What is Khor?


"Khor" (pronounced /xor/ or /kɔː/) is an inlet, a small gulf. It is a delicate tidal area with its own ecosystem. This native word for Middle Eastern estuaries is a symbol of middle eastern art, especially in Iran, which represents a unique and highly influential cultural-geological region in the world.

Khor Art Initiative was born amid the COVID-19 pandemic in Iran in May 2020. The timing of this project was not a mere coincidence but rather a calculated initiative. Despite all the challenges and our lack of experience, we were determined to organize an event with major objectives in mind, at a time when we thought it could prove most helpful for our art community; and we were fortunate to achieve this goal at a quality higher than we expected. On rather short notice, not only did we succeed in bringing together a group of elite international jurors but also were met with a warm welcome by artists from all across Iran. The jury process resulted in the selection and online exhibition of works from 54 mostly emerging artists. For more than half of our jurors - who represent a wide range of roles in the world of art - this was the first chance to be exposed to Iranian art today. They were pleasantly surprised with the quality and variety of the submissions.

Based on the experience gained from our first event, Khor Art Initiative 2021 saw several changes including the introduction of a two-step judging process, announcing a list of 5 finalists, and the possibility of organizing a physical group exhibition by the artists for the first time since the COVID-19 restrictions. The open call saw a 40 percent increase in submissions from all corners of the country. Nearly two-thirds of the applicants were young female artists mostly in their 20s and 30s.

Khor 2021 was also held online. The jury consisted of a distinguished mix of voices in the Middle Eastern and international art, including Roxane Zand, Anna Wallace-Thompson, Max Presneill, Murtaza Vali, Lila Nazemian, and Lee Ann Biddle. 30 shortlisted artists were selected in the first stage, and 5 finalists emerged from the initial list of 30 during a meeting in the second stage. As the submissions turned out to exceed expectations, the jury unanimously agreed on announcing an additional list of four "Special Mentions" at the end of the event.


Goals and Features

  • Khor Art Initiative is a free open call for paintings and drawings. All Iranian artists - living inside or outside of Iran - are welcome to apply.

  • Presenting Iran's contemporary art at regional and international levels has always been SARAI Gallery's core vision, and we intend to achieve this by discovering capable, talented, and hard-working Iranian artists and presenting their work on various international platforms. Designed to accomplish our main objective, Khor Art Initiative aims to discover local talents to introduce them beyond the borders.

  • In line with our core objective, Khor Art Initiative 2021 jurors, like last year, will be comprised of a group of highly accomplished regional and international components of contemporary visual arts.

  • Once again the entire process of Khor 2022, from submitting applications to review and eventually exhibition of selected works is going to take place online.

  • The selection process will be done in one phase by the jury board.

  • In this year's event, five artists will be selected and their works will be shown on the gallery websites.

  • The first winner will receive a cash prize of IRR 300,000,000.

  • At least one artwork from each of the five winners will be acquired by the gallery at a maximum price of IRR 150,000,000.

  • As with last year's Khor, one of the five winners will be chosen to join the artists represented by SARAI Gallery.

The winners of the first and second Khor Art Initiative have since been represented by SARAI Gallery, while we have also continued our collaboration with some of the shortlisted artists through collective and individual shows and projects. 

And now, we are excited to announce Khor Art Initiative 2022 is open. The third Khor Art Prize will continue to follow the initiative's long-term goals as we strive to present the event with the highest standards. Looking forward eagerly to seeing new works and meeting new talents.


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