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Contemporary art trends and news from Asia and beyond

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Posts Tagged ‘art New York’

56 artist show Iran Inside Out – Will election unrest fan the debate about Iranian contemporary art?

Posted by artradar on June 30, 2009


IRANIAN CONTEMPORARY ART EXHIBITION US

New York’s Chelsea Art Museum is holding its “groundbreaking” exhibition Iran Inside Out (26 June to 5 September 2009) which features 35 artists living and working in Iran alongside 21 others living in the diaspora.

We are promised a “multifarious portrait of 56 contemporary Iranian artists challenging the conventional perceptions of Iran and Iranian art”. However, do not be at all surprised if unfolding events in Iran and the very art itself will result in heated debate and deep schisms about this interpretation.

Pooneh Maghazehe, Hell's Puerto Rico Performance Still, 2008 copyright artist

Pooneh Maghazehe, Hell's Puerto Rico Performance Still, 2008 copyright artist

The debate was ignited by ‘Unveiled’, a show of Middle Eastern art (half of it Iranian) at The Saatchi Gallery London in the early months of this year. The exhibition garnered plenty of critical attention but strongly divided views were expressed about the success of the organisers’ claim to overturn the cliched idea that the Middle East is synonymous with violence and intolerance.

According to Henry Chu of LA Times , “Unveiled is an exhibition which offers an alternate vision: the Middle East as a source of lively, stimulating contemporary art — informed by conflict, certainly, but not consumed by it.” Nonsense, says Dorment in The Telegraph who claims the show is replete with references to bombs, religious police and the denigration of women.

This debate will be fanned anew by recent political disturbances in Iran. Relations between foreign powers and Iran are now severely strained following the disputed re-election on 12 June of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

Click to browse Iran Inside Out catalogue

Click to browse Iran Inside Out catalogue

“Iran has repeatedly accused foreign powers – especially Britain and the US – of meddling after the 12 June election, which officially handed him a decisive victory” says the BBC while The New York Times gives us a specific quote:

President Obama, who made his most critical remarks of the Iranian leadership on Friday, when he called the government’s crackdown “outrageous” … said the prospects for a dialogue with Iran had been dampened.

…“Didn’t he say that he was after change?” Mr. Ahmadinejad asked. “Why did he interfere?”

Unfolding political events will challenge the New York show’s curators, artists and museum staff and test their courage. Even before the protests, in reference to Iranian art in ‘Unveiled’, the Guardian was saying:

It is still amazing how far into politics this art bravely goes and it is no overstatement to speak of bravery in this case. One of the artists represented here, who lives in Tehran, is muffled in the gallery’s publicity shot to conceal his identity. Another, the prodigiously gifted Tala Madani, has escaped Tehran for Amsterdam but still refused to have her face revealed in a photograph. Guardian

The museum’s website raises the interesting point – and this is perhaps the nub of it – that artists in the diaspora and at home in Iran choose different forms of expression:

Ironically, contrary to one’s expectations, the artists living abroad often draw more on their cultural heritage, while those on the inside focus more on issues of everyday life without much regard to what ‘the outside’ views as specifically Iranian references.

But, whereas the museum’s writers see the focus of home-based artists on the  ‘everyday’ as an act of choice, there are some who suggest it is an act of self-preservation. Time will tell whether the description of this show will be excoriated like that of the catalogue description of ‘Unveiled’:

In her catalogue introduction to .. ‘Unveiled: New Art from the Middle East’, Lisa Farjam airily dismisses European perceptions of the Middle East as a place synonymous with political oppression, religious intolerance, and terrorism as unthinking ‘clichés’ that prevent us from understanding the richness and diversity of Muslim societies.

All I can say in response is that the artists in this show profoundly disagree with her sunny take on this part of the world. The evils Westerners see from a distance are the everyday context in which many of these painters and sculptors make their work – and it was precisely to escape repression at home that so many of the best of them now live in New York or Paris.

Their art isn’t (like so much Western art) about consumerism or celebrity or art itself; it’s about suicide bombers, religious police, unending war, and the denigration of women in Islamic societies. While I admit I was surprised that those still working in Tehran feel able to treat the subjects of gender, sexuality, religion, and politics without risking imprisonment or death, among the photos of the artists displayed at the end of the show, I noticed that one, who still lives in Tehran, has taken the precaution of wearing a balaclava. Telegraph

Related links: Exhibition description on Chelsea Art Museum site

Catalogue

In a still unusual and much-appreciated move, the museum has put the show’s catalogue online. It is a glorious glimpse of a very active art scene. Text and works by artists sit alongside interviews with collectors and galleries. Buy the ‘Iran Inside Out’ catalogue here.

FEATURED ARTISTS:

Inside Iran (35)

Abbas Kowsari, Ahmad Morshedloo, Amir Mobed, Alireza Dayani, Arash Hanaei, Arash Sedaghatkish, Arman Stepanian, Barbad Golshiri, Behdad Lahooti, Behrang Samadzadegan, Bita Fayyazi, Daryoush Gharahzad, Farhad Moshiri, Farideh Lashai, Golnaz Fathi, Houman Mortazavi, Jinoos Taghizadeh, Khosrow Hassanzadeh, Mahmoud Bakhshi Moakher, Majid Ma’soomi Rad, Mehdi Farhadian, Nazgol Ansarinia, Newsha Tavakolian, Ramin Haerizadeh, Reza Derakshani, Reza Paydari, Rokni Haerizadeh, Sadegh Tirafkan, Saghar Daeeri, Shahab Fotouhi, Shirin Aliabadi, Shirin Fakhim, Siamak Filizadeh, Siavash Nagshbandi, Vahid Sharifian

Outside Iran (21)

Ala Ebtekar, Alireza Ghandchi, caraballo–farman, Darius Yektai, Kamran Diba, Leila Pazooki, Mitra Tabrizian, Nazanin Pouyandeh, Negar Ahkami, Nicky Nodjoumi, Parastou Forouhar, Pooneh Maghazehe, Pouran Jinchi, Roya Akhavan, Samira Abbassy, Sara Rahbar, Shahram Entekhabi, Shahram Karimi, Shirin Neshat, Shiva Ahmadi, Shoja Azari

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How art from half of Asia has been missed – interview Leeza Ahmady ACAW director

Posted by artradar on May 4, 2009


 ASIAN CONTEMPORARY ART WEEK 2009

Leeza Ahmady talks to Art Radar about her involvement in the Asian Contemporary Art Week (ACAW) in New York. She discusses her two missions: first to broaden the definition of Asian art – yes, she tells us, the Middle East is part of the Asian continent  – and second, to connect Asians with one another.

 

This is the first part of a 3 part interview.

 

AR: You have an interesting story tell us about how you got involved with the Asian Contemporary Art Week. What happened?

LA: Some time ago I was studying arts and cultural management at Pratt Institute in New York and writing my thesis on Central Asia. One of my classes was about leadership and we were given the assignment to choose a leader in the arts field and have a daring interview with them.

Well I really took that on. Who do I want to do this with, I asked myself. I remember choosing Vishakha Desai who is now the president of the Asia Society but at the time was the Museum Director.  I hounded her assistants and emailed them until I got an interview. And we had a wonderful very pleasant interview. I asked her standard questions about how she started and what she envisioned for her role. I asked her how much of that she had managed to accomplish and questioned her about her leadership style.  

Then I took a deep breath and  I dared to ask the real question I wanted to ask. How did the Asia Society justify calling itself the Asia Society when half of the Asian continent is missing from its programming. She was amazing and answered me carefully and diplomatically.

AR: It is a provocative question! What did she say?

LA: Very matter-of-factly she explained to me that everyone has to narrow their mission and the Asia Society was supported by the Rockefellers in the early days and their original mission focused on East Asia. She explained that of course other regions are now being integrated.

Then she looked at me and said 10 years ago when I came on the scene, there was no such thing as India particularly from a contemporary art perspective. Then it was only about antiquities so what I had to do was make it my mission to change that and I did that. She didn’t say it in so many words but I got this really wonderful answer which was if you want to make something happen don’t complain about it. You have to take it on and make it happen yourself.  It was as provocative as my question to her.

AR: And then?

LA: Well we kept in touch and I kept her up-to-date about my research in Central Asia. A few months later she wrote to me: “Leeza I have a wonderful project for you. Talk with Melissa Chiu and get involved in the Asian Contemporary Art Week” and that was 4 years ago – the end of 2004.

 

Mohsen Ahmadvand, Wrestlers, 2008, mixed media, courtesy of artist, Thomas Erben and XVA galleries

Mohsen Ahmadvand, Wrestlers, 2008, mixed media, courtesy of artist, Thomas Erben and XVA galleries

 

 

AR: So can you tell us more about the ACAW? What is it?

LA: The Asia Contemporary Art Week is an initiative started by a group of independent curators, museum directors, collectors and seminal people interested in creating awareness about Asian art primarily in New York, but also elsewhere. They formed a consortium, the Asian Contemporary Art Consortium, in 2001 to create public educational programs.

Rather than doing things in isolation, they felt it would be more effective to join forces once a year or so and make this one big loud noise together. When I came in it was small and limited to galleries and museums already focused on Asian art. But I was interested in encouraging others to jump on the wagon. I wanted to motivate those who were thinking of showing a couple of Asian artists but who were, perhaps, a little reluctant because they did not have the backing or voice.

AR: Vishakha Desai helped to raise the profile of India in the Asia Society. What has been your mission and your contribution to Asian Contemporary Art Week?

LA: My contribution has been based on my strong desire to expand participation not just by the galleries and museums but also by the artists. 

We now have featured artists from all over Asia, not only from the traditional participants of China, Japan, Korea and Taiwan. We have gradually moved West and we now include more artists  from, amongst others, Vietnam Thailand Pakistan Indonesia Iran Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan. Now over the last 2 years I have been trying to really broaden the notion of what constitutes Asia by bringing in the Middle East. Lebanese, Turkish, Palestinian and Israeli artists have been represented in 2008 and 2009.

AR: That sounds like an enormous undertaking. Asia is a huge continent.

LA: My specialty is Central Asia so of course I have had to learn a lot.  If you want to be involved in something I believe that you really need to know the players and what is going on with everyone. And by being involved in Asia Contemporary Art Week I am lucky enough to be at the centre of a lot of networks.

AR: What has been the response?

LA: I have spent a lot of time figuring who would be interested in opening their doors  to help broaden frontiers. Fortunately people have been very open because of the success of artists in the international arena from Central Asia. And people are curious, they do want to know what else is out there.

AR: How much do people know about the Asian continent in New York?

LA: Well there is a lot of confusion. For example take the Middle East. Iran is somehow there and not there at the same time. Afghanistan? There is also a lot of confusion about where it is and whether it is in the Middle East, Central Asia or South Asia.

AR: In the past you have talked passionately about opening up Asia to the Asians. We often hear people talk about connecting East and West but why do you feel there is a need for connection within Asia?

LA: Well the fact that the Middle East is a vast territory within Asia surprises people. In the US, Asia represents China Korea and Japan and only very recently has it been expanded to include India and Pakistan.

There is tremendous ignorance about Central Asia and when I tell someone from Korea or Japan that I too am from Asia, they look perplexed and ask well where are you from? When I say, “I am from Afghanistan” they look confused. Afghanistan shares a 76 kilometer border with China. To me it is simply incredible that in such an interconnected world, people on the same continent can still be so disconnected from eachother. There were years of Soviet rule which kept Central Asia out of reach but at the same time it is now 20 years since the Soviet rule ended.

AR: Why do you feel promoting connections within Asia is so important?

LA: I remember learning so much about all the countries around the world when I was at school in Kabul in Afghanistan. Why do I feel its important ? There is something wise about knowing yourself well. Asians share so may linguistic, spiritual and cultural ties which have broken down as a result of politics.

Historically Iran and Afghanistan were regarded as part of Central Asia. This changed for Iran after the Shah was deposed in 1979. With the dissolution of Soviet rule, 5 states from the USSR became independent including Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan. These 5 states are now more commonly referred to as Central Asia.

Meanwhile Afghanistan was left hanging in limbo until the events of September 11 shot it directly back into the Middle East. Recently Afghanistan has been referred to as part of South Asia.

AR: Why have these connections within Asia broken down?

Economic and political policies create disconnections and I feel the best way to make things whole is through art. At least that is what artists do. They try to break things down and put them back together. The idea of deconstructing and constructing, I see art as something beyond aesthetics and intellectual mumbo jumbo. I see it as a  tool for people to become more aware, spiritual and connected to themselves and others.

Leeza Ahmady was born in Afghanistan and lives in New York. Her specialist area is Central Asia.

This is the first part of a 3 part interview:

Related links: Asian Contemporary Art Week website

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Posted in Events, Gallery shows, Middle Eastern, Museum shows, New York, Professionals, USA | Tagged: , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Indian art gallery Bodhi closes New York, soon to close elsewhere

Posted by artradar on February 9, 2009


INDIAN ART GALLERY

Bodhi art gallery, the sole Indian art gallery that had branches in three international cities, has shut shop in New York and will soon close down in Berlin too. Remaining quite tight-lipped, Sharmistha Ray from Bodhi art gallery confirms, “We have closed down the New York gallery and we will be closing the one in Berlin by mid-February.” Sources allege that they will soon close their galleries in Delhi and Singapore as well.

Sources: Groundreport

Related categories: recession, Indian artists, reports from India, reports from New York, gallery news

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Posted in Galleries, Germany, Indian, Market watch, New York, Recession | Tagged: , , , | 3 Comments »

Chinese Canadian artist Terence Koh show in Cool Hunting top 5 art shows 2008

Posted by artradar on January 4, 2009


tkoh3

BEST ART SHOW 2008

Terence Koh’s first New York show Flowers for Baudelaire was selected as one of the top 5 art shows of 2008 by Cool Hunting, a website which  ‘attracts and inspires’ more than 250,000  readers from around the world with daily updates on  art, design and technology. It described the show as ‘delicate’ and ‘mesmerising’.

In keeping with a common Koh all-white trope, the studio has been turned into a smoky white room, the floor and walls gessoed into a white landscape of slopes eliminating the right angles of the room. After removing their shoes to enter the room, guests are treated to the “flowers,” gorgeous readymade canvases, simply constructed from corn syrup and powdered sugar. The results are sweet and mesmerizing in their simplicity, a delicate tribute to the French poet’s Les Fleurs du mal.

Cool Hunting

Terence Koh Flowers of Baudelaire

Terence Koh Flowers of Baudelaire

The show consists of 51 paintings of varying sizes created using titanium paint, corn syrup, and powdered sugar.  Curated by Vito Schnabel, a close friend of Koh’s and the son of the artist Julian Schnabel, the show was held at the home of Oliver Sarkozy, the half-brother of France’s President Nicolas Sarkozy.

The artist maintained that the works were edible at the opening, even licking a painting in example though few of the guests such as Anna Wintour, Cynthia Rowley and Salman Rushdie ventured to taste the works. Others in attendance for the opening and after party were artists Dash Snow and Agatha Snow, Museum of Modern Art curator Klaus Biesenbach, gallerist Jeffrey Deitch, music mogul Lyor Cohen and photographer Todd Eberle. The Upper East side space, formerly the studio of late photographer Richard Avedon, was painted entirely white -floors, walls, and ceiling- as part of the display.

Art Observed

The Paintings at Terence Koh’s New Show Are Possibly Edible [NY Magazine]
Now Licking | Terence Koh [The Moment]
Terence Koh Revealed [Hint Mag]
Uptown Baby [Vmagazine]

Open Tuesday-Thursday, 11-6pm through January 2009 407 East 75th Street New York, NY 10021

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