Marcos Grigorian (Persian: مارکو گريگوريان, Armenian: Մարկոս Գրիգորեան; December 5, 1925 – August 27, 2007) was a notable Iranian-Armenian artist and a pioneer of Iranian modern art.
Grigorian was born in Kropotkin, Russia, to an Armenian family from Kars who had fled that city to escape massacres when it was captured by Turkey in 1920. In 1930 the family moved from Kropotkin to Iran, living first in Tabriz, and then in Tehran. After finishing pre-university education in Iran, in 1950 he studied at the Accademia di Belle Arti in Rome. Graduating from there in 1954, he returned to Iran, opened the Galerie Esthétique, an important commercial gallery in Tehran. In 1958, under the auspices of the Ministry of Culture, he organized the first Tehran Biennial. Grigorian was also an influential teacher at the Fine Arts Academy, where he disseminated his enthusiasm for local popular culture, including coffee-house paintings, a type of folk art named after the locations in which they were often displayed.
In 1975 Grigorian helped organize the group of free painters and sculptors in Tehran and was one of its founder members. Artists Gholamhossein Nami, Massoud Arabshahi,Morteza Momayez and Faramarz Pilaram were amongst the other members of the group. As a modernist pop artist Marcos Grigorian turned to ordinary objects and popular ethnic forms and approaches. He used ethnic food such as “Nan Sangak” and “Abghousht” to evoke authenticity in his work. Grigorian was a trend setter in experimenting with Earth Art, in Iran.
Grigorian left Iran in 1977 at the age of 52. He lived for a short time in the United States before moving to Yerevan, Armenia, then still a republic of the Soviet Union. In 1989, he traveled to Russia at the invitation of the Union of Russian Artists, visiting Moscow and Leningrad.
He exhibited his clay and straw works in Yerevan in 1991. He later donated 5,000 of his artworks to the government of Armenia. In 1993 he founded the “Museum of the Middle East” in Yerevan: 2,600 exhibits are on display, with most of them coming from his own collection.
On 4 August 2007 Grigorian was assaulted and beaten about the head by two masked robbers who had broken into his Yerevan home. It was speculated that the robbers believed, erroneously, that there was a large sum of money in the house, proceeds from the sale of Grigorian’s summer residence in Garni. After an anonymous phone call to police, Grigorian was discovered injured and taken to hospital. He died of a suspected heart attack on 27 August 2007, a day after leaving the hospital.
Vardush (Arshile Gorky’s sister), Oil on Canvas, 1984 | Yvette Tajarian’s portrait, Oil on Canvas, 2007