Hurouf: The Art of the Word

Ali Omar Ermes, The Fourth Ode, acrylic on ink paper 250x300 cm

Ali Omar Ermes, The Fourth Ode, acrylic on ink paper 250x300 cm

Hurouf: The Art of the Word is Sotheby’s first auction dedicated entirely to calligraphy. The auction (which is on 16th December in Doha, Qatar at The Ritz Carlton) aims to represent the development of an art form that has entered its second millenium.

The sale traces the development of the Arabic script from its inception, with kufic leaves dating from the 8th century, through popular calligraphy of the 19th century, to the highest calibre works by international calligraphers working today.

It will include some of the most talented and innovative calligraphers working with the Arabic script from Japan to the United States through Turkey, the Middle East, China and the Indian Sub-Continent and will feature monumental pieces on canvas, in bronze and even neon by artists such as Dr. Ahmed Moustafa, Parviz Tanavoli and Mohammad El Baz.

Watch this video featuring Dalya Islam, Deputy Director Middle East and Indian Art and the calligrapher Dr. Ahmed Moustafa discussing the art of the word, from the early Islamic period to the present day, featuring highlights from the forthcoming sale.


One of the most fascinating things which I find about calligraphy is that when you take the earliest for, the kufic script and you compare it to calligraphy today, what you find is that they are both very conceptually driven. The kufic script was developed as a way to convey the word of God, something which is beyond our understanding.The letters were stylised so that you couldn't really understand them easily. And a lot of what you see today is actually much more about the aesthetic and the idea behind it. It's more about the concept rather than the meaning of the word on the canvas. I think it's fascinating that artists today can take western principles and apply them to such a traditional Islamic script and bring out something totally new and fascinating.

Dalya Islam, Deputy Director Middle East and Indian Art

If you don't have the cash for this auction, you can enjoy the exhibition which is on for three days before the auction, from 13th-15th December.

Calligraphy can look so poetic and beautiful, as Dr. Ahmed Moustafa says in the video, it's like "music for the eyes". If you are in Doha, Qatar, lucky you. Go and enjoy this unique exhibition and if you have he cash, buy yourself a piece or two.

Event details:
Exhibition dates: 13th - 14th December 2010, Public view 10:00am-2:00pm and 4:00-10:00pm / Ladies only 2:00am - 4:00pm
Auction date: Thursday, 16th December 2010 at 7:00pm
Venue: The Ritz Carlton, Doha, Qatar
Phone: +974 4452 8333