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Magnetism (Triptych)

Magnetism (Triptych)
photographic print in artist's frame, in three parts
each: 53 7/8 x 40 5/8in. (136.7 x 103.1cm.)
overall: 53 7/8 x 125 3/4in. (136.7 x 319.3cm.)
Executed in 2021, this work is number four from an edition of five plus one artist's proof
Athr Gallery, Jeddah.
Acquired from the above by the present owner.
Riyadh, Lakum Artspace, Ahmed Mater: Prognosis 1979-2019, 2021-2022 (another from the edition exhibited).
Special notice
This lot has been imported from outside of the UK for sale and placed under the Temporary Admission regime. Import VAT is payable at 5% on the hammer price. VAT at 20% will be added to the buyer’s premium but will not be shown separately on our invoice.
Further details
The work is accompanied by a certificate of authenticity.

Brought to you by

Claudia Schürch
Claudia Schürch Senior Specialist, Interim Head of Department

Lot Essay

Executed in 2021, the present work is a photographic triptych relating to Ahmed Mater's most iconic creation: Magnetism (2009). This extraordinary installation, shown at the 2009 Venice Biennale, consists of a black square magnet surrounded by iron filings. The tiny black shards are in thrall to the magnet's pull, their patterns entirely dependent upon its position. Mater, drawing inspiration from the sacred Hajj pilgrimage, imbues the artwork with profound symbolism. At its core stands the Kaaba, the ‘House of Allah,’ a cuboid stone draped in black, enthroned at the centre of the city’s Great Mosque. Millions pray in its direction five times a day. During the sacred ritual of tawaf, pilgrims circle around it seven times in an anti-clockwise motion. Mater uses a magnet to form the invisible draw of Islam’s holiest site, highlighting the spiritual forces that uphold the human faith. The present work takes place within a series of photographic images sequencing the installation, examples of which are held in the British Museum, London and the Los Angeles County Museum of Art.

Born in 1979, Mater is recognised as one of Saudi Arabia’s most esteemed contemporary artists. Growing up in the mountainous region of Abha, near the Yemen border, he witnessed his homeland undergo a profound political, cultural and economic transformation from afar. Despite being trained as a doctor, Mater embarked on his artistic journey in the 1990s, delving into themes of power, progress, religion, and globalisation. His practice spans film, sculpture, photography, and performance, evoking pertinent questions about the interplay of faith, science and community in a rapidly changing world. Alongside Magnetism, Mater gained widespread recognition for his 2010 work Evolution of Man: a commentary on the environmental risks of oil. Following his solo debut in London that year, Mater has continued to mount solo exhibitions at esteemed institutions globally, including the Sharjah Art Foundation (2014), the Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D.C. (2016), the King Abdullah Economic City, Saudi Arabia, and the Brooklyn Museum, New York (2018).

Islam has been a prominent source of inspiration throughout Mater’s artistic oeuvre. His cycle 100 Found Objects gathered a collection of artefacts accumulated over the years, each connected to memories and stories of Mecca. Meanwhile, his series Desert of Pharan consisted of hundreds of films and photographs that documented the evolving visage of the city—offering glimpses into everyday life, captivating portrayals of expansion and development and mesmerising visuals of the sacred Kaaba. ‘To see and hear the multitude of nearly three million souls—praying around the Kaaba, reciting their invocations to Allah, their voices as one as they speak the supreme supplication,’ he writes, ‘… is an overwhelming reminder of the unifying principles of The Hajj, the dense crowd sweeping in an almost impossible, undulating wave’ (A. Mater, 2017, artist’s website). Tim Mackintosh-Smith, indeed, likens Magnetism's circular sweep of particles to the orbits of planets and galaxies (T. Mackintosh-Smith, ‘Magnetism,’ in E. Booth-Clibborn (ed.), Ahmed Mater, London 2010, p. 86). Here, the dualities of physics and metaphysics are brought together in an image of timeless power.

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