Salman Toor is a Pakistani-born American painter. His works depict the imagined lives of young, Queer men of South Asian-birth, displayed in close range in either South Asia and New York City fantasized settings. Toor lives and works in New York City.
Salman Toor was born in 1983 in Lahore, Pakistan. He attended Aitchison College. Toor came to the United States to attend school at Ohio Wesleyan University, where he received a Bachelor of Arts degree in 2006. He then obtained his MFA degree from Pratt Institute in Brooklyn in 2009.
Toor is a part of a loosely-affiliated group of LGBTQ painters, sometimes called the New Queer Intimists, which also includes contemporaries Doron Langberg, Louis Fratino, Kyle Coniglio, Anthony Cudahy, TM Davy, and Devan Shimoyama.
In 2019, Toor was awarded a grant from the Joan Mitchell Foundation.
From 2020 to 2021, Toor's recent paintings were the subject of a solo exhibition, Salman Toor: How Will I Know at the Whitney Museum of American Art. From 2021 to 2022, Toor's painting, Museum Boys (2021) is on view at the Frick Collection; as part of the artist residency and the exhibition, Living Histories: Queer Views and Old Masters where it is placed in a room in conversation with two paintings by Johannes Vermeer, Officer and Laughing Girl (made between 1655 and 1660) and Mistress and Maid (c. 1667).
Toor's work is included in the museum collections at the Whitney Museum of American Art, and Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago.
Toor has described that his work is concerned with a variety of themes, such as treatment of brown men, young people in public and private spaces, and the role of technology in daily life. Curator Amika Trasi has noted ”They are ruminations on the identifications variously imposed on and adopted by queer South Asian men living in the diaspora”. In doing so, Trasi has written, Toor aims to include queer brown men in the art historical canon that is often missing this representation.
Growing up in Pakistan, Toor explained an interview that he drew inspiration from Pakistani advertisements. Once he began to focus more on art, Toor found inspiration in paintings from the Baroque, Neoclassical, and Rococo eras. Specifically Toor describes being inspired by Van Dyck, Peter Paul Reubens, Caravaggio, and Watteau. Curators note Toor’s art historical knowledge makes its way into his work. For example, critic and curator Joseph Wolin observes that Toor's The Bar on East 13th directly references Manet’s A Bar at the Folies-Bergere.
In terms of his figuration, Toor has explained, “I like these seemingly undernourished and hairy bodies of color inhabiting familiar, bourgeois, urban, interior spaces. I see these boys or men as well-educated, creative types discovering what it means to live an artist’s life in New York City and in the thick of changing ideas about race, immigration, and foreignness, and also what it means to be American. Sometimes they can look like lifestyle images. They are also fantasies about myself and my community."
Curators have noted Toor's paintings make use of bright, saturated colors to evoke emotion. Green is one of the most notable colors in his work. The artist cites the “nocturnal" quality that green can give to a painting, as well as it’s conflicting associations with poison and glamor. Toor works from memory and often depicts his friends in his paintings.
Toor illustrated Amitav Ghosh's 2021 book in verse, Jungle Nama.