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Celebrating an extraordinary vision of a forty year journey filled with passion and enthusiasm, it comes as no surprise that the internationally renowned Iraqi architect, Maath Alousi, has built one of the most impressive and comprehensive private collections of Iraqi Modern Art. The nature of his persona coupled with his direct relationships with the most celebrated artists of his generation entrenches his collection with a deep sense of individuality that is very personal and rather touching in its grouping.
Christie's is honoured to be offering a selection of these paintings as a result of Alousi's absolute commitment and enthusiasm to celebrate and share the importance of the Modern Iraqi Art movement with others. As such, this grouping of works, which have been kept in his personal collection for decades and almost never exhibited, offer art collectors and art appreciators alike the privilege of seeing and learning from the Iraqi Modern masters such as Shaker Hassan Al Said, Ismail Fattah, Dia Al-Azzawi, Kadhim Haidar and many others.
PROFILE OF AN IRAQI COLLECTOR: A TRUE SON OF BAGHDAD
Alousi was born in the late 1930s in Al Adhamiya area of Baghdad. As he grew up looking at old Baghdad and its ancient archaeological history, he was deeply inspired by the lines and curves of the architectural heritage he encountered. Learning to paint from his father, he pursued a career in architecture by moving to Ankara in Turkey where he obtained his degree from the Middle East Technical University, which was soon followed by a degree from The Architectural Association in London.
He then spent a good time traveling across Europe, where he discovered the beauty of the architecture in Greece and Italy. Having worked and trained in Germany, amongst other places, he returned to Iraq and worked for a few years at the Iraq Consult Office, a building that was one of the most important contemporary Iraqi design cells, particularly in the late 1950s to early 1970s. In 1974 he established his own architectural office, Alousi Associates, that is still very much functional today with offices in Baghdad, Singapore, Cyprus and San Francisco. Although he is renowned for the simplicity of his lines and the cutting-edge international nature of his architecture, he injects an eastern feel to his works through an underlying spirit of the Mesopotamian civilisation which is clearly entrenched in his work, particularly the use of arches which reference Babylonian architecture. Amongst many of his architectural accolades are: The Project of the Central Bank in Salalah, Oman, The Arab Bank, The Embassy of the United Arab Emirates, a design for The Embassy of Qatar, The Cultural Centre of Salalah, Al Qubs Newspaper Printing House, Centre of Banking Studies in Kuwait, and The Kuwaiti Embassy in Bahrain. Alousi published a literary reference in 1984 entitled Visual Diary of an Arab Architect and Nestos, a tale of a street in Baghdad in 2011.
WHEN ARCHITECTURE MEETS ART
During the years of the early 1960s and 1970s, Maath Alousi worked with acclaimed fellow architect Rifaat Al Jadirji who is credited with building the renowned Memorial to the Unknown Soldier in 1959. Through this collaboration, Alousi was slowly surrounded by a group of intellectual artists and writers such as Abdul Rahman Munif and Nazem Ramzi. As a fine artist himself, Alousi eventually met Jabra Ibrahim Jabra, the infamous art critic who taught Alousi to document his work by writing about it. Jabra also commissioned Alousi to write in his magazine about art and architecture. Due to the nature of his work as an acclaimed architect and a fine art artist, the inspiration he absorbed from the artists around him created a powerful conduit between the worlds of cutting-edge architecture, steel, furniture, decorative arts, sculptures and paintings. This then created a unique balance and inspirational sensibility that is abundantly present in his collection.
It was his first acquisition of a work by Lorna Selim before she left Baghdad in the 1960s which encouraged Alousi to embark on a wondrous journey that allowed him to develop his love and passion for collecting through the years. In time, he also developed relationships with artists both inside and outside of Iraq. Counting the likes of Shaker Hassan Al Said, Ismail Fattah and Dia Al-Azzawi, Rafa Nasiri (for whom he recently wrote a posthumous tribute) and Ali Talib as old acquaintances, as Alousi acquired pieces by them, one after another, each work offered deeply personal stories that bound him to the artists of his generation for life. For example, Ismail Fattah's untitled portrait of a couple was in fact a house warming gift that the artist carried together with his wife Lisa when they first visited Alousi at his Cube House in 1989. Alousi was not only their friend, he was also in some cases one of the very few early art patrons supporting the talents of the artists around him. It was through his support that some artists were able to launch their careers and artistic path.
In 1988, Alousi proudly built the Cube House, a famous residential architecture structure overlooking the Tigris, which was nominated for the Aga Khan Award for Architecture. Bringing together the traditional focal point of the hadiqa with a contemporary space structure, the house became a well-known display of Alousi's collection and a hub where many intellectuals and artists would gather and sketch. Together they treasured so many unforgettable memories of long inspirational evenings where poetry, literature, music and art would reign. When he left Baghdad in 1989 as a result of the situation in Iraq, these works all moved to Limassol, Cyprus where they have remained until today.
A SELECTION OF IRAQI PAINTINGS FROM THE PRIVATE COLLECTION OF MAATH ALOUSI