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Hayv Kahraman, the artist who subverts stereotypes with beauty and wit

2 min read  · 31 May 2023

Hayv Kahraman, Loves Me, Loves Me Not (2023). Copyright the artist, courtesy of ICA San Francisco

The artist Hayv Kahraman is on the HENI News radar as her elegantly witty and politically pointed portraits depicting Middle Eastern women in surreal settings are in demand among collectors.

Hayv Kahraman’s HENI Score —a unique artist sentiment— has skyrocketed by 181% after strong auction sales of the Kurdish-American artist’s exquisite but edgy paintings.

Born in Baghdad in 1981, Kahraman fled Iraq as a child along with her Kurdish family. Now based in Los Angeles, her paintings have been said to recall Persian miniatures combined with the clarity of line of a traditional Japanese woodblock, which belies their political edge and sometimes dark content. She typically subverts traditional ideas of Middle Eastern women and many of her works address her own experience of being a refugee and outsider.

Sales of Kahraman's paintings have totaled $513,500 over the past two years. Notable results include Dress Maker (2006), which sold for $53,600, over six times its high estimate at Sotheby's. An untitled painting from 2011 sold for $63,000, over four times its high estimate at Christie's Online.

Kahraman works with prestigious galleries: London-based Pilar Corrias, New York’s Jack Shainman, Vielmetter Los Angeles, and The Third Line in Dubai. Her dealers have presented her works at major art fairs, such as Frieze and Art Basel.

Her works have been offered for between $4,500 to $90,000 over the past three years.

Hayv Kahraman, Swallowing Antibodies (2021). Copyright the artist, courtesy of Vielmetter Los Angeles

In 2022, the artist had a solo show at the non-profit Mosaic Rooms in London. She talked with The Guardian about how her portraits, which are typically based on her own body but are not self-portraits, challenge what society in the West considers “normal”. Kahraman said: “I was brainwashed into thinking anything Euro-American-centric is the ideal.” As a teenager growing up in Sweden, she felt forced to assimilate, even dying her hair blonde to fit in.

In the fall of 2023, the artist is due to have her largest solo museum to date, organised by the Institute of Contemporary Art San Francisco. Her new works and installations will explore the colonial legacy of the classification of the natural world by the great Swedish botanist Carl Linnaeus.

To get a deeper understanding of Hayv Kahraman's career visit her HENI Dashboard; a unique graphical data tool illustrating an artist’s auction sales, shows, profiles, mentions and their HENI Score. You can search for any one of the 100,000 Artist Dashboards to quickly appreciate their trajectory as well as sharing via email, text and WhatsApp.


Hayv Kahraman

Los Angeles