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Posts Tagged ‘Pooneh Maghazehe’

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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Pockets of change in Asian art infrastructure – interview Leeza Ahmady director ACAW

Posted by artradar on May 12, 2009


ASIAN CONTEMPORARY ART WEEK NEW YORK 2009

Asian Contemporary Art Week director Leeza Ahmady talks about the ‘ incredible’ initiatives in India and Hong Kong which are helping to build an Asian art infrastructure, Indian collector Anupam Poddar’s first time purchase of art from Afghanistan and where to see exciting art from Central Asia, the Middle East and Iran at New York’s Asian Contemporary Art Week May 2009.

This is the second part of a 3 part interview

 

Gulnara Muratabek

Gulnara Muratbek

 

AR: If visitors to Asian Contemporary Art Week 2009 in New York want to learn more about Central Asia at Asia Contemporary Art Week, what can they see and where they can go?

LA: People can see some of the best artists from Central Asia and the Middle East at an exhibition titled: Tarjama/Translation I have co-curated with Iftikar Dadi and Reem Fada at Queen’s Museum produced by ArteEast. Many of them are internationally-renowned artists but for some reason they are not being exhibited in New York yet.

Akram Zaatari and Lara Baladi from Lebanon, Esra Ersen from Turkey and Sharif Wakid from Palestine are represented and Almagul Menlibayevaof Kazakhstan who is getting a lot of attention here in New York and now has a gallery representing her. We have specially commissioned a video work by her entitled “Queens”. It is an extraordinary work. Almagul has juxtaposed her signature style-using performance as a base revolving around ritual and the fantastic to captivate the Central Asian diasporas like the Bukharan Jews, the Samarkand Uzbeks and the Afghans living in Queens, New York.

Among the Iranian artists included in Tarjama/Translation, Farhad MoshiriI have heard is totally galvanising the art market which is very encouraging. Often these artists do well in the biennale or academic arenas but we do not see them in the market arena so there is a shift there as well.

There is a whole lot of fascination going on with Iran this year I have to tell you. Thomas Erben, one of the best galleries in my opinion for working with cutting edge artists from Pakistan and India, has just come back from Iran. So in honour of ACAW, he will be curating an exhibition of artists living and making art in Iran and he has been going through all kinds of hoops to get the work to New York. The Chelsea Museum is also organizing a large exhibition in June showcasing Iranian artists from the 60’s up to the present.

AR: What do you see in the future for Asian art? Will Asia continue to rely on Western art centres as a platform for international recognition or will it start to happen within Asia itself?

LA: The Western world is way ahead, years if not centuries, in having the institutions which help with not just showcasing but also maintaining, archiving and saving works of contemporary art. We can’t really have a conversation which compares the two because of that disparity. What I can say is that changes will not just happen in the future …. they are already happening.

Arts i  is the new 12,000 square foot art space of one of the largest investment companies in India. It is based in New Delhi and has launched the Religare Arts Initiative which acts as a corporate champion of art. Most galleries, auction houses and art funds operate art businesses but the Religare Arts Initiative tries to leverage business for art through a host of activities – exhibitions, residency programs, library, documentaries, art fund, seminars, documentation etc. The intention of the initiative is to have a 360 degree platform for art in India and really have it create change in society. It is not just a group of people but it wants to actually create an impact on society. I think that is incredibly novel.

Often it is easy for us to say that there is not enough expertise and not enough critical dialogue but the fact is if you really want to look there are some incredible things happening. In India another example is Devi Art Foundation started by a mother and son team who turned their private collection into a public venue. They opened a huge space last summer and already have had two or three critically-acclaimed exhibitions.

They are looking not only at promoting Indian art but also at what else is going on in the region. They reached out to me and we purchased two works by Afghan artists for their collection. This is very encouraging.

 To have come this far is wonderful. I want to acknowledge that there is a handful of us out there and it is changing. Another great example is Green Cardamom Gallery in London. They are contributing to the discourse by providing critical context through artist-generated collaborative exhibitions and writing projects.I cannot speak for China as I have never been there except for Hong Kong. But I have to say organisations like Asia Art Archive or your publication now, these are huge leaps forward in creating forums where critics can have space to say what they need to say.

AR: Do you have anything to say about the market for Asian art?

LA:  What has astonished a lot of people is that art from India and China has been successful because of locally-based collectors not just outside collectors. The whole market frenzy and speculation was accelerated by this local interest. In the long term this interest will continue to grow. What is happening in the Middle East is also incredible. For the first time in the last 2 years we are seeing auctions of contemporary art from the Middle East. Who would have thought it? And they did not do too badly at all.

AR: Perhaps it speaks about the quality and freshness of the work coming out of the Middle East, what do you think?

LA: That is true. It is fresh  because there is a cultural specifity which is very intriguing yet at the same time the art is universally relevant. For me when art tells me something specific but is still relevant whether or not I know where it is from or what it is about – if I can connect with it from that universal place – then it is good art. That is not to say that everything that is coming out of Asia is good of course! (Laughter) 

This is the second part of a 3 part interview

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