Marko Grigorian is an Armenian-Iranian artist, movie actor, teacher, gallery owner, and collectionor who played an important role in Iranian modern art.

He was born in an Armenian family on Saturday, December 5th, 1925 in Krupetkin, Krasnodar, Russia. His parents were Bagrat Grigoryan and Shoshanik Manguyan (both originally from Kars in Western Armenia and were born in 1888). In 1930 he migrated to Iran with his family and settled in Tabriz city.

Travel to Italy

He went to Italy and studied at the Academy of Fine Arts in Rome in 1950. After returning from Italy in 1954 he established the Aesthetic Gallery in Ferdowsi Street, Tehran, and held numerous exhibitions for different painters there. Thus he created a suitable space for presenting the achievements of contemporary art, especially modern art, in a small and enclosed area.

Collection of coffee house paintings

One of his most important activities is collecting Iranian traditional works of art. Especially the collection of paintings that have become known as coffee house paintings (Ghahve Khane). Marco found the only survivors of coffee house painting in Tehran and supported them by ordering painting canvas and restart painting, he called those painters ” Bohemian painters”. Marco was well aware of the value and importance of coffeehouse painting and especially the valuable position of its first founders – Hossein Qoller Aghassi and Mohammad Modbar- and by collecting their works- from coffeehouses all over the country he held an exhibition in “House of Iran” in Paris that received attention and later all of them were purchased by Tehran’s Negarestan Museum. As a result, coffeehouse painting as one of the branches of visual arts in our popular culture absorbed public attention.

Tehran Biennial

In 1958  Marco was selected as a member of the international jury of Venice Biennale, following this after returning to Iran in 1957, he founded the first Iran Biennale which lasted for five series. In the same year, by a statement Marco’s artworks deserved the first prize of the Biennale, but because he was involved in the establishment of exhibition his works excluded from the competition; Therefore, he did not receive the first prize –or  an honorary medal. Later, due to his efforts and with the cooperation of the General Department of Fine Arts, Tehran Biennial was stablished for the first time.

In 1993, he established the unique collection, which was collected over 40 years and more than five thousand pieces, entitled “Sabrina and Marko Grigorian Near Eastern Museum” in Armenia.