Podcast interview: Artist Sassan Behnam-Bakhtiar


Sassan Behnam-Bakhtiar is so many things. He is an artist, a seer, a visionary, a disruptor, a father, a survivor. All of this is displayed on his canvases… the layers, the textures, the energy, the call for his audience to look within themselves and find a truer meaning to reality, to evolve.

For the month of September, Behnam-Bakhtiar’s exhibition ‘Journey Within’ will be on display at Sotheby’s new Monaco gallery. It is a unique exhibition for the multidisciplinary artist, who is very selective about the galleries he works with. But he says he has enjoyed working with Louise Grether, head of Sotheby’s Monaco office, and Mark Armstrong, senior director.

It is an exhibition with which the Franco-Iranian artist continues to question modern value systems and calls for introspection, for a more spiritual, human-centred approach to living.

The crisscross finish, and scraped and layered textures have become his signature style of painting. His creative process is impromptu, he tells me during a recent private showing; nothing is planned beforehand, and he mixes his paints on the canvas as he goes. It means that no single piece can ever be recreated; they are as unique as he is.

“My work really focuses on layering and delayering, and time plays a very important role,” he says. “The paints dry to a certain degree, and there is literally a little window when I can successfully scrape off the paint in a way in order to get the texture that you can see.”

Behnam-Bakhtiar compares the layering in his paintings to the layering in life, and he is passionate when he speaks about energy.

“Once you look within, once you start removing the unnecessary layers of your humanity, you get to a point where you really start feeling your source frequency; you understand the universal language, what is going on. Right now, we don’t see it with our physical eyes, but there is such an exchange of energy between all of us. We are made of energy at the end of the day, so if we can really understand how our humanities are made, we will be able to live a life that we are destined to.”

‘London’ by Sassan Behnam-Bakhtiar, photo by Monaco Life

‘London’, for example, radiates a dark energy. Behnam-Bakhtiar admits it was a difficult moment in his life, and his painting of the London landscape reflects that. The others are vibrant and bold, mirroring the colours of the Mediterranean. These were painted at his studio in Saint-Jean-Cap-Ferrat where he has lived with his wife and son for a number of years.

“When it comes to my abstract works, I want that they evoke an emotion that triggers something in your being, something that clicks in the psyche and makes you want to understand more,” he says. “As an artist, the biggest satisfaction I can have is that someone comes in front of my work, has a little click, and leaves with that click and then it alters their way of life. Everyone has a different experience when they come in front of the painting, and I’m always in the corner, watching how people react.”

It hasn’t always been about abstract art for Behnam-Bakhtiar. He started out doing portraiture and has worked with film, installations, and sculptures. “I flirt between abstraction and figuration”, reveals the artist. In 2018, he exhibited sculptures in Villa Santo Sospir before it was closed for renovation, the hallowed grounds of Jean Cocteau’s Cap Ferrat hideaway and  the home that he “tattooed” with his unique frescoes in tempera. Along with the sculptures created in his signature scraped-paint style, Behnam-Bakhtiar also edited audio clips of himself talking with Cocteau about how humanity needs to be more connected to the universe.

‘Journey Within’ exhibition by Sassan Behnam-Bakhtiar at Sotheby’s Monaco. Photo by Monaco Life

The beauty and light of the French Riviera has long been an attraction for artists, but Behnam-Bakhtiar doesn’t like to be compared to the greats. “All I can say is that I get it why they came here. It’s not a question of following in anybody’s footsteps, but this place truly has an impact. That’s the reason why I moved from London to Cap Ferrat, it’s the light.”

His inspiration, he reveals, comes from life experiences.

Born in Paris in 1984, Sassan Behnam-Bakhtiar is a fourth generation artist and has been painting since the age of four. As a teenager and young adult, he lived in Tehran, Iran. Through his mother, he traces his decent from Iran’s ancient Bakhtiaru tribe. Through his father, he is a descendant of the Qajar monarch Ahmad Shah.

“Ours was a highly prominent family in Iran before the revolution. This current regime doesn’t like people like us because they are paranoid and they see us as a threat. So, I went through a lot of traumatic experiences in my life. Placed in those situations, it pushed me to really look within.”

He points to the largest painting in the room. It is titled ‘Twin Trees of Life’. “I paint trees in abstract form to remind people that no matter where you are, no matter what happens to you on any day, you always have the power to change your life, but you really need to want it, to visualise it. And at some point, you are able to open your third eye.”

Sassan Behnam-Bakhtiar is clearly very spiritual, but he is also an industrialist. In June 2021, at the iconic Grand-Hotel du Cap-Ferrat, Sassan Behnam-Bakhtiar, British digital artist Vector Meldrew, and British singer, composer and entrepreneur Tinie Tempah collaborated in what was the world’s first dedicated NFT residency to create a suite of NFT art works, curated by Kamiar Maleki.

The residency culminated in a unique, collaborative performance of live painting by Sassan Behnam-Bakhtiar and a musical and spoken word performance by Tinie Tempah. “We wanted to merge the contemporary art world, music and digital,” The four NFTs, under the banner Present the Future, dropped on 21st July 2021 and were auctioned by Bonhams. They sold instantly.

“The NFT world is interesting because it does give power to the creatives,” says the artist. “I’m involved in the crypto world as well, so I know what’s going on, but as an artist I had an old school mentality, even though I’m from a younger generation. I will always stick to real, tangible works, but NFTs create opportunities for young creatives, and I respect that. They can get royalties; they have more power.”

Sassan Behnam-Bakhtiar is known in the art world as a disruptor, a “rebel artist” as some international media have called him. And the 38-year-old says he no longer repels the label.

“I was at a panel discussion last summer and someone from the audience said Sassan is a rebel artist. And I thought, oh my God, you know what? I am a rebel artist, and I am a rebel in life.”

Journey Within is featuring at Sotheby’s Monaco Gallery until 26th September.


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Photo above of Sassan Behham-Bakhtiar by Cassandra Tanti, Monaco Life






Prince Albert of Monaco addresses 77th UN General Assembly

Prince Albert II of Monaco has joined world leaders in addressing the United Nations General Assembly this week, saying it is “high time countries moved beyond speeches and words towards action”.

After attending Queen Elizabeth’s funeral in London on Monday, Prince Albert II travelled to New York to address the United Nations on Wednesday. It is the first time a UN General Assembly has been held in person since the Covid-19 pandemic.

“At a time when two years have passed since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic, this unprecedented health crisis revealed our fault lines in multilateral cooperation coordination. It forced us to take extraordinary social economic measures, both to protect our people and also to mobilise the international monetary system. Our frenetic day-to-day existence means that we forget that in the northern hemisphere, the overshoot day arrives earlier every year,” said Prince Albert in is address. He was referring to Earth Overshoot Day – an illustrative calendar date on which humanity’s resource consumption for the year exceeds Earth’s capacity to regenerate those resources that year.

The theme of the 77th UN General Assembly is ‘A watershed moment: Transformative solutions to interlocking challenges’. It is designed to mobilise support for measures to counter the interlocking and complex crises facing the world.

Prince Albert was joined by other heads of state and government, leaders of UN agencies and international financial institutions who all spoke of the critical situation created by these crises, which include the Covid-19 pandemic, the war in Ukraine, climate change, unprecedented humanitarian challenges, and growing concerns about the global economy.

In reaffirming Monaco’s commitment to the Sustainable Development Goals set out in 2015, the Prince referred to his great, great grandfather Prince Albert I.

“This humanist and visionary sovereign advocated tirelessly for the fundamental role of science to drive social progress, particularly within the framework of political decision making,” said Prince Albert. “A century later, we are commemorating his legacy, which continues to inspire my action and the policies of my government. Monaco is playing its role in the collective efforts to preserve our planet at a time when our ways of living are being turned upside down.”

Photo credit: Gaëtan Luci, Prince’s Palace

The Prince referred to the IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change), which “has for three decades now been warning us about the disastrous, often irreversible effects of climate change”, and spoke of how, in the climate conferences in Stockholm and Lisbon, the ocean was included as a key component in the intrinsic link between the well-being of human civilization and a healthy planet.

“The protection of our seas and oceans is part of our family tradition, a cause for which Prince Albert I dedicated his life. His commitment is an example to me, an example that lives on in the commitments of my country and that I’ve chosen myself to follow since I exceeded to the throne in 2005.”

Prince Albert also made a call to action, saying, “Beyond our speeches and words, it is high time to move towards action. This is nothing more or less than an issue of taking the last opportunity we have to build a future for humanity while extreme climate events are multiplying, affecting indiscriminately all nations, but particularly punishing the most vulnerable.”

The Prince said he was thinking, primarily at this time, of Pakistan suffering through the consequences of devastating floods.

“Strengthening adaptation measures must be at the heart of our priorities,” he said. “These urgent and crucial efforts must be carried out, in a concerted way, with policies that seek to drastically reduce greenhouse gas emissions and reverse the trend of biodiversity loss by 2030.”

In concluding, Prince Albert referred to women as the “essential agents of change”, adding, “A strengthened and effective multilateralism, where youth and women would play a predominant role, is the most effective way to deal with global crises.”

Other speakers this week included Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, French President Emmanuel Macron, and United States President Joe Biden.

The General Assembly opened on 13th September and runs until 23rd September.



Photo above by Gaëtan Luci, Prince’s Palace




Prince Albert: “It was impossible to imagine F1 without Monaco”

Prince Albert says that he was “relieved” when he heard that Formula One would be renewing the Monaco Grand Prix until 2025, maintaining a century-old tradition and “an important moment in the life of the Principality”.

The future of the Monaco Grand Prix, which has been an annual feature of life in the Principality for almost a century, had been in doubt. Monaco’s F1 contract expired this year, and arduous negotiations over a renewal have taken several months. During that time, the futures of other classic races, the French and Belgian GPs, were also called into doubt. Although the Belgian GP remains on the calendar, the French GP has been axed.

Speaking to Monaco Info, Prince Albert II said he was “relieved” by the positive outcome. “Clearly it’s hugely satisfying, a big relief,” he began. “For me, it was really impossible to imagine an F1 season without the Monaco Grand Prix. Not only for historic reasons but also because of its importance to motorsport and F1 in particular.”

He continued, “As everyone knows, it is an important moment in the life of the Principality on many levels. Of course, there is the economic element, but also the element of prestige, of notoriety. It is a tradition that has existed for nearly 100 years and so for us, this renewal was extremely important and I’m very happy.”

“I thank the Automobile Club of Monaco, Formula One and the FIA for having worked together towards the most positive outcome so that we can move forward together for the development of motorsport and of Formula one,” he concluded.

The Monaco Grand Prix has been renewed for three more seasons, taking their new deal to 2025. Next year’s race will take place on 28th May.







Photo above of Prince Albert and his son Prince Jacques at the 2022 Monaco GP, credit: Eric Mathon, Prince’s Palace.






Paul Mitchell: “Monaco have always developed players for the French national team”

Speaking exclusively to Monaco Life, AS Monaco Sporting Director Paul Mitchell has described the club’s pride at the latest call-ups for Benoît Badiashile and Youssouf Fofana. 

Should Badiashile and Fofana make their debuts for Didier Deschamps’ France, they will become the 70th and 71st Monaco players to have done so. Both have excelled for the Principality club this season, becoming displaceable elements in Philippe Clement’s side.

Keeping the talent factory operational

Whilst describing his pride at their call-ups, he also affirmed a commitment to continuing to produce international-level talent. “It is definitely a source of pride, not only for myself but for everyone who has been working tirelessly over the last couple of years to realign and re-engage a historic strategy,” he began. “Monaco has always been an organisation that has developed players for the French national team. I feel that with the hard work, the processes that have been put in place, and the conscious, daily focus to work with and develop young athletes, we’re seeing again the end product of all that hard work. So I’m extremely proud for the individuals themselves, and we’re working tirelessly behind the scenes to produce many, many more.”

As well as Badiashile and Fofana, Soungoutou Magassa, Jordan Semedo and Yann Liénard have also received call-ups to the France U20 squad. Given the youth-centred culture at AS Monaco and the tools at the club’s disposal, there is a hope that the club’s academy products, who continue to represent France at youth level, will one day make the senior side.

Stepping out of the shadows

Fofana has flourished since the departure of Aurélien Tchouaméni. Asked by Monaco Life’s Luke Entwistlewhether the former’s performances are now getting more recognition following the departure of the latter to Real Madrid, he replied, “I think Aurélien was rightly recognised for some really big and important performances with us last season, and maybe the shadow was cast too much over the quality of Youssouf’s performances for this club, not only last season but the season before.”

He continued, “I think he’s [Fofana] a consistent performer now. I know it was the opposite way at youth level: Youssouf was recognised quite often in the French national teams and Aurélien not so much. There has been an amplification of the quality of Aurélien’s performances, but I’ve always said there is a second actor in that midfield configuration, and I have to say on most matchday, there wasn’t much separating the two players in their performances, especially when the team has been at its best.”

A long-serving producer of players to the French national team, this current international break represents a continuation of a historic partnership that continues to showcase the very best of AS Monaco’s talent.


Photo by Luke Entwistle




Artistic tributes to Josephine Baker unveiled

A bust of singer and activist Josephine Baker, created by local artist Marcos Marin, was unveiled by Prince Albert in Roquebrune-Cap-Martin, along with a huge portrait by Nice-based street artist César Malfi.

Singer, dancer, actress and activist Josephine Baker, celebrated as she was in life, is being just as feted nearly a half century after her death. Last December, she was memorialised in Paris’s historic landmark, the Panthéon, where she was inducted as the first woman of colour, the first American and the first performing artist to ever be granted a special place in this oh-so French monument.

Her investiture is a testament to how many boundaries she crossed and how many lives she touched.

In her later years, she befriended Princess Grace, who had a huge admiration for her, and was even buried in Monaco in 1975 after her death at the age of 68 following a stroke.

Photo source: Mairie de Roquebrune-Cap-Martin

Now in 2022, she is being honoured again, this time at the 11th edition of Art-Bre in Roquebrune-Cap-Martin in early September, where a huge painting by Nice-based street artist César Malfi and a bust of the late performer created by Marcos Marin were unveiled by Prince Albert II along with Mayor of Roquebrune-Cap-Martin, Patrick Cesari and Baker’s children and grandchildren.

The bust takes pride of place in the heart of the town in the Parc Des Oliviers, whilst the painting looms large in the village, and was given finishing touches by the Prince himself.

Music of the 1920s and 30s filled the air, in an homage to Baker’s hey days, and the day was rounded out with an evening show entitled Josephine Baker, Paris Mon Amour.



Photo above source: Mairie de Roquebrune-Cap-Martin




IUM partners with Monaco Asset Management

A partnership agreement has been formally signed between the International University of Monaco and Monaco Asset Management, who will hold career events and share expertise with students and staff, as well as continuing its tradition of hiring IUM alumni for internships and jobs.

In today’s world, university students face competitive circumstances when looking for employment after graduation. At the International University of Monaco (IUM), they have often looked to local businesses to act as possible employers or to seek work experience. One of the more prevalent affiliations has been with Monaco Asset Management, an independent wealth management company founded in 1999 for both private and institutional clientele.

IUM recently welcomed Gian Luca Braggiotti, Chairman of Monaco Asset Management, and Yannick Delsoglio, Chief Operating Officer, to present Monaco Asset Management and announce and sign a partnership agreement.

The connection is far from out of the blue. Monaco Asset Management has been a top employer of IUM alumni and students, with three out of 15 total employees currently on the investment team. Additionally, one or two interns join the team each year.

The fit is natural as the curriculum studied at the university follows investment trends and asset allocations, much like “real world” training in the classroom.

As partners, the two entities will join to offer career fairs, meet with students, and to share experiences, with the end goal of shaping the next generation of investment leaders and contributing to the already thriving asset management world in the Principality.



Photo source: IUM