Salman Toor - 20th Century & Contemporary Art Day Sale London Thursday, October 13, 2022 | Phillips

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  • "In school, I had been fascinated by Renaissance art because of the basic thing it had mastered – the realism. I wanted to be as good as those painters."
    —Salman Toor
    Painted in 2016, Immigrant Gatherings provides an exceptional example of Salman Toor’s deeply rooted interest in Old Master paintings, as well as his experiences growing up in Pakistan. The present work depicts an amalgamation of figures, taken from different and entirely unrelated settings, which are masterfully layered and meticulously positioned to tell a new narrative. The figures before us are a haphazard group of characters reminiscent not only of Old Master’s, but also featuring elements of contemporary life.


    Toor’s figures, most of which are grouped in the upper left of the composition, are depicted contrastingly engaging with the viewer, or communicating amongst themselves. The background has been left bare; an off-white greyish tone chosen as the base, on the surface of which scattered Arabic text is depicted in an emerald, green colour. This physical space has been created for the viewer to participate in the composition, a space to contemplate not only the interesting grouping of characters but also their combined and individual symbolism.


    Originally from Pakistan, Salman Toor grew up in Lahore and moved to Ohio in the United States to begin his higher education within the arts. After receiving a BA in Fine Art at Ohio Wesleyan University he moved to New York and completed his MA at The Pratt Institute. New York was where Toor found himself a home, both on a personal and professional level. Given this background there is no surprise that the theme of travel and belonging reoccur within the artist’s oeuvre. In the present work we can see an inclusion of a character wearing a turban and carrying a bundled hanging pack, this could highlight the artist’s own journey not only from his hometown of Lahore to Ohio and then New York, but also of sexual recognition and stability. The notion of never feeling settled or secure as a queer South Asian male is hinted at by the inclusion of this particular figure.


    Toor’s fascination for the Old Master’s came about during his time in Ohio, it was through studying art history at university that the artist resonated with European painting of 18th Century, Baroque and Early Renaissance. This affinity grew significantly after taking art history classes which promoted the artist to attend museums and copy works of art by these great masters, using this as a tool to strengthen not only his own artistic abilities but also stimulate his imagination. Toor’s works are of fictional scenes, and he utilises his historical style to create a narrative that is then positioned within the 21st century. The artist’s pictures, including the present work feature elements from the old and new, both of which the artist resonates with and draws inspiration from.

    "I feel like it is a great love of the stories that can be told through oil painting that bring people together, and the sight of so many paintings telling simultaneously the stories of a culture and I wanted to recreate something like that around my own story and similar stories."
    —Salman Toor
    Immigrant Gathering alludes to Toor’s personal narrative, including his background, sexual orientation as well as interest in both Old Master’s and classical painting. The addition of Arabic text in the background in combination with a mixture of multicultural figures underscores the artist’s roots and the importance of inclusivity. Elements of sexuality are visible in the two couples positioned on the upper centre and lower right of the canvas, which could be the artist's way of highlighting sexual orientation. Inspiration from Old Master’s and classical painting are clearly shown through some of the figures physical appearance, particularly their clothing and hairstyles, most noticeable in the character depicted in the centre far left of the canvas. The long hair resembling a wig and tight breaches nods towards the fashion trends of 17th century.


    Salman Toor was recently exhibited at The Frick Collection in New York alongside Johannes Vermeer in Living Histories: Queer Views and Old Masters (2021-2022). There are clear elements where Toor drew inspiration from works by the Dutch artist. Some of the figures portrayed in Immigrant Gathering are reminiscent of Vermeer’s The Procuress.


    Johannes Vermeer, The Procuress, 1656, oil on canvas.
    Johannes Vermeer, The Procuress, 1656, Old Masters Picture Gallery, Dresden. Image: Scala, Florence/bpk, Bildagentur fuer Kunst, Kultur und Geschichte, Berlin

    Salman Toor is currently the subject of Salman Toor: No Ordinary Love at The Baltimore Museum of Art, through to 23 October 2022.

    • Provenance

      Acquired directly from the artist by the present owner


Immigrant Gathering

signed and dated 'Salman Toor '16' on the reverse
oil on canvas
122 x 81.5 cm (48 x 32 1/8 in.)
Painted in 2016.

Full Cataloguing

£150,000 - 200,000 

Sold for £214,200

Contact Specialist

Simon Tovey

Specialist, Associate Director, Head of Day Sale, 20th Century & Contemporary Art
+44 20 7318 4084

20th Century & Contemporary Art Day Sale

London Auction 13 October 2022