Ala Ebtekar

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Ala Ebtekar
Born (1978-07-21) July 21, 1978 (age 40)
Berkeley, California, United States

Ala Ebtekar (born July 21, 1978) is an American-based visual artist who lives in the San Francisco Bay Area.[1] Ebtekar is known primarily for his work in painting, drawing, and installation that explores the juncture between history and myth, forging a multi-faceted project that melds Persian mythology, science, philosophy and pop culture together.[2]


Ala Ebtekar grew up in the San Francisco Bay Area to parents who immigrated to the United States from Iran. He started drawing at an early age, but in his adolescent years, began to focus his energies on music. In 1992, at age 13, he went through DJ training at KALX 90.7 FM, the radio station of the University of California at Berkeley. This experience with music eventually led Ebtekar to the world of graffiti and ultimately back to an interest in visual art. In 1998 he was chosen to participate in a workshop at Zeum Art and Technology Center (now Children's Creativity Museum) with New York–based artist Tim Rollins and K.O.S. (Kids of Survival) to create work for the center's inaugural exhibition.

Ebtekar, along with several other young artists from the San Francisco Bay Area, came to form the core unit for a West Coast chapter of KOS. This experience of working with Rollins introduced Ebtekar to the contemporary art world. Rollins' active mentorship pushed Ebtekar to think more critically and conceptually about his work and to consider applying to an undergraduate art school.[1] One year later, Ebtekar traveled to Tehran, Iran to visit extended family which led him to return several months later to study art. Initially studying with a traditional Persian miniature painter, Ebtekar soon discovered the mid-20th Century style of qahveh khanehei painting (Iranian coffee house painting), and studied under master qahveh khanehei painter Mohammad "Darvish" Farahani.[3] A style defined as much by its popularity amongst regular folk as its distance from court arts. In contradistinction to the official court painters of the time, qahveh khanehei painters brought fine art from the exclusive province of those with money and power to the domain of the common people. A singular characteristic of qahveh khanehei painting was its freedom, as artists of this style created their work with neither external themes nor the attention to proper anatomy and perspective as seen in miniature paintings. Qahveh khanehei painters worked entirely from their imagination and creative ability. It's entirely fitting that Ebtekar found early artistic inspiration from the worlds of graffiti and the modern tradition of qahveh khanehei painting, as his work has encompassed comparable populist sensibilities spanning continents, celebrating the stories and lives of heroic everyday people across time.[4]


Following his experience with Tim Rollins + KOS and studying traditional painting in Iran as a teenager, Ebtekar went on to pursue a formal education in fine arts. In 2002 he received his BFA degree from the San Francisco Art Institute followed by an MFA from Stanford University in 2006.[5] He served as a Visiting Lecturer in the Department of Art Practice at the University of California at Berkeley from 2007 to 2008, and has served as visiting faculty in the Department of Art and Art History at Stanford University since 2009.


Ebtekar's work has been included in over 70 group exhibitions, 5 two-person exhibitions, and 12 solo exhibitions.[6] Significant group exhibitions include "The 2006 California Biennial" at the Orange County Museum of Art (Newport Beach, CA), organized by Elizabeth Armstrong, Orange County Museum of Art's deputy director for programs and chief curator, Karen Moss, curator of collections and director of education and public programs, and consulting curator Rita Gonzalez;[7] travelling exhibition "One Way or Another: Asian American Art Now” (2006–2008), curated by Melissa Chiu, Director and Curator of Contemporary Asian Art at the Asia Society Museum, Karin Higa, Senior Curator of Art at the Japanese American National Museum, Los Angeles, and Susette S. Min, Assistant Professor of Asian American Studies and Art History at the University of California, Davis and exhibited at Asia Society and Museum (New York, NY), Blaffer Gallery at University of Houston (Houston, TX), Berkeley Art Museum (Berkeley, CA), Japanese American National Museum (Los Angeles, CA), and Honolulu Academy of Arts (Honolulu, HI); "Bay Area Now 5" (2008) at Yerba Buena Center for the Arts (San Francisco, CA), organized by Kate Eilertsen, Acting Director of Visual Arts and Berin Golonu, Associate Visual Arts Curator; and "The Global Contemporary. Art Worlds after 1989" (2011) at Museum of Contemporary Art (Karlsruhe, Germany), curated by Andrea Buddensieg and Peter Weibel.[8] In May 2005, Ebtekar had a two-person exhibition at Lisa Dent Gallery in San Francisco with artist Jeong-Im Yi.

Significant solo exhibitions include "Elemental" (2004) at Intersection for the Arts (San Francisco, CA);[9] "Ala Ebtekar" (2007) at Gallery Paule Anglim (San Francisco, CA);[6] "1388" (2009) at The Third Line (Dubai, United Arab Emirates);[10] "Indelible Whispers of the Sun" (2010) at Charlie James Gallery (Los Angeles, CA);[11] "Elsewhen" (2012) at The Third Line (Dubai, United Arab Emirates); and "Absent Arrival" (2012) at Gallery Paule Anglim (San Francisco, CA).[12]

Art, Social Space and Public Discourse[edit]

Envisioned and directed by Ala Ebtekar, "Art, Social Space and Public Discourse" is a three-year Stanford initiative on art that investigates the multiple contexts that shift and define changing ideas of public space. This ongoing critical framework of conversations, newly issued art projects, and exploration of various cultural productions and intellectual traditions looks at recent transformations of civic life.[13]


Ebtekar was a resident artist at the Stanford University Paris Studio in 2006, an Imprint Artist in Residence at the San Francisco Center for the Book in 2008, and a resident artist at the 18th Street Arts Center in Santa Monica in 2009 through the VIsions from the New California Award, a project of the Alliance of Artist Communities in partnership with the James Irvine Foundation.[14]

The Huffington Post featured and mentioned Ala Ebtekar as one of the "17 Visual Artists You Should Know in 2016".[15]

Art market & Collections[edit]

Ebtekar is represented by Gallery Paule Anglim in San Francisco, California; and The Third Line (Dubai, United Arab Emirates).

Ebtekar’s works are part of several notable public and private collections including the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, USA; Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive, CA, USA; Deutsche Bank, Frankfurt, Germany; de Young Fine Arts Museum, San Francisco, USA; Crocker Art Museum, CA, USA; Devi Art Foundation, India; Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art, AR, USA; and Orange County Museum of Art, CA, USA, among others.[16]


  1. ^ a b Cynthia Houng (December 18, 2007). "Ala Ebtekar Interview".
  2. ^ Sara Raza (May 29, 2012). "Nostalgia for The Future". Ibraaz.
  3. ^ ArteEast (April 1, 2007). "Under The Indigo Dome: An Exhibition of work by Amir H Fallah and Ala Ebtekar". ArteEast. Archived from the original on June 16, 2013.
  4. ^ Kevin B. Chen (December 18, 2007). "1388 Exhibition Catalogue" (PDF). The Third Line.[permanent dead link]
  5. ^ Jack Fischer (May 1, 2009). "All the Identities He Can Paint". Stanford Magazine.
  6. ^ a b Gallery Paule Anglim (2013). "Artist's Biography" (PDF). Gallery Paule Anglim. Archived from the original (PDF) on September 23, 2013.
  7. ^ "2006 California Biennial".
  8. ^ "The Global Contemporary. Art Worlds after 1989" ZKM Museum of Contemporary Art, Karlsruhe, Germany. Web. September 16, 2011. [1]
  9. ^ Clark Buckner (June 2004). "Elemental". San Francisco Bay Guardian.
  10. ^ "Exhibitions". March 1, 2013. Archived from the original on November 3, 2011.
  11. ^ "Shows @CJG". Charlie James Gallery.
  12. ^ "Absent Arrival". Archived from the original on December 20, 2012.
  13. ^ Missing or empty |title= (help)
  14. ^ "Visions from a New California". Archived from the original on July 19, 2013.
  15. ^ Missing or empty |title= (help)
  16. ^ Missing or empty |title= (help)