He’s been dubbed ‘a man on a mission to inform the world of the true nature of Iran’ by Harper’s Bazaar Art and ‘the multitalented renaissance artist of his generation from Iran’ by The Huffington Post. He has been described to portray “a necessary alternative view on his native country”.
Meet Sassan Behnam Bakhtiar. With works already sold with Sotheby’s and Christie’s, he is definitely the one to watch. He’s created bridges between the Middle East and the West, bringing his viewers a step closer to the ancient culture of Persia while jumping fearlessly to the now. Be it photographic collages, acrylic or gold leaf on canvas, Behnam-Bakhtiar masters the power of imagery to its full potential while at the same time breaking stereotypes and old clichés with great command and smooth easiness.
“To describe Sassan Behnam Bakhtiar’s artwork is to describe the country he belongs to and so passionately and justifiably champions: Iran. Multi-layered, complex, thoughtful, deeply historical yet utterly contemporary, colorful, positive, creative, unique. Viewing the world through the prism of Sassan’s carefully crafted compositions gives us a sense of his profound compassion for humanity.”
Janet Rady, Curator and Art Consultant, 2016
Paris, Tehran, Dubai, London, Saint-Jean-Cap-Ferrat – you must have had a crazy journey until reaching where you are today as an International artist. Tell us your story Sassan.
My story is the story of a typical Neuilly-Sur-Seine born French kid, who was taken to Iran in the early nineties, to later grow up as an Iranian. During the ten years I spent in Iran from the age of nine to nineteen, I have probably spent the craziest yet best years of my life finding my roots, people, history and culture with friends who were more like brothers to me. We always spent much time traveling and taking road trips all over Iran in order to absorb as much as we could during our teenage years. I was, and still am, an observer with a highly analytical mind. Looking at people in the streets, talking to them, asking about their lives and what they thought about Iran, its past and present, was my favorite pass time. To a point that I became friends with so many of them – people of different classes and beliefs. Imagine a curious kid with an open heart, ten years after the revolution, running after people here and there – everyone loved my energy, and I loved the excess information pouring in. This was the start of it all for me. My time in Iran ignited something in me – to show an alternative yet necessary side of Iran and our people to the world. When I left Iran to pursue my studies, I continued working in my art studios exploring this idea I had in mind, which later developed into what you see today.
I moved from London to Saint-Jean-Cap-Ferrat in 2011, in order to create my art studio in an environment that I thought was ideal for me as an artist. I call this unique peninsula my home today and due to its one of a kind beauty, an important factor contributing to my work.
In the contemporary art world, the media and people started calling you ‘a Man on a Mission’ and ‘a Visionary’, why is that?
I have been called many names – a renaissance artist, a visionary, a self-styled purveyor of the truth, citizen of the world without boundaries, a man on a mission to the inform the world about the true nature of Iranians and Iran. That was mainly due to the nature of my work alongside its message, as well as my own point of view and vision about different matters. When I released The Real Me series in 2014 with a scheduled London solo exhibition, I remember being dubbed a Man on a Mission by Harper’s Bazaar Art and ‘the multitalented renaissance artist of his generation from Iran’ by The Huffington Post, right after the exhibition. They got me right away. They understood what I was trying to do. I remember saying to the press, ‘It has been too long that the majority of international media outlets have portrayed my fellow nationals, country, and heritage as something that is clearly false, and I think it is long overdue to start showing the truth and realities of Iran instead of all this negative propaganda circulating everywhere.’
Being one the most sought after and must-see Iranian artists currently on exhibition today, while having your works being acquired by international collectors, would you say that you have achieved your objective as an artist?
Being a successful artist was never my main objective. I am not in this for financial gains but to be able to change the perceptions and cemented beliefs about Iran and Iranians, of as many people as possible. I do not think it is fair with the history that Iran holds to be seen the way many are trying to portrait us. Iranians have a unique history, culture, past and present, holding great human values, and I think it is important to shed light on these alternatives nowadays.
Talk to us about Saint-Jean-Cap-Ferrat and the Cote d’Azur, and why you have chosen this unique peninsula to continue your practice.
I have chosen Saint-Jean-Cap-Ferrat and the Cote d’Azur for the same reasons artists such as Cocteau, Picasso, Chagall and Matisse, to name a few, previously did. This place is unique with what it provides for artists. The feel, energy and vibe of this place matched with its beauty and surroundings create a paradise for any living artist. Today, I consider Saint-Jean-Cap-Ferrat my home and can’t think of any better place to pursue my work.
You have an upcoming exhibition and auction at Sotheby’s in Los Angeles in September. Tell us more about that.
Yes that is correct. From September 12th to 15th 2016, I am taking part in Contemporary Iranian Art, a group exhibition and live auction of twenty selected established Iranian artists held by MOP Foundation and Sotheby’s. The exhibition incorporates a panel discussion and film premiere to be held at the Brown Auditorium at LACMA. The exhibition will take place at Sotheby’s Los Angeles and will unfold in the presence of acclaimed Iranian artists including guest of honor Fereydoun Ave. The auction will be conducted by Andrea Fiuczynski, Chairman of the Americas for Sotheby’s. The panel discussion and film premiere is co-organised with the Art of the Middle East Department at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA).
In October you are heading to New York to show your work with Shirin Gallery. How is that looking?
Yes, the exhibition entitled Future & Memory / Memory & Future will focus mainly on what it means to be Iranian in today’s society, from a regional and international perspective; how our heritage informs the present, and the continuing role which nostalgia plays in building the country’s future. The exhibition will open on October 20th 2016 and will run through November 13th 2016.
How would you describe your main goal at the core of your artistic career?
To show factual realities and focus on the ‘positive’ things related to Iranians and Iran rather than what is more in demand internationally, and to change the perception of the world towards stereotypical views of the foreign world towards Iran and its people. I have started my professional career with this goal in mind back in 2009.
We are excited to be releasing a small preview of your new series of works Blank Walls, and thank you for giving TTT the opportunity to do so. Tell us more about this exciting new body of collage works.
Blank Walls focuses on the unmeasurable power of people once having joined hands in harmony against any obstacle. The brick walls represent man made corrupt situations and systems, which unfortunately are present in different parts of the world today. On one side the people and their strongest ally, nature, and on the other side the corrupt and their artificial walls. Blank Walls is my effort to bring people together in harmony, since in harmony and together, any good deed is achievable, which in turn will change all of our futures.
Can you give TTT a sneak peek on your future projects ? Any other new series of works coming up?
As you know, I cannot give much details on future works and projects, however, I will say that I have been working on numerous series of works for over a year now. A large scaled body of paintings on canvas, as well as collage based series of works, which will be taking part in exciting projects and shows in different cities within Europe. All the latest news on my projects can be found on my website.
Sassan Behnam Bakhtiar is represented by Janet Rady Fine Art. To visit the world of Sassan, log on www.sassanbehnambakhtiar.com
MOP Foundation & Sotheby’s – CONTEMPORARY IRANIAN ART September 12, 2016
Exhibition Preview & Cocktail Reception
7- 9 pm
Sotheby’s, 2029 Century Park East, LA
September 13, 2016
Panel Discussion & Film Premiere
LACMA, 5905 Wilshire Blvd, LA
September 15, 2016
VIP Seated Dinner & Art Auction* *This event is non-ticketed and by invitation only
Shirin Gallery New York – FUTURE & MEMORY / MEMORY & FUTURE
October 20, 2016 Exhibition Preview & Cocktail Reception* *This event is by invitation only October 21, 2015 – November 13, 2016 Exhibition open to public 11 am – 6 pm