At 25, Iranian-born artist Yalda Sepahpour already has works in elite private and corporate collections across the world. Starting on Aug. 5, as part of the Sing for Hope Piano program, she will have a piece on the streets of Beverly Hills adorning one of 16 upright pianos spread across the city.
Working primarily in oil, Sepahpour’s work exalts the feminine form and interrogates the female condition in rich, warm tones of ochre, peacock blue, and saffron sometimes juxtaposed with darker, heavier reds and blacks. Her line work is at times delicate and precise, and at others frenetic and bold, and appears on expansive canvasses standing 9 feet tall.
She draws from her childhood in Iran, depicting nude and partially clothed women amid the natural and historical elements of her birth country. The women of her work often appear beside endemic animals such as Arabian horses, camels, and local endangered species like the Arabian Oryx and the Asiatic Cheetah.
Her particular piano will be at home in Beverly Hills, which has a large Iranian immigrant community.
“Being so far away from home, it’s such a warm feeling to come here and see that the Iranian community is also here,” she said.
While she has loved the opportunity to share Iran’s history and culture with audiences in the United States, Europe, and China, she feels excited to share her art with a community with a similar background. “It’s just nice to touch base with my home and my culture,” she said.
“You see stuff on the news and it’s just not everything. Until you go and see it, until you live there [and] you see the beauty of the country, as well.”
The Sing for Hope Piano program places artist-designed upright pianos throughout public spaces to encourage community engagement. The project will begin on Aug. 5 and run until Sept. 6, at which point the organization will donate the pianos to underserved public schools throughout the greater Los Angeles area. Beverly Hills will be home to 16 pianos located in areas including Beverly Hills City Hall, Beverly Gardens Park, the Wallis Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts, Will Rogers Memorial Park, La Cienega Park, and Roxbury Park.
Sepahpour has lived an international life, growing up in Iran, going to school in Switzerland, and then moving to the United States in 2014. She speaks English, French, and Farsi. In 2015, she enrolled in Laguna College of Art and Design, and before finishing her studies, she was discovered by the French Canadian gallery Simard Bilodeau Contemporary and began painting professionally.
A stroke of kismet put her on the gallery’s radar. Her studio at the time in Laguna Beach sat right across the street from the gallery. The owners, Eve-Marie Bilodeau and Guy Simard, visited Sepahpour one day as she modeled for another one of their artists. After seeing a 9 ft. mural-in-progress, Bilodeau asked if she could have it finished in time for the LA Art Show. One week and many late nights later, the piece appeared in the show under the gallery’s auspices and sold to the well-known street artist RETNA within 30 minutes.
A waiting list soon formed for Sepahpour’s work, which sold nearly as fast as she could paint it. Her pieces adorn the walls of Cult Gaia founder Jasmin Larian, “The Avengers” director Joe Russo, and an unnamed Eastern European president.(Sepahpour could not disclose their name). Her work lives across the world in the United Arab Emirates, Switzerland, the United Kingdom, Iran, and Canada.
About her success, she said, “You work hard, you put in the time, and just put it out there. And if it sells, it sells.”