Seyhoun Gallery: It Takes a Family

By Saina Bailey

I’m here at the Seyhoun Gallery on upper Melrose Avenue in the heart of West Hollywood’s gallery district with the lovely Maryam Seyhoun for a one-on-one.

What a lovely space. Please tell us a little about Seyhoun Gallery.
Thank you. The original Seyhoun Gallery was founded by my mother, Mrs. Masoumeh Seyhoun, on Soraya Avenue in Tehran over forty years ago. It was the first gallery in Iran that was designed after Western art galleries. I founded the Los Angeles branch back in 2004.

Who are your clients and what kind of art do they collect?
We have both American and Iranian American clients. Generally speaking, the younger Iranian American generation prefers abstract art –larger, more modern pieces on canvas. They also like photography and digital art. The older Iranian generation tends to like more traditional work such as calligraphy, and well known artists such as Hossein Zenderoudi, Masoud Arabshahi, and Mohamad Ehsaei.

Our American and European clients in LA purchase a variety of styles and especially like decorative works.

Iranian artists have gained prominence in auction houses and galleries around the world. Does this point to a new level of creativity? Is it the marketing? Or just a sign of our times?
I would say it’s a sign of our times… but, and this is a big BUT… unfortunately, the Iranian art that has gotten popular is still mostly localized in Dubai. It hasn’t yet found a global market. Many of the pieces that are highly valued in Dubai won’t be considered for showing in galleries such as Larry Gagosian. For example, last week I was at Tashende Gallery, in Los Angeles. Even in the midst of a recession, the Botero pieces were sold out in the first 30 minutes! A Botero is a Botero regardless of where you are in the world. It would be really great if our Iranian artists could reach that status so that people around the world, in Paris, in London, and here in LA would buy them for that same price.

Tell us a little about your artistic roots.
I’m not an artist but my brother and I grew up in a house of art.

My mother, Massoumeh, was a famous artist and my father, Houshang Seyhoun, was a pioneer in modern architecture who built five historical monuments in Iran and was the dean of the Faculty of Art at the University of Tehran.

My father is an exceptional painter. He is the first Iranian who has had a group exhibition with Picasso and Salvador Dali. This was in 1972 when his work was displayed in Massachusetts.

I grew up in an atmosphere of art. Almost 99% of contemporary artists at the time were discovered by my mother in Iran. I got to know them before they were famous. They were always at our house or in our Gallery. There was always talk of painting and sculpture at our home; my parents would always tell me to look at this line or that color. So, even though I studied International Law as an adult, I have a good eye for lines, colors, composition, techniques, etc. My mother always said that I went to quite an art university! I was submerged in art from the moment I woke up in the morning. So when I moved to Los Angeles, I wanted to open a gallery like my mother’s. I have to say that we do things differently here since people’s tastes and preferences here are different.

My brother operates the gallery in Tehran. He’s not an artist either, but he has experience in photography.

How do you pick your artists?
?I show famous artists who have worked with my mother in the past, including my own father, Houshang Seyhoun. I’m also very interested in discovering new talent. An example is Goli Mahallati, a great artist that I showed for the first time six years ago and whose work is now being sold in 40 galleries in the U.S.?Many artists show me their work by e-mail, while others bring them to the gallery. I prefer to see the artwork in person because that way I can decide right away whether I like them.

Who are some of the artists that you have shown over the years?
?I have shown over 100 artists; to name just a handful, there’s Masoud Arabshahi, Parviz Kalantari, Maryam Javaheri, Sarkiss Vaspour, Max Gold (founder of Fusion Art), Zaman Zamani, Stephen Linstead,  Hessam AbrishamiStig Einarson, and Mokarrameh Ghambary, a self-made artist from a small village in Iran.

What’s an upcoming project that you’re looking forward to?
Sayhoun Gallery has new exhibitions every week or ever two weeks. We have an upcoming event, which starts on October 7 and goes through the 10th called “Death is not Justice”. This is an exhibition against capital punishment.

October 10th is the World Day against the Death Penalty, which was first held in 2003. One-hundred posters have been selected by a live jury online, for exhibition in 100 locations around the world—including the Seyhoun Gallery—and 10 museums. This event has been organized by Posters for Tomorrow and endorsed by Amnesty International and Bianca Jagger among others.

Do you have any advice for young artists?
Young artists are often inspired and influenced by the great artists of the past, which is fine. However, my advice is to make sure you develop your own signature such that no trace of the masters of the past remains in your work. Be original; create your signature.

Thank you, we wish you great success and we’re looking forward to the Death is not Justice Exhibit on Oct. 7.

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