Art And Culture

Sophia Gallery Promoting Iranian Art in Europe

There are three important features that tempt European buyers to purchase an artwork; it needs to be impressive and creative, genuine and fairly priced
The exhibition of Reza Derakshani’s paintings which opened the gallery in MarchThe exhibition of Reza Derakshani’s paintings which opened the gallery in March

Sophia Contemporary Gallery is a modern art gallery located in a 280-square-meter space in the heart of Mayfair, London. It showcases contemporary art of the Middle East and in particular Iran, alongside recent western art, to the European audience.

Founded by the Iranian gallery owner Lili Jassemi and two Russian gallerists Vassili Tsarenkov and Lali Margania, the gallery opened in March and so far has held five exhibitions, four of which have been works by Iran’s young and established artists.

“We speak six languages which surely can help us reach out to global markets. Through our professional gallery, we aim to publicize Iranian art in Europe,” Honaronline quoted Jassemi as saying.

“Although we display works by well-known artists of all nationalities to attract different buyers and collectors, our focus is Iran. In order to promote Iranian art and artists, we do more than just holding their exhibition at the gallery.”

Depending on their potential in the art market, “we arrange more programs for the artists,” Jassemi said and gave the example of Reza Derakshani whose paintings formed the gallery’s inaugural exhibition in March.

“We organized two more exhibits for his works in Russia and Germany and also have planned to make a film and compile a book on his works”.

An Iranian who grew up in Munich, Germany, Jassemi is a graduate of School of Oriental and African Studies in London. In 2012, she met Tsarenkov, who at the time was working as manager at the St. Petersburg Gallery in London and writing a dissertation on contemporary Middle Eastern art at The Courtauld Institute of Art. They decided to work together and develop the gallery project.

A few months later they invited Margania who was working as an art advisor, to join the team.

The gallery’s second and third exhibits were dedicated to Iranian artists Mehrdad Khataei and Pooya Aryanpour, and both were welcomed by the audiences. So was Derakhshani’s exhibit.

 Summer Show of Different Generations

The gallery’s Summer Show in August and September comprised of paintings and sculptures by artists of different generations including Shahriar Ahmadi, Bahram Hanafi, Arash Lahiji, Ramin Shirdel, Mehrdad Shoghi and Mohammad Reza Yazdi among others.

Speaking on the criteria that influences the international reception of Iranian art, Jassemi said, “First of all, an artist should have an impressive presence in the local art market, and that should be publicized on the international scene. Tehran Auction has an important role in this regard. Then the artists have to be in touch with international galleries and hold exhibitions across the globe. Their works need to be introduced in multi-language catalogues and books with comments by renowned art critics. In our gallery we try to be on par with international standards.”

She underlined that for European buyers there are three important features that tempt them to purchase an artwork. It needs to be “impressive and creative, genuine and fairly priced”.

Based on her experience, she believes that western collectors are not influenced by an artist’s nationality and what motivates them in buying a piece of art is the power and appeal of the artwork. “We aim to expand our circle of buyers so we can introduce contemporary art of Iran to a vast pool of professionals,” Jassemi added.

“I see myself as a representative from Iran trying to eliminate the western prejudices and fears of Iran. It is really a pity if they have a negative attitude towards a country with such a rich culture.”

In addition to its exhibitions, the gallery also publishes catalogues and books with essays by world-renowned scholars, hosts regular educational panels and is working with museums and institutions worldwide in order to place the gallery’s artists in major public and private collections.


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