Modern & Contemporary Middle East

Magic of Persia Works Its Magic in LA

By Roxane Zand

L A has a new face. Not literally, but a growing art scene has contributed to the appearance of pockets of trendy districts, and a fully-fledged Arts District downtown which will no doubt soon rival any such counterpart in other cities around the world.

From its gold rush roots, to its Hollywood glamour, LA is also home to multicultural communities that bring wealth, talent and opportunity. Sotheby’s swank new West coast headquarters at 2029 Century City East bears witness to this growth and opportunity on the arts front by sometimes hosting Middle East-related events. As Chairman for Americas, Andrea Fiuczynski remarks, "Over many decades, Los Angeles has always attracted creative talent – whether in the visual or performing arts. LA continues to be a magnet and a destination for international galleries opening new locations in established and emerging areas, added to which there have been significant cultural developments at existing LA museums – plus the opening of important new cultural institutions.

"There has also been a critical rise in the amount of working artists opening studios in LA, which further fuels into an even more vibrant art scene. And not to be overlooked are the important LA art schools, giving art world millenials the opportunity to explore and ultimately stay in LA. We are seeing a multi-generational explosion of creative energy here, which is extremely exciting to witness".


Fresh from a series of recent activities there, I am thrilled to witness the welcome of our MENA clients. Long known as 'Tehrangeles', LA is also host to many other regional communities such as the Arab, Armenian or Turkish. Serving these groups on the cultural front are such institutional giants such as LAMOCA, the Getty, the Asian Art Museum, even the new Broad, and last but not least, LACMA which boasts the largest institutional collection of Middle Eastern art in the USA.

With these factors in mind, Magic of Persia – for the second time since 2014 – arranged an Iranian Contemporary Art Week at Sotheby's, this time to pay tribute to well-known artist, collector, curator, and designer Fereydoun Ave whose collection was auctioned at Sotheby's New Bond Street last April with great success.

The 'Week' incorporated a series of events that began with a cocktail exhibition preview at Sotheby's beautiful exhibition space high up over the LA skyline. A packed room had come to see 21 works by emerging Iranian artists – from the new and little-known, to the more established such as Shahriar Ahmadi and Fereydoun Ave. These works were going on the auction block on 15 September at a charity dinner in the nearby Craft restaurant, under the hammer of auctioneer extraordinaire Andrea Fiuczynski. A whopping $142,000 was raised in the packed venue where the who's who of Iranian art patrons and their American friends enjoyed a gourmet menu. A rousing keynote speech by collector Mohamed Afkhami went some way in inspiring guests to support the immensely valuable work of MOP in encouraging and supporting young Iranian artists.


Not to be forgotten was the panel discussion the day after the cocktail preview. This well-attended session hosted by curator Linda Komaroff (and moderated by MOP's Fereshte Moosavi) examining the multi-dimensional practice of Fereydoun Ave, took place at LACMA. The lively discussion featured three panellists: scholar Dr Shiva Balaghi, Sothebys Roxane Zand, and well-known dealer and artist Tony Shafrazi, who offered a unique and highly personal view of the growth of the art scene in the 70s.

It is clear that the appetite for arts-related events in LA is growing, and that Iranians in particular are proud to support and promote their cultural heritage. I predict more events in the pipeline!

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