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Salman Toor on a yellow chair in his studio
Salman Toor, portrait by Bryan Derballa

Salman Toor, portrait by Bryan Derballa

Toor painting of 2 men in a museum

Salman Toor, Art Room, 2020, oil on panel

The fantasy of an unknown artist suddenly being discovered so rarely happens, but for Salman Toor, born in 1983 in Lahore, Pakistan, it became his reality. For over a decade or so, Salman had been creating paintings in NYC reflecting his experience as a queer, immigrant brown man  when the moment arrived almost completely out of the blue—or green, in his case! 

Unbeknownst to Salman, one of the curators at the Whitney Museum of American Art, Ambika Trasi, had been following Salman’s work for years. After seeing an exhibition of his newest batch of paintings, Ambika and her colleague asked to meet Salman. Several visits later, the curators invited him to produce a new body of works for a solo exhibition at the museum, with the caveat that the show be ready in just seven months. Ecstatically, Salman accepted this golden opportunity and rose to the challenge, swiftly creating powerful new works that so perfectly encompass the fundamentals of his oeuvre.

It was around this same time that he emerged into the consciousness of art world followers via social media posts. Even as small scale digital images, they grab attention with a unique sense of colour palette and luscious buttery surfaces. Bedroom Boy, the small painting of a lounging nude taking a selfie was what I saw first. The light raining down from the smartphone reminded me of Titian’s painting of Danae and the shower of gold. This image made the rounds when it was posted by New York art critic Jerry Saltz. I even met a young Icelandic artist who painted her own version. 

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