Villagers Relaxing picture

Villagers Relaxing by Ragheb Ayad, £20,000 at Olympia Auctions.

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The group came from the collection of the late Dr Mohammed Said Farsi, an influential civic leader in Saudi Arabia.

All bar two of the lots sold at the May 11 Olympia sale in west London for a combined £190,375 including 25% buyer’s premium.

Farsi, who died aged 82 in 2019 at his home in Monaco, had lived in Alexandria as a young man, training as an architect.

He returned to Saudi Arabia in the early 1960s and later entered government service before becoming mayor of Jeddah in 1972.

Overseeing huge developments, including a five-fold increase in the city’s population, he is widely considered the father of modern Jeddah.

A collector of both Islamic and Western art, he was an important figure in the development of Middle Eastern visual arts and cultural institutions.

Egyptian art

Egyptian art formed a prominent part of his personal collection and here works by the likes of Hamed Nada (1924- 1990), Ragheb Ayad (1892-1982) and Abdel Hadi Al Gazzar (1925- 66) all performed well.

Four pictures by Ragheb Ayad all surpassed predictions, including a watercolour titled Villagers Relaxing from c.1959 that overshot a £3500-5500 estimate and was knocked down to an Egyptian private collector at £20,000. The price was the fourth highest for the artist at auction, according to

A pastel on paper by Hamed Nada titled The African Wizard also drew strong competition, surpassing a £1000-1500 pitch and being knocked down at £16,000. It was also bought by an Egyptian private collector.

Interest came from all over the world, in particular Egypt, the UAE, Saudi Arabia and the UK.

The sale was run by specialist Janet Rady who joined Olympia Auctions in January this year.

For a special report on Post-war and Contemporary art, including works by overseas artists selling at UK auctions, see pages 16-24.