Salman Toor is a Pakistani-born American painter. He is known for his figurative paintings in which he often incorporates skinny, brown, and hairy men. In August 2023, he hit the headlines after the rumour of his marriage with popular Pakistani singer Ali Sethi speared on the internet.
Salman Toor was born in 1983 (age 40 years; as 0f 2023) in Lahore, Pakistan. He attended Aitchison College, Lahore, Pakistan. He pursued a Bachelor’s of Fine Art (Painting and Drawing), with Honors at Ohio Wesleyan University, Delaware Ohio, United States in 2006. He received a Master of Fine Art (Painting) from The Pratt Institute, Brooklyn, New York in 2009. In 2019, he received the citizenship of America.
Height (approx.): 5′ 10″
Hair Colour: Black
Eye Colour: Black
Parents & Siblings
His father is a businessman and his mother is a homemaker. He has two younger siblings.
In August 2023, there were rumours that Salman Toor had an intimate wedding with the popular Pakistani singer Ali Sethi in New York; however, Ali denied getting married to Salman and refuted the claims. ThePrint Salman and Ali are good friends for a long time. They first met each other at Aitchison College during an art class.
Toor’s art was put up for auction for the first time on 20 October 2020 at Phillips Auction House in London, where his artwork titled “Aashiana” (Hearth and Home) was sold for £138,600, which was twice the expected price. His artwork “Liberty Porcelain” (2012) was sold for £378,000 on 15 December 2020 at the same auction house in London.
In June 2021, his painting “Girl with Driver” (2013) was sold at Phillips Auction House in Hong Kong for $890,000, which was five times more than the estimated price. From 2020-2021, he exhibited some of his paintings at his solo show ‘Salman Toor: How Will I Know,’ held at the Whitney Museum of American Art. His painting ‘Museum Boys’ (2021) was exhibited for one year (2021-2022) at the Frick Collection, as a part of his exhibition ‘Living Histories: Queer Views and Old Masters,’ where his painting was exhibited along with two paintings titled ‘Officer and Laughing Girl’ (made between 1655-1660) and ‘Mistress and Maid’ (1667) made by the ancient painter Johannes Vermeer.
In 2021, he created drawings for the book ‘Jungle Nama,’ written by Amitav Ghosh.
Theme & Style
Toor’s artworks are predominantly based on the themes such as LGBTQ, the treatment of brown men in society, young people in public and private spaces, and the role of technology in daily life. In his paintings, he covers a range of topics from art history to queer culture to Post-Colonialism. His paintings are mainly figurative in which he often incorporates the skinny, undernourished, and hairy men figures. In an interview, while talking about the themes and style of his artwork, he said,
I like these seemingly undernourished and hairy bodies of color inhabiting familiar, bourgeois, urban, interior spaces. I see these boys or men as well-educated, creative types discovering what it means to live an artist’s life in New York City and in the thick of changing ideas about race, immigration, and foreignness, and also what it means to be American. Sometimes they can look like lifestyle images. They are also fantasies about myself and my community.”
According to some curators, Toor’s use of bright and saturated colours in his paintings evokes emotions. Among these colours, green holds a prominent place in his creations. In an interview, he talked about the nocturnal quality that green can bring to a painting, along with its contradictory connections to both toxicity and allure. He said,
I chose green for aesthetic reasons. There is something nocturnal about it, like night vision. It’s inviting and glamorous, but it has connotations of poisonous gases and potions. But most importantly, I like that it’s not a sentimental color.”
Selected Solo Shows
- Salman Toor: No Ordinary Love, Baltimore Museum of Art, Baltimore, MD; Tampa Museum of Art, Tampa, FL; Honolulu Museum of Art, Honolulu, HI; Rose Art Museum, Brandeis University,Waltham, MA (2022-2024)
- Salman Toor: New Paintings and Drawings, M WOODS, Beijing, China; The Art Gallery of Western Australia, Perth, Australia (2022-2023)
- Salman Toor: Music Room, Hayward Gallery Billboard, Queen Elizabeth Hall, London, England (2021-2022)
- How Will I Know, Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, NY (2020-2021)
- Salman Toor: I Know a Place, Nature Morte Gallery, New Delhi, India (2019-2020)
- New Paintings, O Art Space, Lahore, Pakistan (2019)
- Time After Time, Aicon Gallery, New York, NY (2018)
- Short Stories, Canvas Gallery, KarachiPakistan (2017)
- Salman Toor: Drawings from ‘The Electrician’, Honey Ramka, New York, NY (2015)
- Resident Alien, Aicon Gallery, New York, NY (2015)
- Close Quarters, Canvas Gallery, Karachi, Pakistan (2014)
- The Happy Servant, Aicon Gallery, New York, NY (2013)
- I ♥ Kitsch, Rohtas II Gallery, Lahore, Pakistan (2011)
- New Paintings, Canvas Gallery, Karachi, Pakistan (2010)
- Three Paintings, Kahlo Gallery, Lebrón-Wiggins-Pran Cultural Center, Hampshire College, Amherst, MA (2009)
Selected Group Shows
- Capturing the Moment, Tate Modern, London, England
- The New York Century: 100 Years of Imagining New York, Museum of the City of New York, New York, NY
- Beautiful, Vivid, Self-Contained, Hill Art Foundation, New York, NY
- Brave New World: 16 Painters for the 21st Century, Museum de Fundatie, Zwolle, The Netherlands
- Very Small Feelings, Dhaka Art Summit, Bangladesh Shilpakala Academy, Dhaka, Bangladesh; Kiran Nadar Museum of Art, New Delhi, India
- Dark Light: Realism in the Age of Post-Truths, Aïshti Foundation, Jal El Dib, Lebanon
- Manifesto of Fragility: The Many Lives and Deaths of Louise Brunet, 16e Biennale d’Art Contemporain Lyon, macLYON, Lyon, France
- Manifesto of Fragility: A World of Endless Promise, 16e Biennale d’Art Contemporain Lyon, URDLA,Villeurbane, France
- Based on a True Story, Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago, Chicago, IL
- Brave New World: 16 Painters for the 21st Century, Museum De Fundatie, Zwolle, The Netherlands
- Luncheon on the Grass, Jeffrey Deitch, Los Angeles, CA
- My Reflection of You, The Perimeter, London, England
- Pictus Porrectus: Reconsidering the Full-Length Portrait, Art & Newport at Isaac Bell House and Salon at Rosecliff, The Preservation Society of Newport County, Newport, RI
- Any Distance Between Us, RISD Museum, Providence, RI
- Living Histories: Queer Views and Old Masters, Frick Madison, New York, NY
- and I will wear you in my heart of heart, FLAG Art Foundation, New York, NY
- Breakfast Under the Tree, Carl Freedman Gallery, Margate, England
- Drawing Biennial 2021, Drawing Room, London, England
- Equal Affections, GRIMM, Amsterdam, The Netherlands
- The Pleasure Pavilion: A Series of Installations, Luhring Augustine Bushwick, Brooklyn, NY
- Plus One, Luhring Augustine, New York, NY
- Art on the Grid: 50 Artists’ Reflections on the Pandemic, Public Art Fund, various locations, New York, NY
- Duro Olowu: Seeing Chicago, Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago, Chicago, IL
- Form & Figure: Bodies of Art, Grosvenor Gallery, London, England
- Myselves, Kohn Gallery, Los Angeles, CA
- Xenia: Crossroads in Portrait Painting, Marianne Boesky, New York, NY
- Home Is Not a Place, Anat Ebgi Gallery, Los Angeles, CA
- Likeness of Being: Portraiture in the Selfie Age, Aicon Gallery, New York, NY
- Them, Galerie Perrotin, New York, NY
- Are You Here?, Lahore Biennale 2018, Lahore, Pakistan
- Go Figure, Aicon Gallery, New York, NY
- Kochi-Muziris Biennale, Kochi, India
- Wrech, Honey Ranka, New York, NY
- Cinephiliac: Art Transcending Technology and Motion, Twelve Gates Art Gallery, Philadelphia, PA
- Return of the Native, Rohtas II Gallery, Lahore, Pakistan
- Letters to Taseer II, Drawing Room Gallery, Lahore, Pakistan
- Stop, Play, Pause, Repeat, Lawrie Shabibi Gallery, Dubai, United Arab Emirates
- All About Us, Canvas Gallery, Karachi, Pakistan
- Exchange Show, Montclair University MFA Gallery, Montclair, NJ
- I Think the Word Is Dignity, Lumenhouse Gallery, Brooklyn, NY
- Pratt MFA Thesis Show, Stueben Gallery, Brooklyn, NY
- Skin Deep, Kips Gallery, New York, NY
- Wound, Aicon Gallery, London, England
- Pratt in Lucca, Piazza del Anfiteatro, Lucca, Italy
- Toor is a member of a group of LGBTQ painters called ‘New Queer Intimists.’ The group also include his contemporary painters such as Doron Langberg, Louis Fratino, Kyle Coniglio, Anthony Cudahy, TM Davy, and Devan Shimoyama.
- In an interview, the artist revealed that initially, he took inspiration from Pakistani advertisements for his artworks. However, when he later started concentrating more on art, he found inspiration in paintings from older times like the Baroque, Neoclassical, and Rococo periods.
- In an interview, he revealed that he felt inspired by artists such as Van Dyck, Peter Paul Reubens, Caravaggio, and Watteau.
- Most of Toor’s artworks in his solo exhibition ‘How Will I Know’ (2020-2021) at the Whitney Museum of American Art were bought by the museum benefactors even before the show started.
- At the beginning of his career, Toor wasn’t much interested in modern art instead, he painted skilled and modern versions of old portraits, landscapes, and scenes from the Renaissance to the eighteenth century. In an interview, he talked about it and said,
I thought a lot of modern art was just crap—boring and deliberately depressing.” He added, “In school, I had been fascinated by Renaissance art because of the basic thing it had mastered—the realism. I wanted to be as good as those painters.”
- In 2012, he started doing experiments with his paintings by incorporating cartoon-like images of his friends, setting them in the contemporary world. However, didn’t share these pictures for a few years. In 2015, he had an exhibition called “Resident Alien” at Aicon Gallery in New York, where he showed a bunch of these pictures. This is when he realized that he was onto something special. His breakthrough came in 2020 when he displayed fifteen of these works in the Whitney Museum of American Art.
- He had his first solo show in 2013 at Aicon Gallery in New York.
- In his artwork, he brought back the style of figurative art and storytelling, which was popular in the 1990s in a whole new way by using it in a bold and open way of expressing his feelings about being queer. Some of his paintings based on the queer theme include ‘9PM, the News,’ ‘Reunion,’ ‘The Green Bar,’ ‘Boys in Bed,’ and ‘Bar Boy.’
- He had a deep interest in drawing since childhood and began making drawings when he was five years old. In an interview, he revealed that when he was a child he liked to paint feminine pictures but his aunt encouraged him to make drawings of sports cars. While talking about this in the interview, he said,
My aunt encouraged me to draw sports cars instead, so I drew a boxy, badly imagined vehicle with a girl’s head sticking out the window.”
- In 2019, Toor had a solo show at the Nature Morte Gallery, in New Delhi, but due to the strained relationship between India and Pakistan, at that time, he couldn’t attend the show. However, some of his paintings later were sent to a museum in India, where they were well received by the audience.
- In 2019, the Joan Mitchell Foundation awarded Toor with the Painters and Sculptors Grant.