Tony Shafrazi

Last updated
Tony Shafrazi
Born (1943-05-08) May 8, 1943 (age 77)
Abadan, Iran
Alma mater Royal College of Art
OccupationArt dealer, gallery owner

Tony Shafrazi (born May 8, 1943), is an American art dealer, gallery owner and artist. He is the owner of the Shafrazi Art Gallery in New York City, who deals artwork by artists such as Francis Bacon, Keith Haring, and David LaChapelle.


Early life and education

Shafrazi was born in Abadan, Iran to Iranian Armenian parents and raised Christian. [1] [2] His parents divorced when he was two years old. [2] [3] At the age of 13, his father, an oil-company executive, and his stepmother took Shafrazi to England and left him to study there. [3] He first went to a vicarage in Bilston, then to boarding school in Whittlebury, and later Hammersmith College of Art & Building. [2] He attended the Royal College of Art from 1963 to 1967. [1] [2] While attending Royal College of Art, Shafrazi visited New York City in 1965, staying in a YMCA that was near Andy Warhol's Factory. [2] On that trip he met Roy Lichtenstein, Andy Warhol, and art dealer Leo Castelli. [2]

He moved to New York City in 1969, [4] where he lectured at several universities, including the School of Visual Arts. [3]

Art work

Shafrazi and Guernica

On February 28, 1974, Shafrazi spray-painted Picasso's 1937 painting Guernica , which hung in the Museum of Modern Art, with the words "KILL LIES ALL" in foot-high letters. [3] [5] He had meant to write, "ALL LIES KILL", as a response to James Joyce's novel, Finnegans Wake . [5] When a guard finally grabbed him, Shafrazi shouted, "Call the curator. I am an artist." [3]

The paint was easily removed as the painting was heavily varnished. It is believed that Shafrazi was protesting the announcement, the day before, of the release on bail of U.S. lieutenant William Calley. Calley, then under house arrest following his conviction, in 1971, for his part in the My Lai massacre in Vietnam, had petitioned for habeas corpus; he had initially been sentenced to life imprisonment. Although his appeal was overturned in June, he was finally released from U.S. Army custody later in the year after having received a limited pardon from Richard Nixon.

Shafrazi was a member of the Art Workers' Coalition, which in 1970 had staged a protest at MoMA by unfurling a copy of the famous My Lai protest poster And babies in front of the Guernica painting, which itself depicts the tragedies of war and the suffering it inflicts upon innocent civilians. Shafrazi was later given five years' probation, without a trial. [3]

Art Basel 2012

Shafrazi dedicated his booth at Art Basel 2012 to his own artwork and caused a stir. [6] [7] After nine hours, he added other artists to his booth. [8]

Art dealer

In 1976, only a few years after the spray painting incident, Shafrazi returned to his homeland and became the art advisor to the Shah of Iran and Kamran Diba, then director of the Teheran Museum of Contemporary Art. [4] Shafrazi went to about 15 of the top New York dealers at the time — including Leo Castelli, Ileana Sonnabend, Paula Cooper, John Weber, and Irving Blum — and helped assemble a 20th-century art collection on the Shah's behalf within four years. [9] As he did so his power expanded in the art market. The museum Shafrazi had constructed in Tehran to house this collection epitomized the Shah's modern Iranian state, thus the collection was predominantly Western: from Impressionism to Abstract Expressionism, Pop and Conceptual Art, including works by Andy Warhol, Roy Lichtenstein, and Willem de Kooning.

In 1978, Shafrazi briefly opened his own commercial gallery in a small Tehran shopfront but closed it because of conditions in the country leading up to the 1979 Revolution. [10] He lost much of his art during that time but safely returned to New York City. [10]

Shafrazi converted his rented apartment into a makeshift gallery where he slept on a small loft bed at night. [3] In 1979, he opened his first New York City gallery, and within a few years he had made his reputation handling talents like Donald Baechler and then-hot graffiti artists like Jean-Michel Basquiat, Keith Haring, and Kenny Scharf and also European artists like Brian Clarke, Enzo Cucchi, Hervé Di Rosa, and Jean-Charles Blais. [4] In 1990, he opened a new 13,000-square-foot gallery at 119 Wooster Street, with an exhibition entitled "American Masters of the 60's" and including Carl Andre, Tom Wesselmann, Jasper Johns, Donald Judd, Frank Stella, and Andy Warhol. [11]

In 1999, the Francis Bacon estate chose Shafrazi as its United States representative. [12] In 2004, the gallery opened another space on 26th Street with a large show of paintings by Picasso, Francis Bacon and Jean-Michel Basquiat. [13]

Shafrazi's gallery closed in 2014. [14] [15] His clients have included Donald Trump and Larry Silverstein. [14]

Personal life

In 1995, Stephanie Seymour and Peter Brant had Shafrazi serve as the best man at their wedding at an estate outside Paris. [16]

Tony Shafrazi is also actively involved in supporting Children of Armenia Fund, a charitable organization, that aims to advance rural communities in Armenia. He is the Honorary Chair of COAF Honorary Board. [17]

In 2020, Shafrazi has publicly supported Donald Trump for president. [15]

See also

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  1. 1 2 Wilson, Owen (November 24, 2008). "Tony Shafrazi". Interview Magazine . Retrieved 2020-09-23. For me, being Christian Armenian, born into the Islamic culture in Iran and then, at the age of 13, being sent to England and embracing the English culture...
  2. 1 2 3 4 5 6 von Hase, Bettina (February 20, 2010). "The Fine Art of Philanthropy". Financial Times. Archived from the original on 2014-08-12. Retrieved 2020-09-23. He was born in 1943 to Iranian parents who divorced when he was two, and Shafrazi’s father wanted him to have an English education.....The young Tony was sent to live in a vicarage in Bilston, Suffolk, then to a boarding school called Whittlebury, north of Oxford, where he took refuge in the art department and life-drawing classes. He trained as an artist, first at London’s Hammersmith College of Art and Building and then at the Royal College of Art between 1963 and 1967.
  3. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 David Grogan (March 26, 1984), Once He Vandalized Picasso's Guernica, but Now Tony Shafrazi Is a Successful Patron of the Arts People .
  4. 1 2 3 Carol Vogel (October 12, 1998), Another Look at Bacon; Newfound Canvases Shed More Light on a Master New York Times .
  5. 1 2 Saltz, Jerry (June 12, 2008). "Who's Afraid of Jasper Johns?". New York Magazine. Retrieved 2020-09-23.
  6. "Shafrazi shows arty side". Page Six. 2012-06-18. Retrieved 2020-09-24.
  7. "Is Tony Shafrazi Getting Evicted from His SoHo Loft?". artnet News. 2014-11-06. Retrieved 2020-09-24.
  8. Ulrichs, David (2012-06-15). "A Slow and Steady Art Basel". Retrieved 2020-09-24.
  9. Olga of Greece (December 2, 2007), Masterpiece Basement New York Times .
  10. 1 2 Zeitz, Lisa (2009-09-10). "Tony Shafrazi". artnet Magazine. Retrieved 2020-09-24.
  11. Roberta Smith (May 11, 1990), So Big and So Dressed Up, New Galleries Bloom in SoHo New York Times .
  12. Sarah Thornton (August 29, 2008), Francis Bacon claims his place at the top of the market The Art Newspaper .
  13. Roberta Smith (November 28, 2004), Chelsea Enters Its High Baroque Period New York Times .
  14. 1 2 "Tony Shafrazi Sues Landlord for $20 Million". artnet News. 2015-03-10. Retrieved 2020-09-24.
  15. 1 2 "Wet Paint: A Pro-Trump Dealer Joins the 'Reopen' Protests, Mega-Galleries Lose Artists, & More Juicy Art-World Gossip". artnet News. 2020-04-23. Retrieved 2020-09-23.
  16. Holson, Laura M. (2010-08-20). "Brant vs. Brant: Divorce Celebrity Style". The New York Times. ISSN   0362-4331 . Retrieved 2020-09-23. It’s all a great contrast to the couple’s marriage 15 years earlier. Tony Shafrazi, the art dealer and a longtime friend of the duo, was best man at their 1995 wedding in a chapel on an estate outside Paris.
  17. "Honorary Board". CoafKids. 2019.