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signed and dated 'Salman Toor '16' (lower left)
oil on board
36 x 48in. (91.4 x 121.9cm.)
Painted in 2016
Private Collection (acquired from the artist in 2016).
Private Collection.
Acquired from the above by the present owner.
Special notice

This lot has been imported from outside of the UK for sale and placed under the Temporary Admission regime. Import VAT is payable at 5% on the hammer price. VAT at 20% will be added to the buyer’s premium but will not be shown separately on our invoice.

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Anna Touzin
Anna Touzin Specialist, Head of Day Sale

Lot Essay

In Salman Toor’s Visitation (2016), figures gather round a small table covered with statuary and skulls. A man, head in hand, gazes wistfully out of the frame as if remembering a lost relationship, or perhaps just a face in a bar. The late-night, crepuscular colouring of the green walls is enveloping, while short, staccato brushwork adds depth to a snapshot scene that appears cleaved from a longer story. Such fleeting, intimate moments are refracted through an art-historical lens in Toor’s work, and he ingeniously mixes motifs and gestures from both contemporary and bygone sources. With its halo-like astral forms, the present painting moves expertly between allusions to Biblical scenes—specifically the titular Visitation—as well Renaissance sculpture, Paul Cézanne’s The Card Players and vanitas still-lifes. It is a dreamlike space, rendering magical realism in lush, fantastical colours.

Toor, who grew up in Pakistan before emigrating to the United States, paints tender, pensive scenes of queer life. His tableaux present the autofictional experiences of gay South Asian men filtered through a visual language that blends painting and illustration. He firmly embeds these oft-marginalised figures into mainstream culture; in doing so, writes curator Ambika Trasi in response to the artist’s recent solo exhibition at the Whitney Museum of American Art, Toor ‘counters the persistent invisibility—or reductive and predominantly negative portrayals, when they are portrayed—of Brown men in Western media and the art historical canon’ (A. Trasi, ‘The Self as Cipher: Salman Toor’s Narrative Paintings’, Whitney Museum of American Art, [accessed 4 June 2021]). Instead Toor represents these communities—so often maligned as ‘other’—as complex, daring, compassionate, gentle; he lets them be expansive. As critic Peter Plagens reflected, ‘Mr. Toor’s work is modestly original, deftly done, poignant, and … evidence of hope for imperfect humanity’ (P. Plagens, ‘“Salman Toor: How Will I Know” Review: A Contemporary Painter’s Poignant Scenes’, Wall Street Journal, 19 December 2020).

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