SALMAN TOOR (b. 1983)
PETER DOIG (B. 1959)
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SALMAN TOOR (b. 1983)


SALMAN TOOR (b. 1983)
signed, titled and dated 'Salman Toor '20 TAKEOUT' (on the overlap)
oil on canvas
25 x 25in. (63.5 x 63.5cm.)
Painted in 2020
Grosvenor Gallery, London.
Acquired from the above by the present owner in 2020.
London, Grosvenor Gallery, Form and Figure: Bodies of Art, 2020, (illustrated in colour, pp. 28-29).

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Anna Touzin
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Lot Essay

Painted in 2020, the same year as Salman Toor's first major institutional solo show at the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, Takeout is a magnificent example of his intimate and fleeting painterly narratives. Rendered in rich, tactile brushstrokes, the work depicts a male couple sitting on a living room sofa, legs crossed as they eat Chinese takeout off their laps. They appear relaxed and content, one absently reaching for a round of noodles whilst the other holds his chopsticks up to his lips. Meanwhile, a period drama streams on the television behind them, two Victorian maids broadcast in high resolution across their screen. Clad in casual and contemporary clothing—ripped jeans, neon yellow sports socks, a black shaggy jacket—the sitters establish a dialogue with their 19th-century companions, the rugged beanie of the figure on the left complementing their white flounced bonnets. A glorious pastiche of past and present, and populated with objects inspired by his everyday surroundings—a Buddhist bust, a houseplant, a bottle of hot sauce—Takeout is a wonderful example of Toor’s unique and masterful chronicling of contemporary life.

The subject of a major exhibition at the Baltimore Museum of Art last year, Toor was born in Lahore, Pakistan. He graduated with a BFA from Ohio Wesleyan University in 2006, before enrolling in an MFA at the Pratt Institute, New York in 2009. During his student days, he became captivated by the paintings of Renaissance, Baroque and Rococo masters like Caravaggio, Peter Paul Rubens and Jean-Antoine Watteau, his works of the period consciously referencing their rich colour palette, sensual surfaces and skilful handling of light. ‘Instead of moving with the times, I wanted an academic education in painting’, he has said. ‘I wanted to be as good as the white old masters’ (S. Toor, quoted in A. Angelos, ‘“I wanted to be as good as the white old masters”’: meet painter Salman Toor,’ It’s Nice That, 7 November 2019).

As his career progressed, Toor began to fuse these art historical influences with those of his native Pakistan, embarking on a series of hybrid tableaus that referenced Western and South Asian canons alike. Toor also inserted traditionally marginalised, oft-overlooked figures into his paintings, reflecting on his own experience growing up as a Queer man in Lahore. ‘Through painting, I try to conjure a world where people of colour are equal and proud heirs to the humanist culture that hosts the freedoms that we enjoy in urban centres in the West’, he explains (S. Toor, ibid.). Takeout is exemplary of his more recent work, in which Toor draws heavily upon his own experiences to depict imaginary narratives of Queer Asian and American men at bars, parties or in their New York apartments enjoying wine and food. Here, by presenting his subjects engrossed in a period drama, and by staging the television screen as a type of painting in itself, Toor playfully recontextualises the legacy of the Old Masters within his own private domain.

Fashion, too, as evidenced in Takeout, plays a fundamental role in Toor’s paintings, often offering a quiet nod to the past whilst reminding us of their deliberately contemporary setting. ‘I try to create the fashion in the paintings intuitively’, Toor has said. ‘I like painting stitches and seams, waistcoats, pleats, sneakers, and pointy shoes. Sometimes I paint my own clothes, or clothes I’d like to have, and sometimes I’m remembering accessories and cuts from historical paintings, such as the tilt of a hat, a Cuban heel, a shawl, a choker, a pearl’ (S. Toor, quoted in C. Packard, ‘Blurring the Lines between Public and Private: Salman Toor Interviewed by Cassie Packard’, BOMB Magazine, 12 February 2021).

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