The hit the art world has sustained in the wake of the coronavirus crisis can hardly be overestimated. Perhaps a silver lining, however, is the size of global initiatives to support artists who have found themselves both disillusioned and financially distraught.

The most recent such initiative comes from the Institut du Monde Arabe (I.M.A.) and British auction house Christie’s, made possible by a donation of 44 pieces by Middle Eastern artists from the personal collection of France and Claude Lemand. The auction, titled I.M.A.GINATION, will support young creatives through the Institut’s collectors’ fund.

Shafic Abboud, Saison, 1959.

The three-week-long online auction showcases a wide range of artwork created over the span of 60 years by prominent Arab artists such as Lebanese painter Shafic Abboud, Iraq-born Dia Azzawi, and French-Moroccan artist Najia Mehadji, as well as a small collection of French and Japanese art. The top lot of the sale is Abboud’s 1959 Saison, currently estimated at €40,000-€60,000.

Claude Lemand, who left his native Lebanon in the 1970s for Paris, has built a reputation with his wife France as staunch supporters of the Arab art scene. In 2018, they donated a staggering 1300 works by Middle Eastern artists to the IMA, the largest donation the Institut has received since its inception in 2018 by 18 Arab countries as a beacon of Arab culture.

Nasser Alaswadi, Salam, 2019. 

“Claude and France Lemand were among the first to believe in the creativity of contemporary artists in the Arab world. They are also known for their generosity. A donation is always a human adventure," said Jack Lang, former French Minister of Culture and president of the Institut du Monde Arabe, in a statement.

The online auction begins today, June 24th, and will run until July 16th on Christie’s website, with physical exhibitions to be held from the 26th to the 30th of June, and then again from the 4th to the 10th of July at Christie's Paris galleries.

Main landscape image: Fatima Al Hajj, Nocturne, 2010.

Main square image: Boutros Al-Maari, Notre Dame en Tondo, 2019.