A little over a decade ago, Iranian-born, Los Angeles based gallerist Shulamit Nazarian staged her first exhibition, a survey of emerging Vietnamese artists, in the iconic A Quincy Jones-designed Beverly Hills residence she purchased after her divorce. ‘I invited the Iranian community, the Jewish community I knew, and it was such a great mix of people,’ says Nazarian from the art-filled office of her new 3,000 sq ft Hollywood gallery, carved out of a former auto garage on North La Brea Avenue. After that first show, a group of artists, primarily Iranian and Israeli, asked Nazarian if they could stage their own exhibition in her house. She said yes. ‘Part of it was my own curiosity about the Iranian art world. I wanted to reconnect with my history and what’s happening there; I was 15 when I left during the revolution and never went back.’
Five years later, in 2012, after staging various exhibitions at her house and other locations, Nazarian found a townhouse beside the LA Louver gallery in which to open her first eponymous gallery proper. ‘When I came across this space in Venice it felt right, because it was a historically creative community,’ says Nazarian. ‘I liked the idea of a residential space because it wasn’t too far from what I was doing.’
Initially, Nazarian focused primarily on Middle Eastern artists, such as Sherin Guirguis, Amir H Fallah and Elham Rokni. ‘I felt there was a misunderstanding of the region,’ the gallerist says. She broadened her platform two years ago with an acclaimed show by ascendant LA-based artist Genevieve Gaignard, and has since added young multimedia artists Theodore Boyer, Carmen Argote and Jake Ziemann to her roster. Pier 24 Photography’s Seth Curcio has joined as director, and firebrand curators Tim Goossens and Kathy Battista have also come on board. The gallery moved to its new Hollywood space this spring, opening with ‘Escape Attempts’, Battista’s show of neo-minimalist works by feminist artists such as Sarah Meyohas, Virginia Overton and Naama Tsabar.
‘When we select artists and programmes in the gallery, it’s always in the vein of social, political or gender identity,’ says Nazarian. ‘For me, it’s important to work with artists who explore aspects of their own history and psyche. Through them I can understand myself better.’
As originally featured in the May 2017 issue of Wallpaper* (W*218)