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Property from an Esteemed Private New York Collection

Girl and Boy with Driver

Girl and Boy with Driver
oil on canvas
52 7⁄8 x 78 3⁄8 in. (134.3 x 199 cm.)
Painted in 2013.
Aicon Gallery, New York
Acquired from the above by the present owner
“Salman Toor: Q and A with Violet Shuraka,” Cheap & Plastique: Contemporary Art, no. 12, 2016, n.p. and p. 14 (illustrated).
Salman Toor: Wound, Happy Servant, Resident Alien & Time After Time, exh. cat., New York, Aicon Gallery, 2018, p. 20 (illustrated).
New York, Aicon Gallery, The Happy Servant: Recent Works by Salman Toor, May-June 2013.

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Ana Maria Celis
Ana Maria Celis Head of Department

Lot Essay

Known for his evocative scenes that meld the present with the art historical past, Salman Toor creates masterful canvases at the confluence of intimate moments and a more global conversation on identity. Part of his first solo exhibition in the United States, Girl and Boy with Driver is a riveting example of the artist’s ability to infuse contemporary scenes with the air of Old Master paintings. Throughout his career, Toor has sought to represent people like himself, those that have been marginalized within the Western canon.

Born in Lahore, Pakistan, he moved to Ohio to study painting before settling in New York. While in school, he studied art history intently and focused on learning the techniques of artists like Caravaggio, Peter Paul Rubens, and the elegant Rococo canvases of Jean-Antoine Watteau. “Instead of moving with the times, I wanted an academic education in painting,” he noted about his predilection for the past. “I wanted to be as good as the white old masters. In fact, I was happy only when I could pretend that I was a 17th or 18th century painter living in Madrid, Venice or Holland” (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, November 7, 2019). Upon moving to New York, Toor hit his stride by crafting hybrid tableaus that sought to marry East and West within seemingly anachronistic settings. Using the brushwork of Baroque painters to depict cars, cell phones, and a consciously diverse cast of imagined characters.

In Girl and Boy with Driver, the viewer shares an intimate moment with what appears to be a young couple interacting in the back of a parked sedan. Through the window, we see a man with olive skin close his eyes and touch his face, seemingly ignoring the beautiful woman next to him. She, face alight from an unseen source, smiles coyly and holds aloft a wine glass in her left hand. The figures are framed by the car window near the center of the canvas, so they immediately attract our attention. Toward the front of the car however, a third figure sits at the wheel and stares straight ahead. Most likely aware of the shenanigans in the back seat, the bearded man in blue and white dutifully faces the windshield and waits for his passengers to signal a departure. “All my paintings are imagery, so when I’m painting there aren’t any sources in front of me,” he has explained. “I am thinking of particular memories, people or moods as I’m painting; my subjects are made-up of people who I think are like me.” (Ibid.) Around the car, Toor places leafy shrubs and trees that cast faint shadows on the muted color of the automobile. A cloudy, green-brown sky is visible in the background. The swirling sfumato of yesteryear melds seamlessly with this contemporary scene, giving it a dreamlike reverie that is instantly attracting.

Part of the exhibition The Happy Servant, the present work and others in the series are Toor’s illustrations of the class divide in many parts of Pakistani and Indian culture. He combines a commentary on the contemporary disparity between patron and servant with the unmistakable renderings of historical Western painting. This juxtaposition causes a tension in the viewer’s mind and creates an almost interstitial space in our reality. “For me, the in-between spaces are metaphorical/allegorical spaces of bureaucracy and suspicion,” the painter notes. “They can take on the feeling of an inner psychic space of some of the characters. They are certainly rooted in the diasporic experience and in the idea that you may not belong anywhere while thinking that you belong in multiple places. To present yourself on the cusp of another world is to be seen” (S. Toor, quoted in “Blurring the Lines between Public and Private: Salman Toor Interviewed by Cassie Packard”, BOMB Magazine, February 12, 2021). By embracing a confluence of cultures and styles, Toor presents a composition that is both charged with personal reverie and also more accessible to a global audience.

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