Cultural crossroads: the art of Marco Grigorian

Cultural crossroads: the art of Marco Grigorian

Marcos Grigorian, also known as Marco Grigorian (1925 – 2007), is considered one of the pioneering modern artists of Iran and one of the founders of Iranian Land art. During his prolific five-decade career – during which he was also a teacher, gallerist, actor, collector, curator, and champion of emerging art – he cemented himself as a genuinely international creative force that broke ground but never lost sight of his roots.

The artist was born in Russia to an Armenian family from Kars who had fled to escape massacres when Turkey captured it in 1920. In 1930, the family moved from Kropotkin to Iran, living first in the city of Tabriz and then in Tehran.

After earning a degree from the Accademia Delle Belle Arti in Rome, Grigorian returned to Iran in 1954 to establish a leading art gallery and later the country’s first biennial in 1958. At the same time, he began exploring more abstract sensibilities, beginning his “earthworks” series using parched Iranian earth, kahgel (a mixture of clay used for the adobelike village dwellings), straw, and hay, all of which he adhered to supports. These pieces celebrated the purity and simplicity of Iranian village life.

Back in New York in 1980, Grigorian established the Arshile Gorky Gallery, where he exhibited the works of Iranian and Armenian artists for several years. His daughter Sabrina Grigorian, a theater actress, passed away in 1986 after a heart attack at 30. The tragedy shifted his artistic priorities. He immersed himself in his other passion, that of Armenian folk art and rug weaving. He made several trips to Armenia and, in 1993, established the Sabrina Near East Museum of Yerevan, where he housed his own works and exquisite collection. During the last twenty years of his life, he organized several exhibits and weaving workshops in Armenia.

Grigorian’s art is in the permanent collections of the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA), the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Tate Modern, the British Museum, the Grey Gallery of NYU, the Tehran Museum of Contemporary Art, the National Gallery, the Near East Museum in Armenia, and the Nelson Rockefeller Collection.

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