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eGreeting Spring With Open Arms

This week, as I was driving up my driveway, I smelled the sweet smell of jasmine permeating the air and I thought to myself, “Here it is! Spring is coming!”  For us Persians, Spring has a cultural significance since the first day of spring marks our new year.

So what a better way to ring in the new year but to head out for more adventure for the week.  On Thursday afternoon, I was invited to view the Broad Art Foundation in Santa Monica.  Eli and Edythe Broad are two of the foremost philanthropists who have been collecting contemporary art for decades. The Broads established their foundation in 1984 as a way to keep these works in the public domain and now this extensive collection is cited to be of the best in the world.  So you can imagine how amazing it was for me walk through the art on display on the different levels of the foundation building.

But my week didn’t stop there. This weekend LACMA hosted a Persian New Year Celebration in collaboration with the Farhang Foundation.  Hundreds of fellow Iranians were strolling in the courtyard, viewing the traditional Nowruz table decorations, watching traditional folkloric Persian dance, or listening to a free concert from the popular Dang Show group. (I will be writing a review of their work soon)  I even had the chance to sneak a look at the Firooz Zahedi photographs of Elizabeth Taylor visiting Iran in the museum gallery.  These photographs were truly stunning and no matter if Ms. Taylor is hiding behind a chador, you can still spot those violet eyes anywhere!

Our final stop for the day was the dinner held for Hammer Museum Circle members at the studio of talented artist, Elliott Hundley.  It is a real privilege to be able to visit the work and living space of artists and this one was no exception.  Huge collages and artwork in various stages of development hung on the walls and the artist himself chatted and mingled with his guests.  After dinner was served, we walked over to another artist space (Llyn Foulkes)  where we not only saw his artwork but got the treat of hearing him play a few songs on his very eccentric and absolutely whimsical musical machine. I have to say, I thought I was dreaming the night away.

And by 10pm, when we finally came home, I was once again greeted by my jasmine blossoms.  Spring is here in full bloom! Happy New Year to all!

Scene in Los Angeles

Many New Yorkers used to say that there is no art scene in Los Angeles. This is farther from the truth!  I am not exaggerating by saying that in a given week I may get around 3 to 4 announcements on different exhibitions taking place around town….and this is just the tip of the iceberg.

And what was even more amazing is that in the past week, I managed to scale a part of that iceberg.  Here is a glimpse of some of the great exhibitions going around town.

ACME Gallery is one of the prestigious galleries in the city and it was showcasing Jennifer Steinkamp’s video installations.  A group of my friends visited the gallery to meet with the artist herself and hear about her newest project.  A very laid back and approachable artist, she took us from one room to another to tell us of her inspiration.  On a personal note, I love one of her works of a computer animated tree that goes through the four seasons, shedding its leaves in the winter, blossoming, and swaying with the wind, and the leaves turning colors as time elapses.  I had seen this particular piece at a UCLA art show and fell in love with it. Just imagine, a couple of months later I saw this very piece displayed in the foyer of one of my friends! It is a magnificent sight. Here is a link to Jennifer’s show:

A few days later I was invited by LACMA to try their new restaurant–Ray that has been designed by the famed architect Renzo Piano.  The restaurant is named after Ray Stark, who was a famous producer and former LACMA Trustee.  So I met up with a friend and had a tasting of the Mediterranean inspired food that the Patina Group had created.  The food was absolutely wonderful with a great selection of salads, pastas, and entrees.

Of course, after lunch we headed out to see the Larry Fink Photography exhibit in the museum. Given that it was Oscar weekend, much had been written about this Vanity Fair Photographer who has captured images of celebrities and society people at the Vanity Fair Oscar Parties.  For one thing, Larry’s photographs certainly don’t flatter the elite.  By no means are these glossy and glamorous pictures of actors and actresses.  That point of view I like, but to tell you the truth, this exhibition left me uninspired. Here is a link to the show.

Two days later, I went to Soraya Nazarian’s sculpture exhibition.  Does the last name sound familiar to you?  Yes, Soraya is my talented mother-in-law, who has been sculpting for the past 25 years.  Words don’t describe how I felt when I walked into the gallery and saw her work displayed all in one space.  She simply does magic– she takes such a hard medium such as stone and transforms it into something alive and full of emotion.  The opening was a big success with lots of art aficionados and friends mingling and talking about the pieces on display.

Finally, the next day, as I was having a meeting in Century City, I had 45 minutes to spare and walked over to the Annenberg Space for Photography.  It had been weeks that I had seen banners of their new exhibition displayed all over town.  And just last week, I had run into philanthropist Wallis Annenberg herself who was raving about the latest photographs that are on display in her space.

This is a must see exhibition if you live in Los Angeles. “Extreme Exposure” documents the work of 5 photographers who dare to explore the most dangerous and remote environments to capture pictures of nature.  A photograph taken by a diver in the frozen water of Antartica to capture sea lions was magnificent.  Then there were the supernatural pictures of volcanos erupting, and wild, nearly extinct animals in India or Africa.  What is most special about this exhibition is that these rarely seen moments are accompanied by the photographers’ commentary in a 10 minute video clip.  This is a perfect show to take kids as well! Here is a link to this show:

So this was a sliver of my week in the art scene.  Just this week I received invitations to the Ed Ruscha Show at the Gagosian and the Broad Art Foundation.  So, there is more to come! But comes to show that Los Angeles has more to offer than some may chose to think!

An Artful Week

Last week started by my trekking to Sacramento for a two day meditation and writing retreat. Being in the quiet of the nature, and having time off from my hectic day to day schedule was a real gift. I managed to write a chapter for my upcoming book.

I came home refreshed and ready to embrace my activity filled weekend back in LA. Thursday night MOCA hosted a panel of distinguished guests and collectors that talked about the increasing popularity of Iranian Contemporary Art. The auditorium was packed with over three-hundred guests who sat on stairways and stood in the halls to listen to these panelists.

David and I were fortunate enough to host an afternoon tea on Saturday for Jeffrey Deitch, the new director of MOCA, and the panelists on Thursday night. Leila Taghinia-Milani Heller, whose gallery in New York has achieved a worldwide reputation for showcasing the best of Middle Eastern Art. Shirely Elghanian, founder of Magic of Persia had come from London to join us as well. Her non-profit helps emerging Iranian artists find their way to the international marketplace. Our honored guests also included Dina Nasser-Khadivi, an advisor and specialist in Iranian Contemporary Art, and consultant to Christie’s Auctioning House, and Mohammed Afkami, a key collector and supporter of Iranian Contemporary Art.

On Saturday the city was a buzz with news of the upcoming LACMA Renzo Piano designed Reznick Pavillion opening. The theme of the evening was a masked ball. Cars lined up for blocks at the start of the evening, and the star studded event was an overwhelming success. Tom Hanks, Bob Eiger, David Geffen, Ariana Huffington, Baldessari were among the guests who dined under the Italianesque tent. Christina Aguilera topped off the evening with an incredible performance.

Literary Affairs and LACMA

I always knew that I liked organizations whose names started with a letter “L”.  But I didn’t know that I would start the year off with a double “L” bing bang! Julie Robinson,

the founder of Literary Affairs, is what I call a celebrity in the Southern California Literary Scene.  She runs 30 book clubs per month as well as organizes field trips and behind the scenes experiences for her readers to fully immerse them with the topics of the books. On January 8th, Literary Affairs organized an all-around stimulating and beautiful event at one of my favorite cultural organizations—LACMA.

As she had chosen my book, Life as a Visitor, to be showcased for her book club, she decided to give her readers and added layer of Persian experience.  As luck would have it, LACMA was holding an exhibition of two very rare and spectacular Persian carpets. Both Carpets date back to the first half of the 16th century and have been rarely exhibited to the public because of its size and sensitivity to light.

Guests toured the exhibit and saw sections of the Islamic Arts Section of the museum as well. And after the tour, Julie had an hour interview with me, where we engaged in a wonderful dialogue about my book, the Iranian culture and community.  The day was closed by a Persian Style lunch, that was co-hosted by Julie, and three of my dear friends, who are also members of her book club.  Thank you Julie, Pamela, Beth, and Alison.

It was a day to be remembered.

Here is a photo of me and my co-hosts along with the President of LACMA, Michael Govan.  And one of Julie and me.