Biography: Born in Tehran and raised in Europe and the United States, Iran, Issa-Khan began her photography career in the late 1970s. Issa-Khan photographed Paulina Porizkova, Christy Turlington, Iman, Andie Mac Dowell, Debbie Dickinson Talisa Soto, and other supermodels.
Iran Issa Khan has an eye for everything beautiful. Though the lens of her camera, she caught a glimpse of true splendor –Miami. Falling head over heels for the tropical paradise, Iran Issa Khan aspired to share it with the rest of the world. The opportunity struck 11 years ago when Art Basel was scouting for the notable locale to host the world’s most legendary art fair. Iran, along with some of Miami’s most influential power players of South Florida, joined forces to bring Art Basel to Miami.
Tell us about the history of Art Basel in Miami? Were you involved in it since the beginning?
Yes. A friend of mine Sam Keller was the one who started Art Basel in Miami. All of the people who are involved in Miami’s art scene played a role. Sam Keller felt that Miami was so close to South America and that’s the market that Art Basel was looking for. Another key figure who helped bring Art Basel to Miami, was Craig Robins. Robins was instrumental. I was involved in the Art Basel because I am an artist and I am very involved socially in here. I know everybody, so I became one of the people who was making it happen. We all worked together to bring Art Basel to Miami.
Is Art Basel just a concept similar to the Art Basel in Basel, Switzerland?
No. It is a franchise that goes in different parts of the world. Art Basel Miami is a part of it and was an instant success. Miami was hungry for something like that. New York was already known for its art scene. Miami has become such an art place since Art Basel. First few years of it were unbelievable .The art was unreal. Galleries from all over the world came to showcase in Miami. That’s when Miami really got on the map. Now, art collectors buy art here and they fall in love with this place. Not only do they buy the art, they bought the whole city. Art Basel is like a dream that lasts 4 days. Now we have all these galleries opening up all over the Beach, Wynwood, Design District. Everywhere. And now we have people coming to Miami that would’ve never lived here otherwise.
Did Art Basel change since its beginning here in Miami?
Yes. Because now you have more gallery showings, more young artists being shown, you have more international people coming from all over the world and it’s much more commercial. Although commercial, it’s still magical. A beautiful city as it is, becomes more beautiful. Each gallery, each event, takes you into different parts of the world. So for four to five days, we become one with the world.
Where would you like to see Art Basel go from here?
I wouldn’t change anything except for one thing: I want Art Basel to be longer. I want it to be a full week instead of four days, so you have time to see everything. That’s what I would love to see.
Do you think we owe a lot to Art Basel for what Miami has become today?
Absolutely. We have to give credit to Art Basel because it turned this city into an art place. Prior to this, it was more personal. Small galleries. Now it’s world wide. Look what has happened to Wynwood, to Design District, and to Miami Beach. It’s amazing. It’s amazing how the whole city has been transformed in such short period of time. We have more architects moving here, more big companies setting up their businesses here. Miami has also become a great pace for young up-and-coming artists. For them, it’s a great stepping stone with a touch of glamour.
Tell us about your most significant piece of work?
As an artist, you are never satisfied with your work. You think you can always do better and it is never enough. You need to push and push and push. As an artist, when you think that you are the best, it is time for you to stop. You should always think that tomorrow something new and better is going to happen. Right now I’m doing nature shots, but tomorrow, I don’t know what I’m gonna work on. That’s the most exciting thing about being an artist.
What would be one advice that you would give to a young artist?
Never believe the press. Believe in yourself and never be satisfied with what you have done. Always strive to be better. Never take yourself seriously because that’s when you are finished.
Interview: Constance Yogini