With more than 50% of its population born elsewhere, Toronto is one of the most diverse cities in the world. Sahar K. Boluki Gallery is dedicated to working with foreign-born artists and to creating a space for all the city’s communities to find art they can connect to. Artists who received their training in their home countries prior to immigrating to Canada need exhibition spaces and gallerists familiar with the aesthetic and conceptual concerns of the communities that fostered their early work. The Iranian-Canadian artists on the Sahar K. Boluki Gallery roster, for example, produce work that is shaped not only by their individual experiences but by traditional Iranian artistic practices like miniature painting, by the particular ways in which European modernism gained influence in Iranian art in the mid-twentieth century, and by ongoing connections to Iranian artists and cultural institutions. While these influences might be familiar to Iranian-Canadian collectors, Sahar K. Boluki Gallery is committed to creating a place for these artists within a larger Canadian art world, using curated exhibitions and a gallerist’s expertise to introduce them and their work to a larger audience.
By taking a cosmopolitan approach to artistic practice, Sahar K. Boluki Gallery works to solidify connections between here and elsewhere in the work of Canadian artists. This means selecting artists representative of Toronto’s dynamic immigrant communities and celebrating the global connections that shape communities in diaspora. The artists on the current roster reflect this mission, and while most of them are originally from Iran, the paths they have taken to Canada and to their individual art practices reflect a range of experiences, from political exile, to family migrations, to peripatetic professional journeys through many different countries. Collected under one roof, their work offers insight into how the local and international mingle across media, subject matter, style, and form.
Finally, in choosing to represent established, mid-career, and emerging artists, Sahar K. Boluki Gallery strives to offer a variety of entry points to new collectors. Purchasing art can be intimidating and cost-prohibitive, limiting not only the kind of work the market supports but the kind of collectors it engages with. Removing barriers within the art world must include removing, as much as possible, barriers to collecting, offering ways for more people to develop intimate connections to art and artists by bringing work that speaks to them home. For this reason, Sahar K. Boluki Gallery works with artists to offer works at a range of price points and, when public health conditions allow, will continue with a program of lively, inclusive events and exhibition openings to introduce new audiences to the artists it represents.
Sahar K. Boluki Gallery’s founder, Sahar Khanboluki, draws in her upbringing in Tehran’s art world—her father was a well-known Iranian painter—in a curatorial practice that began with exhibitions of Iranian artists including Monir Farman Farmaian, Sirak Melkonian, Gholam Hussein Nami, and Bahram Dabiri in Tehran prior to relocating to Toronto. Through Sahar K. Boluki Gallery, she has offered ongoing support to Iranian artists living and working in Canada, helping to bring greater attention to the artistic contributions of a community that numbers close to 100,000 in the GTA alone, as of 2016. Of the gallery’s eight Canadian artists, seven are Iranian-Canadian, making Sahar K. Boluki Gallery the only gallery in the city with a majority Iranian-Canadian roster.
Beyond its focus in terms of artists, Sahar K. Boluki Gallery works to educate the public about the aesthetic traditions that ground its artists’ work through its social media channels and curated exhibitions. These traditions include both culturally specific art forms like Persian miniature painting and more complicated, art historical influences such as the different ways in which European modernisms have influenced the work of non-Western vs. Western artists.