24-year-old art collector Taymour Grahne discovered a latent love for his trade as a teenager in Beirut. “A friend of mine had a great collection of modern Syrian art,” he recalls. “At that point I wasn’t really into art, but there was something about those works that intrigued me.”
This month Grahne will open his eponymous gallery in Tribeca, which will feature a diverse roster of artists with roots in the Middle East—many of whom Grahne has discovered personally through his travels and research for the blog he maintains on the region’s art. Grahne, who was born in London to Lebanese and Finnish parents, is particularly concerned with promoting Middle Eastern art in an international context. “I’m bringing art and artists from different regions of the world that don’t necessary show in New York,” he tells us. “I’m showing these artists as artists first… they happen to be from the Middle East.” He is quick to wave off stereotypes: “There’s more going on besides the issue of the veil and the issue of calligraphy—there are so many more interesting artists dealing with different topics.”
The first exhibition is a solo show of Iranian-born artist Nicky Nodjoumi, who came to the United States in the late 1960s, eventually earning his MFA at the City College of New York. Nodjoumi, who is currently based in Brooklyn and has exhibited worldwide, has a portfolio of cross-cultural, open-ended paintings that synthesizes what Grahne wants his gallery to stand for. “He has a link to the Middle East, but he’s based in New York,” Grahne explains. “I thought it was important to start with a New York-based artist, kind of like a sign of respect to the city.”
Nodjoumi’s past, which includes first hand experiences with the Islamic Revolution in 1979, gives him a singular identity as an artist, and Grahne hopes to highlight this. “America has influenced Nicky as much as Iran has. It’s a very international outlook,” he explains. “That’s what interested me about Nicky: it’s this reference to both cultures…he can be read by many different people from different backgrounds.”
Next up is a solo show of the Iranian painter and performance artists Reza Derakshani, opening in October. The Taymour Grahne Gallery also works with four of the artists who were featured in the 55th Venice Biennale in June: Tarek Al-Ghoussein for Kuwait, Mohammed Kazem for the United Arab Emirates, Camille Zakharia for Bahrain, and Albert Yonathan Setyawan for Indonesia. It’s a sign that the art world, like the rest of the world, is shrinking, and Grahne is aware. “What does geography mean to us? What do boundaries mean to us? What do countries mean to us?” he asks. “It’s a global perspective.”
TAYMOUR GRAHNE GALLERY IS LOCATED AT 157 HUDSON STREET, NEW YORK. “NICKY NODJOUMI: CHASING BUTTERFLIES AND OTHER RECENT PAINTINGS” IS ON VIEW THROUGH OCTOBER 12.