of international OP and kinetic art.

The fair also brings the number of art fairs being staged at the Saatchi Gallery this year to four – a welcome source of revenue to the gallery, which posted a loss in 2017 and has been increasingly courting commercial events ever since.

Islamic Art Week hones in on Qajar art

This week is Islamic Art Week throughout London and further afield. To the traditional mix of historic and, increasingly, modern art and artefacts from the region, is added a special focus this year on Qajar art from Persia at Bonhams.

The art produced by the Qajar tribe during its regime (1797–1925) has often been dismissed as inferior to its Safavid predecessor, or as “Persian Victoriana” because of its western influences. But recent exhibitions at museums in Harvard, the Freer Sackler and the Louvre-Lens have done much to revive interest.

Fath Ali Shah Qajar
Fath ‘Ali Shah Qajar, seated against a jewelled bolster from the Court Workshop Qajar Persia

The Bonhams sale revolves around a fine portrait of Fath-Ali Shah Qajar, who ruled from 1797–1834, which is estimated at £500,000. The Qajars were the first in Persia to paint in oil on canvas in the western manner, and portraits of Fath-Ali Shah carry a premium.

They follow a house style and portray him as a potent and wealthy force, bedecked, as here, with jewels and a long, virile beard as befitting a man who sired 260 children.

When Iranian oil magnate Hashem Khosrovani sold his collection in 2004, a comparable portrait made just over £900,000, a record for a Qajar painting. Since then, the record for a portrait of the king has risen to £3 million.


Categories: Arab World, Europe, Iran, Islam, UK

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