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The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

2011.08.16

‘FOLLOW YOUR SENSES,’ LOFT OWNER ADVISES

Granite quarry his ‘bread and butter,’ but passion for art shines in Castleberry Hill.
By Chris Reinolds

Massoud Besharat didn’t plan to live in a loft in Castleberry Hill. Heck, he didn’t plan to live and own a granite quarry in Elberton either. But here he is —- in both places.

“I believe life is nothing but a big accident,” Besharat said recently while giving guests a tour of his 5,000-square-foot loft and 6,000-square-foot Besharat Gallery. The loft was part of the recent Castleberry Hill Loft Tour.

He bought the building more than four years ago and has lived there for the past two.

Besharat’s girlfriend at the time loved the neighborhood and persuaded him to invest.

“I wanted to do a Peters Street art gallery and make three condos and sell them,” he said. But a visit from a French friend encouraged him to make the entire space an art gallery.

Besharat, 61, decided to take his friend’s advice, but make it his home as well.

“It was not a grand vision,” he said with modesty.

The building, constructed in 1925, was used as a warehouse before Besharat purchased it.

“Really and truly this place is my home. Sometimes I sit here and read the newspaper. Everything is the public area and the private area.”

Besharat, who was born in Iran and grew up in Iran, Austria and Italy, had never run a gallery before, though he loved art even as a child, when he used to buy paintings and give them to friends and family. “I opened an art gallery more for my own pleasure. My bread and butter is granite.”

That fact is evidenced from the smooth granite kitchen island to the granite floors and walls. He transitioned into the granite quarrying business from the manufacturing of diamond tools and wire (used to saw granite), an ongoing endeavor also based in Elberton.

In the gallery, Besharat commissioned local artist Kristofer Lamey to craft columns of steel and glass lit from within. Lamey also created the gallery’s glass chandeliers. Besharat calls his work “much more intelligent than [Dale] Chihuly.”

His gallery houses work by artists from across the globe, including New York photographer Steve McCurry and Italian painter Gigino Falconi —- one of his favorites.

Describe your decorating style: Besharat doesn’t believe in using architects or interior designers.

“Everything you see here is my own design. I’ve lived in Florence. I grew up in Vienna, and everything is beautiful. You should go and do whatever pleases your eye,” he said.

He has the same philosophy about art. He tells his patrons to buy what they love.

His loft is spare, minimal and allows the artwork to dominate. The space is sleek, with bursts of color. Besharat left the rock walls and steel beams exposed.

The glass stairway in his gallery curves inward like a woman’s waist. He told his builder to make it “like a gorgeous, beautiful woman.”

Heart of the home: The kitchen area is the main draw for guests in the loft. By its very nature a loft is open, and the flow is easy.

“We start drinking here and everybody’s so drunk they don’t want to go home,” Besharat said laughing as he sipped a glass of champagne.

Coolest feature: “Myself.” His calling card has the wry tagline: Massoud Besharat “Saint and Poet.”

Most cherished item: “Honestly nothing. In life you move forward like a bulldozer. I’m like a chameleon, I never mixed with my own kind.”

Future projects: Besharat’s plans are grand. He’d like to expand and build a space on the roof as well as add a sculpture garden and amphitheater out back.

Tips for good living:

> “Follow your senses. What pleases your ears … eyesight,” he said.

That’s how he runs his gallery. “I buy the art I love myself.”

> “And have mercy. Have pity on other people.”

> “Every few months move things around, because you get bored with them.”

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