Saturday, 31 December 2011


Agahi (Missing), a poem by Shafi’i Kadkani
Translated from Persian by Alan Williams

A child called Happiness has recently gone missing 
bright sparkling eyes
with flowing tresses and high hopes.
If anyone catches sight of her 
inform us 
this is our address:
Between the Persian Gulf 
and the Caspian Sea

Thursday, 29 December 2011

Iran Onscreen: Truth through the Prism

‘Sometimes self-censorship or social censorship is worse than actual censorship, so when I make a film I don't think about what is allowed and not allowed.’ 
– Jafar Panahi

by Dan Geist in Berlin, Tehran Bureau

Can a movie tell a story set in contemporary Iran without being seen as a "portrait of Iranian society"?

In re A Separation's Oscar dreams, should the Academy Awards be considered an arm of the U.S. State Department?

If cinema is dead, why do Iranian censors continue to pay it so much damned attention?

A few of the questions that linger from the conference "Cinema in Iran: Circulation, Censorship, and Cultural Production," held this past week in Berlin under the aegis of the Annenberg School for Communication's Iran Media Program. The two-day event drew scholars -- many of Iranian birth or heritage, many young and in midpursuit of doctorates -- based around the United States and Europe, as well as Israel, India, Australia, and Brazil.

By the very nature of its national focus, such a conference promotes readings of an ethnographic bent, but several presentations made clear the risks in taking individual films primarily as social portraiture, as Iranian movies often appear to be received in the West -- and, among films aimed at the foreign festival and arthouse market, often seem intended for such reception. Norma Claire Moruzzi of the University of Illinois at Chicago warned of what she called the "romanticization of Iran as a dystopia," routine in such internationally intended pictures. An apt caveat, though time pressures thwarted an exploration of the particular strokes employed in that sort of portraiture -- an important consideration, as regular festival attendance could similarly convince a credulous film lover that London is the lake of fire and Paris, perdition.

What of films that focus on a very specific aspect of the society in which they are set? Baharak Darougari of the University of Strasbourg looked at the different narrative strategies employed by three films -- Leila, directed by Dariush Mehrjui; Shokaran, directed by Behruz Afkhami; and Chaharshanbe-soori, directed by Asghar Farhadi -- to problematize the conventional treatment of polygamy. But whether arthouse or mainstream, like the films to which this trio stand less or more in opposition, can films consciously concerned with a sharply defined social problem do much to honestly inform the viewer about a culture when their topical program tends to flatten the social context?

Friday, 23 December 2011

One Born

Ein feste Burg ist unser Gott,
‘a mighty fortress is our God’,
But Christmas comes too often.
There’s not a single year forgotten
but that I think ‘Please fortify
my brain
with this campaign’.

I now announce
(in Christian spirit)
that Christmas comes too frequently,
theologically too plural!
I once was a duophysite
– two years between each one might well be fine –
but for a Trinitarian, three years is more divine.

Design the Church’s calendar
(society’s as well),
then once in three years
hit the pages with the news that Christ is born,
and fit to govern for a thousand more!
On Christly love and ethics,
the people all agree.

Our campaign slogan’s ‘One in Three!’ not ‘Three in One’.
Invent a reason,
colleagues, friends and retailers,
and manufacturers?
But no, it will not work.
For ‘Christmas is a yearly feast. We need it now. Beginning early.
In the autumn. Rejoice, then, now and later.’

But didn’t Meister Eckhart say
once, ‘Christ is born each minute
in my soul’?
So constant Christmases are more the thing
The laughter, giggles, whispering
And mysteries stored
Divinely in the word.

© Alan Williams 2011

Andrei Rublev, Trinity, 1411 or 1425-27, Tempera, 142 cm × 114 cm, Tretyakov Gallery, Moscow, Image courtesy Wikipedia 

Tuesday, 20 December 2011

Possibilities, Paradoxes, and Our Moment of Painting

by Houman Harouni, Tehran Bureau

It's a good time for painting in Iran. In my visits, I make sure to go to the galleries in Tehran as often as I can. And I prefer to visit the ones that exhibit young artists most often, the galleries that are not geared for sales, but for the advancement of lesser-known painters. A great deal of energy is channeled into painting these days.

There are ways of measuring the impact of these artistic efforts. Some will measure them by their originality (whose measuring rod is almost exclusively not local), some by their relevance. And of course they will also be measured by the art market: how many paintings make it to international auctions, how much certain painters sell, at what prices, who is doing the buying. I am, however, more interested in what these channeled energies are expressing. For now, at least, I'm interested in what they reflect.

If there are more paintings being produced, it is partly because more paintings are being bought. It's a function of the growing stability of a wealthy class in North Tehran, willing to invest in the arts, and painting is the most investible art form. To that end, the inexplicably active art market in neighboring Dubai has also helped. There is also the relative reopening of Iran's actual and virtual borders: more artists can travel to the West, and, since the Internet, we do not have to wait for smuggled, expensive art books and catalogues to see the new trends. There are plenty of styles out there waiting to be applied to Iranian subjects, and there are plenty of painters willing to apply them.

Saturday, 17 December 2011


With a range of global sanctions against Iran, how does one buy Iranian art?

by Daniel Grant, Artnet

In March 2011, the Leila Heller Gallery in New York City held an exhibition of 38-year-old artist Shirin Fakhim’s provocative found-object sculptures of Tehran streetwalkers, her first solo show in Manhattan. A number of works were sold, for around $10,000 apiece.

But Fakhim lives in Iran, which has been targeted with a range of economic sanctions by the U.S. and other countries around the world. Most of the Iranian artists Leila Heller represents live and work outside of Iran, but not Fakhim, who resides in Tehran. Getting her artwork out of Iran and paying the artist for sales of her work in New York can be tricky.

According to regulations first established by the U.S. Department of the Treasury following Iran’s 1979 Islamic Revolution, “goods and services of Iranian origin may not be imported into the United States, either directly or through third countries.” A ban on “any brokering function from the United States or by U.S. persons, wherever located” is also in place. Banks in the U.S. cannot transfer money to Iranian banks.

So how is an art gallery devoted to showing contemporary Iranian art supposed to operate?

Friday, 16 December 2011

Iranian film industry thrives amid continuing censorship

Pirated versions of Iranian films sold on the streets of Tehran. Photographer: kamshots

By Sakina Shakil, The International

Following the 1979 Islamic Revolution, Iran’s film industry has been thriving amid the turbulent political scene and in spite of strict censorship laws. The relationship between politics and film has been especially pronounced when Iran’s controversial presidential elections coincided with a burgeoning international recognition of the country’s film industry. Many Iranian films have competed in international film festivals and several were awarded prestigious prizes. Mr. Asghar Farhadi’s About Elly won numerous awards including Best Narrative Feature at the Tribeca Film Festival award and the Silver Bear for Best Director at the Berlin Film Festival in 2009. Ms. Shirin Neshat won the Silver Lion for Best Director at the Venice Film Festival for Women Without Men.

Moreover, many of the latest Iranian films—many made by women—discuss women’s roles in Iran and how they have been developing in a country where politics, religion, and culture are deeply intertwined. Indeed, creativity often feeds off censorship. As Ms. Negar Mottahedeh, an associate professor of Literature and Women’s Studies at Duke University and author of Displaced Allegories: Post-Revolutionary Iranian Cinema, told CNN, "film cultures have flourished oftentimes when they have been under restrictions."

Thursday, 15 December 2011

Nostalgia for the Past I Have Never Had

This article was originally written in Persian and published on Mardomak website. Read the original article in Persian here.

by Gelare Khoshgozaran

The YouTube video of Shirin Neshat’s TED Talk has by now been shared numerous times by a large number of Iranian Facebook users.

Iranian-born artist Shirin Neshat explores the paradox of being an artist in exile: a voice for her people, but unable to go home. In her work, she explores Iran pre- and post-Islamic Revolution, tracing political and societal change through powerful images of women.

Shortly after the video was released on Youtube, a similar video of a TEDx Talk by another Iranian woman artist, Morehshin Allahyari, became available. The latter, though obviously not getting anywhere near as many hits as Neshat’s, was soon shared by users on social media websites and became very popular amongst the similar Facebook users or TED Talks fans.

Art activist Morehshin Allahyari teams artists from the US and Iran in a creative exchange designed to build bridges between the countries. She urges us to take action and think about how we can use our own talents to extend what collaboration can look like.

Wednesday, 14 December 2011

Iran via Video Current

Thomas Erben Gallery presents Iran via Video Current, A project of OtherIS – a curatorial initiative conceived to address cultural production and exchange with countries under international sanctions, curated by Amirali Ghasemi (Tehran) and Sandra Skurvida (New York)

Week-long screening of current video art from and in relation to Iran, until17 December 2011

The main question in transnational art production is who represents whom and for whom? This project engages the problem of representation via an ongoing exchange among participants in Iran and elsewhere, as conveyed in the two distinct, yet co-related video programs focused on Iran — one by Tehran-based artist and curator Amirali Ghasemi and another by New York-based curator and scholar Sandra Skurvida. Both curators started their research from their respective locales, yet both programs include artists who live in Iran and elsewhere around the world.

In her program entitled 1979/1357-, Skurvida revisits the sightlines of the most prominent, controversial Western observer of the Iranian Revolution, Michel Foucault. Both his advocacy and the ensuing critique of it reverberate in the appraisals of the recent and current events. The year denoted equally as “1979” and “1357” signifies the difference in time borne out of the societal spaces that are not the same. This negotiation unfolds in the works by Abbas Akhavan, Morehshin Allahyari, Amir Bastan, Bahar Behbahani, Kaya Behkalam & Azin Feizabadi, Barbad Golshiri, Arash Fayez, Mirak Jamal, Farhad Kalantary, Sohrab Kashani, Gelare Khoshgozaran, Amitis Motevalli, Nosrat Nosratian, Anahita Razmi, Jinoos Taghizadeh, Negar Tahsili, and Katayoun Vaziri.

Tuesday, 13 December 2011

Flying Fingers

 There are very good reasons why Mohammad Reza Mortazavi is known as the drummer with the "fastest hands in the world"; listening to him perform, one gets the impression that one is listening to an ensemble of drummers playing a variety of instruments. Marian Brehmer reports

 Iranian Tombak Virtuoso Mohammad Reza Mortazavi

By Marian Brehmer,

It is not exactly the most likely of settings for an Iranian solo drummer. The trendy "Lido" club in the Kreuzberg district of Berlin is the type of venue that is more usually frequented by indie or electro bands. With no seats for the audience, it is standing room only.

On the stage are four drums – two Iranian frame drums, or dafs, and two tombak hand drums – silently awaiting the animating touch that will give them life. The daf is the rhythmic heart of traditional Sufi music and is also used to accompany prayer and chanting in many Muslim countries, while the goblet-shaped tombak is the most important percussion instrument in traditional Persian music.

There is tension in the air; the concert is late in starting. The "Lido" is packed, the atmosphere stuffy, and the sense of expectation almost palpable. It is amazing how many young people have come along. This is a very different gathering from the usual Iranian exiles that so often make up the lion's share of listeners at a concert of Persian music.

A ripple of applause suddenly greets the appearance on stage of a slim, almost inconspicuous man. When he says a few words into the microphone, Mohammad Reza Mortazavi seems shy, perhaps even too shy for the stage. Once he has a drum in his hand, however, a transformation takes place and he begins to work his magic, mesmerising his audience. 

Thursday, 8 December 2011

Clandestine Trade

By Melik Kaylan, WSJ

Two utterly disparate artworks now on view in Manhattan—a centuries-old masterpiece and a modernist grotesque of immense price—are linked by a history that has remained largely in the shadows. At the Metropolitan Museum's newly reopened Islamic galleries you can see the first, the Shahnama of Shah Tahmasp, or parts of it at least. A gloriously illuminated manuscript from the 16th century, generally considered one of Muslim civilization's foremost artistic expressions, it came to be known as the "Houghton" Shahnama. Why it is no longer called that, why the Met has some 78 of the initial 258 pictorial folios, and how and why the remainder of the original volume went back to Iran in a clandestine swap for the second artwork are all part of the story.

You can see that second work, simply known as "Woman III," at the Museum of Modern Art until Jan. 9 as part of "de Kooning: A Retrospective." Willem de Kooning's prominent place in modernist art needs no expounding here. Suffice to say the painting last changed hands, into the possession of hedge-fund billionaire Steven A. Cohen, in 2006 for $137.5 million. Mr. Cohen purchased "Woman III" from entertainment magnate David Geffen, who had acquired it from the Islamic Republic of Iran in 1994 via a Swiss dealer. "Woman III" originally went to Tehran's Museum of Contemporary Art in the 1970s during the last shah's time and had remained there since.

Up until 1994, the Shahnama's owner was Arthur Houghton Jr. of the Corning Glass Houghtons. He gave Harvard its Houghton Library and presided for many years as chairman of the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the New York Philharmonic. Four years after Houghton's death in 1990, "Woman III" was exchanged for what remained intact of the Shahnama (118 paintings with 500 pages of calligraphy plus exquisite binding). That much is on the public record. And when the intricate deal was done and "Woman III" sold off, some $9.5 million went to the Houghton family trust. Virtually unknown, however, is the role of Arthur Houghton III in the stealthy deal—one that required steely nerves, considering his job at the time. A longtime foreign-service officer, he worked in an office of the White House, advising on international strategies in the war on drugs while Iran was still under an official U.S. embargo dating from the 1979-81 hostage crisis. Then, as now, relations between the countries were icy. The younger Mr. Houghton remembers the mood as "extreme hostility bordering on paranoia."

Sunday, 4 December 2011

Poet, Activist Remembers Life in Iran Pre-Revolution

"At that time, nobody paid attention to what girls did when they got together." 

Q&A | by Rasheed Abou-Alsamh in Brasília

Saghi Ghahraman is an Iranian lesbian poet and gay rights activist who lives in Toronto. Born in 1957 in the holy city of Mashhad, she studied classic and contemporary Persian literature at Azarabadegan University in Tabriz. She left Iran in 1982 after attacks on the women's organization she worked at, and was a refugee in Turkey until 1987 when she emigrated to Canada.

She now works with PEN Canada's Exiled Writer program, and is on the editorial board of the literary magazine Descan. She has published three collections of poetry and one collection of short stories. She also serves on the board of the Iranian Queer Organization.

Ghahraman recently spoke about what life was like for her growing up as a lesbian during the Shah's regime and just after the Islamic Revolution in 1979.
Lesbians in Iran do not get much attention internationally. Is this because the Iranian authorities pay less attention to them than to gay men? Are some of them also arrested and charged with being homosexual?

The gay movement in Iran started right before the Revolution, and then picked up again around 1990, with gay men leading the fight without any lesbian involvement for a very long time. Lesbians appeared very slowly and reluctantly around 2005 or 2006, and without much fuss or pretense in making their presence felt as part of a social movement. So the attention is rightly given to gay men.

Iranian lesbians were heavily oppressed by the Iranian women's movement and its concerns. Lesbians were told to be quiet so as to prevent any labeling of the movement by the regime. They argued that all activities in the women's movement should deal only with Muslim women's requirements, lest the movement [be] attacked by the regime with allegations of Westernization of the movement.

Thursday, 1 December 2011


Babak Golkar explores shifting meanings through picture frames

  Blue Mosque, 2011, by Babak Golkar, who uses echoes of form in picture frames to explore fluidity in meaning. Courtesy the artist / Third Line

by Christopher Lord , The National

When we look at a painting, the ornate frame around it could almost disappear into the wall. It is separate from or subordinate to what we want to see.

But if we then concentrate on the wall around the painting, the frame becomes, in our eyes, part of the artwork. The question arises: what is the frame there for at all?

Conundrums like this are prime fodder for the conceptual kiln that fires Babak Golkar's art. To these questions, the Vancouver-based Iranian artist brings architectural sense and a head for complicated lines of inquiry. Parergon, Golkar's latest exhibition at The Third Line in Dubai, satisfies all these sides of his practice.

Golkar has produced a solo show that focuses entirely on the frame itself. He's created eight hollow wooden frames, painted in a single bold colour using acrylic. The ornate ridges on the surface have been built to evoke the outline of several architectural wonders from around the region. At points, the continuity of the frame breaks, and these ridges cast a perfect silhouette of the building on to the gallery wall.

The idea came from the essay Parergon in the French philosopher Jaques Derrida's 1987 book, The Truth In Painting. In it, Derrida discusses the way that a frame's relationship with the art it surrounds comes and goes, depending on where we focus - the wall or the image. Golkar talks about the frame "melting" between these points, and this process sparked Golkar's imagination.

Saturday, 26 November 2011

Forbidden Love Scenes in the Pious Dinosaur Nation

Tough rulings against Iranian filmmakers and the harsh treatment of female actors are causing despair in the film industry. But it wasn't always like this. Amir Hassan Cheheltan outlines the history of Iranian cinema, which is richer and more complex than the outside world realises

by Amir Hassan Cheheltan

Courts in Iran recently handed down prison sentences to two Iranian filmmakers, Jafar Panahi and Mohammad Rasoulof. The court of appeal found them guilty of acting against national security and creating anti-regime propaganda.

A few years ago, a young female actor who appeared alongside Leonardo DiCaprio in a Hollywood film was arrested and maltreated; she felt she had no choice but to leave the country.

Another even more recent case concerns another female actor. She was sentenced to a year in prison and 90 lashes for appearing in a film that had been approved by Iran's cultural authorities. Her colleagues protested against the decision in an open letter, saying that the Iranian film industry was simply not strong enough to bear a punishment such as this.

Contravention of Sharia law

In this film, the female actor in question plays the part of a young woman conducting an extramarital affair with a young man. They attend parties together outside the city. It goes without saying that no love scenes are shown in the film, and the party scenes are set in a dark location so full of cigarette smoke that it's difficult to make anything out clearly. But the main point is this: the woman appears before the camera without a headscarf, as her head is shaved totally bald. Sharia law dictates that the hair on the head must be covered up. A head with no hair, however, does not need to be covered up.

In an interview, the director of the film raises the question as to whether an actor can be held responsible for a crime committed in a film. Other colleagues of the actress point out that the world of film is fictional, not reality.

Thursday, 24 November 2011

The Art of Stepping Through Time

Iranian poet H.E. Sayeh (né Houshang Ebtehaj) was born February 25, 1928 in Rasht, Iran. Unlike many other literary figures during Shah Reza Pahlavi's reign, Sayeh refrained from being involved in politics and left-leaning activities, while staying true to his social and political consciousness. However, after the 1979 Iranian revolution, he did not refrain from expressing the deep sorrow felt by a nation whose social revolution was kidnapped by an Islamic and repressive regime. He was arrested in 1981 and spent a year in jail. Many other poets in his circle were also imprisoned and some were executed. In "Black and White", a poem he wrote in 1991, Sayeh laments:

I don't know who sold our loyalty
What he earned or bought with the money

But I see that black hand above the bar
Pouring poison in the people's wine
In 1987, he moved to Germany.

A slim volume of his selected poems is being published in English translation in November 2011 under the title The Art of Stepping through Time.  


The Art of Stepping Through Time
by H. E. Sayeh
translated by Chad Sweeney and Mojdeh Marashi

The world does not begin or end today
Sad and happy hide behind one curtain
If you're on the path don't despair of the distance
Arrival is the art of stepping through time
A seasoned traveler on the road to love's door
Your blood leaves its mark on every step
Still water soon sinks into the earth
But the river rolling grows into a sea
Let's hope that one reaches the target
So many arrows have flown from this old bow
Time taught me to fall out of love with your face
That's why these tears are tinted with blood
Pity this long game of decades
Plays the human heart as a toy
A caravan of tulips crossing this meadow
Was crushed under-hoof by the riders of autumn
The day that sets spring's breath in motion
Will birth flowers and grasses from shore to shore
Mountain, you heard my cry today
The pain in this chest was born with the world
All praised brotherhood but did not live it
God, how many miles from tongue to hand?
Blood trickles my eyes in this corner of enduring
The patience I practice is squeezing my life
Come on, Sayeh, don't swerve from the path
A jewel is buried beneath every step

Wednesday, 23 November 2011

Canary in a Coal Mine

An upcoming exhibition of the works of Farhad Ahrarnia
18 January – 25 February 2012

Until the 1980s, British coal miners would take a caged canary with them underground. Because the bird sings most of the time, if the oxygen level dropped or any dangerous gases were emitted, its death was an early warning system. 

The phrase “canary in a coal mine” refers to someone who can detect signs of trouble and danger, whose sensitivity makes them vulnerable. The sentiment is an appropriate title for Farhad Ahrarnia’s work: the idea of the caged canary, singing in the depths of the ground, while shovels unearth treasure, digging into the fabric of life. 

This is Ahrarnia’s second solo show with Rose Issa Projects, and has some echoes of the first, Stitched (2008), in that it explores the idea of being “stitched up”. For Canary in a Coal Mine he has created larger-format works that combine embroidery, digital photography, sewing needles, silver-bronze shovels and dustpans. 

Monday, 21 November 2011

Maps that defy borders

The child-like works of Iranian artist Ghazel have deeper resonances in the issues of identity, displacement and alienation
Ghazel uses ballpoint pens to draw universally understood symbols — such as the sun, trees, houses, hearts and suitcases — on world maps

By Jyoti Kalsi, Special to Weekend Review  

Iranian artist Ghazel's work is defined by her nomadic existence. She was 19 years old when she left Iran to study art in France. Since then, she has lived in various cities around the world and at present divides her time between Iran and Europe. She channels her personal experiences of being an exile, who has homes in many places but cannot feel at home anywhere, to explore universal themes of displacement, identity and alienation. Although she deals with serious and complex subjects, Ghazel's style is simple, direct and full of humour.

The artist is well known for her performance videos and installations. But for her first exhibition in Dubai she has chosen to display for the first time a series of drawings along with three videos. Titled Geo-politics of Roots — No Man's Land, the show comments on the human longing and need for roots and the socio-political forces that uproot people from the place where their heart belongs.

Ghazel uses ballpoint pens to create her child-like drawings of universally understood symbols such the sun, trees, houses, hearts and suitcases. But what is really interesting is that each of the drawings has been done on a map of the world. Through these drawings she makes the entire world her own. The roots and branches of her trees spread across countries, unhindered by any borders. And she builds her houses where she pleases, with no worries about immigration rules or discrimination on the basis of race or nationality. The houses are perched on top of the trees or sprout roots of their own in an attempt to find stability, permanence and belonging.

Cinema in Iran

Circulation, Censorship and Cultural Production 

A Conference at ICI Berlin
Dec 16-17

Iran is undergoing a period of socio-political transformation joined to a cultural space that despite binding censorship regulations, circumnavigates restrictive bans and, in the world of film, generates award winning, critically acclaimed masterpieces. 
In the course of this two-day conference, participants will investigate cinema in Iran as part of Iran’s rich media and cultural ecology. The conference brings together international scholars on topics, which explore:
  • The contemporary political and industrial context in which films are produced, distributed, and consumed in Iran and the ways in which formal and informal censorship structures and practices impact the industry;
  • Film as both a formal and informal information conduit in closed or censored societies;
  • Cinematic circulation and flows among and between the Iranian Diaspora and Iranians in Iran;
  • The role of Iranian cinema as public diplomacy and public debate surrounding film in Iran;
  • The political economy of film in Iran, including piracy and do-it-yourself (DIY) cinematic production such as YouTube;
  • The role of cinema vis à vis television: subject migration, professional migration, content regulation

Saturday, 19 November 2011

Reality of illusions

Art assumes a new form when artists from across the globe interpret Pablo Neruda’s poem on illusion for a multi-media show, discovers Poonam Goel

Iranian artist Malekeh Nayiny’s homecoming wasn’t an easy one. The revolution in Iran kept her away from home while she was still studying in the US. After a decade and a half, when she did fly back to Tehran to visit her ailing mother, she could never make it in time to hold her dying mother’s hand. What remained were a few personal belongings of her mother, a lonely father and a host of memories. “Two years later, my father died as well. All that was left for me were traces of their lives: Their objects, their letters and abandoned pictures from the past, evidences of their one-time presence in this world. I could not help but feel haunted by these symbols of the past and it became clear to me that they would always remain inside me. And, even though I fought to erase them from my mind, I realise how deeply I still cherish these traces that tangibly connect me to my past, each one telling me a different story of a time gone by,” says Nayiny. And that explains her photographic diptych titled ‘Traces’, with which one comes face to face in an ongoing show aptly titled ‘In You is the Illusion of Each Day’ at Latitude 28 in New Delhi.

Curated by Maya Kóvskaya, the show draws its title and thematics from the lines of the poem, Your Breast Is Enough, by Chilean poet Pablo Neruda, who understood our deep human need to feel intimately and inextricably connected to the world outside each of us. In an evocative essay to the show, Kóvskaya writes: “No longer were Malekeh’s illusions of self and family in sync with the world she had left behind. The rain of old family photos and the pile at her feet in the work came to represent the passage of time as well as lost time and lost people. The presence of the absent in the traces they left behind serves to underscore the ways in which the world can become a different place through the reordering of the dominant principles that gave coherence and meaning to what would otherwise simply be a mountain of meaningless matter. It is the power of illusion that enables us to tie these disparate things together into something called life.”

Hence, in each of the works in the exhibition, presented by some of the most cutting-edge artists from across the globe, illusions and their place and function in our lives serve as the dominant concept.

In Dilip Chobisa’s two untitled mixed media works that make a fine demarcation between the inside and the outside, one can find three-dimensional visual language being used to create an illusory effect. “In both works, a room in our foreground is separated from the outside by an archway that is fenced off with a length of barbed wire. In one work, a tumultuous cloudscape broods on the horizon, in the other a walkway leads to a tree that is growing in the shape of a man’s head. Inside and outside interpenetrate and bleed over the symbolically policed boundaries, placed at the gateway between worlds,” explains the curator.

Thursday, 17 November 2011

How I Learned to Stop Fearing and Love Exotic Art

JAMM, an independent art advisory, will host its inaugural exhibition in Kuwait of 40 artworks by Contemporary Arab and Iranian artists at the Contemporary Art Platform (CAP) warehouse located next door to the Life Center in industrial Shuwaikh (block 2, street 28). Curated by Ali Bakhtiari, the exhibition, entitled How I Learned to Stop Fearing and Love Exotic Art, will open on 20th November 2011.  The show will end on 10th December 2011.

Highlighting the use of writing in the field of contemporary Arab and Iranian art, JAMM”s exhibition will feature artworks that incorporate text in its various forms- calligraphy, graffiti, quotations, poems and sometimes just a single letter. Featuring works by both emerging and established Middle Eastern artists, the participating artists include Parviz Tanavoli, Hassan Hajjaj, Farideh Lashai, Katya Traboulsi, Fareed Abdal, Amira Behbehani, Shezad Dawood, Nargess Hashemi, Susan Hefuna and Farhad Moshiri.

'This is a wonderful opportunity to present the works of contemporary Arab and Iranian artists and to showcase works in various artistic media that incorporate text. The use of writing is familiar theme in the field of contemporary Arab and Iranian art. We want to highlight and celebrate that. Nevertheless, the use of the Arabic language renders the art from this region as ‘exotic’ to outsiders. In highlighting these so-called ‘exotic’ elements, we hope that viewers will question the nature of exoticism and appreciate the works, which are among the best examples from each of the artists selected. As a research-based exhibition, the selection was dependent on the works’ relevance to the theme of the show rather than the time that the works were produced;' says Sheikha Lulu Al-Sabah, co-founder of JAMM. 

Tuesday, 15 November 2011

Scarlet Stone

Who are we to blame?! Being scattered is the fruit of the bitter seeds which we planted on this land, and now they have bloomed. Whoever has had an ideal in mind and a desire in heart, now grapples with the self in the dark black cave of separation. But the key to this big black cave ...?!  
-- Siavash Kasrai
 Scarlet Stone is a new multidisciplinary and collaborative music/dance/video work told in the language of dance-theatre to be performed in:  San Diego Mandel Weiss Forum, UCSD, November 19, 2011; and Los Angeles Freud Playhouse, UCLA, December 10 and 11, 2011.

This epic piece is based on the last work of Siavash Kasrai, Mohre-ye Sorkh (Scarlet Stone) which re-tells the most famous tragedy of Iranian mythology, namely Rostam and Sohrab. The production uses the modern rendition of Ferdowsi's ancient mythology to portray the current struggle of the people of Iran, especially those of the youth and women, in their brave quest for freedom and democracy. The goal is to make this project directly relevant to the current political and social climate of Iran and the Middle East in general. Scarlet Stone emphasizes the value of wisdom over infatuation and brings to our attention the need for all Iranians to take responsibility for the cultural, social, and political development of the country in the past 60 years.

UCSD's professor, director/composer- Shahrokh Yadegari in collaboration with French-Iranian choreographer/dancer Shahrokh Moshkin-Ghalam (also starring as Sohrab) have gathered some of the best performing talents of the Iranian diaspora to include Afshin Mofid - former NY ballet star (as Rostam),  Ida Saki - young rising star dancer (Gordafarid -Sohrab's lover), Mariam Peretz - Bay Area-based acclaimed dancer (Tahmineh-Sohrab's mother) and Fatemeh Habibizad, the first female Iranian Naqqal - (Epic Story Teller, Ferdowsi) for this production. Advanced interactive video designed by Ian Wallace, and stunning lighting by Omar Ramos and Kristin Hayes define the world of the story.

Similar to the artistic form of Kasrai's poem, Scarlet Stone is staged with modern aesthetics and a deep commitment to the traditional and ancient values of Persian arts. Advanced interactive technology is used for production and projection/diffusion of video and sound, which will help the integration of the multiple disciplines used in this project. With a critical view, Scarlet Stone offers strength as well as hope. One can argue that much of what is addressed in Scarlet Stone, both in terms of societal problems and solutions are alive in the current social and political movements in Iran. For many years, the only option for defining a structural basis for a social or political movement was either leaning towards the left or the right. Kasrai, having come from the leftist tradition and having been the victim of the disillusionments which followed the left movement in Iran, proudly writes a hopeful poem for facing the problems which have plagued our times. We feel the current movements in Iran (and the Middle East in general), where all sections of people have come together to voice their desire for peaceful reform and freedom, are a living example of this approach.

Monday, 14 November 2011

The Others

In the November edition of the magazine Guernica Porochista Khakpour explores the protean category of “Iranian-American” and its assorted manifestations.

Photograph via Flickr by Iman Khalili
By Porochista Khakpour
There was a time, not long ago, when I was downright allergic to journal issues devoted to ethnic and/or racial grouping—about as aesthetically relevant as clusterings based on eye color or mole placement, I insisted. To be put in a box based on something you did not choose seemed uninspired, reductive, and even dangerous. Plus, I had personal reasons: categorization and its many cons had haunted me since I came to this country as a wee preschooler. With looks described as exotic at best and a hyperethnic multisyllabic name regarded as unattemptable at worst, I was coronated an ambassador of my particular brand of other just by virtue of being someone else’s first. When I was four, I decided to be a writer precisely because the realm of the imagination freed me from confinement regarding how and to whom I was born. But by the time the writing touched any remote professionalization (college workshops, for instance) I was again asked to “write what I know” by wide-eyed, smiling professors—whose “knowing better” was nestled somewhere between an oily did and flaky didn’t—and sheltered students who seemed torn between “coo” and “ew” when it came to me. By a combination of dead-end fatalism and pure accident, I went there (or at least I attempted to), merging the writing of the many whats that I knew with my interests in art, language, and slightly experimental forms (outcome: my first novel). It was only through doing it that I found I actually did have some genuine interest in who and what I was (outcome: years of personal-essay writing on Iranian-American issues).

The seesaw between Iranian and American appeared to have arrived at a miraculous balance. “Iranian-American” was not a label I could necessarily nest in, but at least one I could take a breath at. Even with its pigeonholes and pitfalls, traps and hurdles, stereotypes and caricatures and clichés, it was something I could live with, and this was more than I had ever had. So my disregard for ethnicity-focused anything was ultimately tempered by some authentic self-discovery, some admitted abnegation, and a consequential phobia of hypocrisy—and only really intensely inflamed by those starless lows of overwhelming suspicion and cynicism at everything and everyone American.

When was the last time you saw a book by an Iranian author that did not feature on its cover a Persian carpet, pomegranates, faux Middle Eastern arabesque fonts, or a woman in some sort of headscarf?

Sunday, 13 November 2011

Paris Photo 2011 - Silk Road Gallery (Iran)

La Lettre de la Photographie, Festival Archive,13.11.2011

The Silk Road, Iran’s first gallery exclusively devoted to photography, opened in December 2001. Akin to its namesake, the ancient roadway through which both goods and cultures were exchanged, the Silk Road Gallery’s mission is to present to the world the photography of a new generation of Iranian artists.

A medium that communicates its message directly, photography is an art form that is accessible to everyone, at once. Moreover, in a country with such an iconic cultural history, it is truly exciting to find an art form with virtually no traditional pulls or traps on its performers. In fact, one could argue that photography is the most contemporary art form in Iran.

It is our belief that Iranian photographers have now found their own distinct style of communication, and they do transmit their vision with commitment and subtlety. One will notice that Iranian photographers always find an engaging and passionate frame of reference to tell the story of their society and political environment. Photography can and will accompany Iranian public and artists all the way to modernity.

These are the reasons that we, at Silk Road Gallery, chose to specialize in Iranian contemporary photography. Forerunner in our field, the gallery has actively helped in the development of this new artistic movement. Since its opening, many celebrated Iranian photographers, such as Bahman Jalali and Shadi Ghadirian, have started a collaboration with the Gallery that continues to this day (Bahman Jalali, passed in January 2010, is still represented by the Silk Road Gallery). Meanwhile, a younger generation of photographers work actively with us. Far from being just a commercial institution, the gallery acts as a sort of laboratory in which new ideas and experiences are exchanged, discussed and congealed.

Saturday, 12 November 2011

Capturing the Imagination's Uprising

Artist Shirin Neshat Explores the Essence of Revolution With a New Play Set in Iran and a Coming Photo Exhibition

Artist Shirin Neshat in her Greene Street studio with a work for an upcoming photo exhibit of young revolutionaries. Photo courtesy of  The Wall Street Journal by Ramin Talaie

When the Iranian-American artist Shirin Neshat receives Brooklyn Museum's annual Women in the Arts award next week, she will have hardly recovered from being in another spotlight.

On Saturday, Ms. Neshat's new work, "OverRuled," will conclude its two-day run at Performa 11, the West Chelsea visual-art performance space. It marks the artist's first foray into live performance, but its theme—confrontation between "people of imagination" and oppressive governments—is a staple of Ms. Neshat's creative stock.

"'OverRuled' is coming from an earlier, almost surrealistic video I made of my own personal experience of interrogation at Tehran's airport, which later departed from being about me, but about every artist—every woman or man of imagination whose work or imagination became a point of crime," Ms. Neshat said.

Inspired by the Arab Spring uprisings, Ms. Neshat refreshed the concept. This March, while in Cairo conducting research for her next film, about Egyptian singer Oum Kolthum, she attended protests in Tahrir Square and said she was moved by how people worked together.

"It was a peaceful revolution that should have been the model for everything else that followed," she said.

"OverRuled," a mock court that's taken over peaceably by poets, artists and musicians, seeks to be that model. Though performed by Iranians, the artist says the piece transcends that country's boundaries. "The play we're doing can be just as much about Wall Street as it is about the government of Iran," she said.

Friday, 11 November 2011

The Dangerous Art of Moviemaking in Iran

Dog Sweat
By Hossein Keshavarz

“Dog Sweat” is a fictional film about young people fighting to be free in Iran. We shot the film in Tehran illegally and at great personal risk to the cast and crew because we wanted to make an authentic film that shows the surprising fun, drama and irrepressible energy of a rebellious generation.

During film school, I developed a script called “This Modern Love” about Iranians who travel to the Philippines for vacation, that explored how Iranians act on their holidays in foreign countries that have fewer social limitations.

When I was selecting cast and crew for “This Modern Love,” I became friends with a lot of the recent graduates of the film and theater programs.  I watched the projects they were making – short, underground films about their lives and their relationships. They weren’t bothering to censor their scripts to get approval from the film board.  They did this because they wanted to make films that reflected their lives, even if they knew their films wouldn’t have an audience.  Inside Iran, the films wouldn’t be shown because of their un-Islamic content; outside of Iran the festivals were only looking for very particular types of films from Iranian filmmakers.

As we were in pre-production for “This Modern Love,” which would have been filmed with the proper permissions and permits and would have featured well-known Iranian actors, my mother was in a nearly fatal car accident.  I dropped everything I was doing and focused on nursing her back to health, first in Iran, then in the United States when she was strong enough to travel.

Once I got back to Iran almost a year later, things had changed – both in the country and in terms of my own feelings.  My previous script was written at the tail end of reformist President Khatami’s term. Now it was well into Ahmadinejad’s time in office and he had already started a crackdown on artists and dissidents. While I was aiding my mother in Tehran, there were protests at the local university about the recent firings of professors for their supposed ideological leanings. At night, when I would go back to my apartment, I would see the riot police come in. And in the morning I would see students in the emergency room who were severely beaten. They would receive medical treatment, but then flee from the hospital to avoid being questioned by the police. None of it was reported on the news inside or even outside the country. This experience stayed with me for a long time. I felt like the times had changed and the script that I had spent so long on was no longer truthful to reality.

Written Images

Contemporary Calligraphy from the Middle East

November 10 - December 3, 2011
Sundaram Tagore Gallery , New York

The work of more than a dozen influential artists from the Middle East offers a rare glimpse into the contemporary Arab and Iranian art worlds. Written Images: Contemporary Calligraphy from the Middle East, curated by noted art historian Karin von Roques, explores the role of traditional Islamic calligraphy and symbols in the contemporary Middle Eastern consciousness.

Arabic calligraphy in all its aesthetic and linguistic complexity is little understood in the West and often regarded as an art form belonging to the classic Islamic arts and, therefore, to the past. In fact, it plays an important role in contemporary Arab and Iranian art. For centuries, the written word has been at the center of Islamic visual culture— a legacy that persists even today.

Artists including Iraqi Hassan Massoudy, and Tunisian Nja Mahdaoui were among the first to look at writing from an entirely new perspective and reposition calligraphy in the contemporary context. They have deftly expanded its potential so it is image as well as language. For them and the other artists in this show, writing is more than the legible word; they use it as a pictorial, formal element, referencing a multitude of issues—religious, social, political and personal.

Working with different media, including paint on canvas, collage, ink on paper, gold leaf and silkscreen, these artists take traditional Arabic script and symbols as their point of departure. Qatari artist Yousef Ahmad distills Arabic letters into abstract shapes and gestural marks that sweep across dreamlike mixed-media surfaces. Syrian artist Khaled Al-Saa’i is inspired by poetry and Sufi philosophy, and paints spacious landscapes in which words float, overlap and follow their own particular rhythm. Offering a nuanced view of the culture of the Middle East, these innovative artists create complex contemporary works that draw on the spiritual depth of ancient Islamic art.

Thursday, 10 November 2011

The Corruption of Language

Interview with Shariar Mandanipour on dissidence, censorship, and the freedom to write in Iran

HPR: Given that your work was at one point banned in Iran, how would you characterize your experience as a writer in a politically repressive country? 

Shariar Mandanipour: I’m not a political man. I studied Political Science, and maybe because I know something about politics, I hate politics. I’m a writer, but, unfortunately, in a country like Iran, being a writer, not a governmental writer…being a sort of dissident or a writer that you write for the freedom of writing, that you want to write beautiful stories. At first…they look at you as a political or as an opposition person, opposition of the regime. There are times that Iranian writers, we announce that we are not…a political party, we just need freedom of expression, and, because of it, some Iranian good writers, some Iranian good translators were assassinated. They didn’t involve [themselves] in any politic[al] matter, and a few of them [were] sentenced to prison. So the way that a dictatorial regime looks at you as a writer, they see you as an opposition [figure]. And you have no choice…even if you announce it, if you declare it, that I’m not involved in politics, they can’t believe it, and I think they are right. Because when you write against censorship, and you write about freedom and freedom of writing, freedom of expression, it is something against the dictator.

HPR: As a writer, in that sort of environment, what sort of authority or responsibility do you have to convey stories that might not otherwise be told?

SM: You know, the history of literature…engaged literature or even socialist realism literature. And I’m sure that these kind of stories, they will kill stories, they will [be] against art. You are a writer, and your job is to write a beautiful sory. You shouldn’t say to yourself that you’re going to write about the suffering that a good man is taking in a prison…If I decide to write this story…that the regime imprisons our good students…it wouldn’t be a good story. You just want to write a good story. If you are living there, if you are a human being in a country like Iran, at last it comes to your story, if you want to write a love story. The suffer[ing] of people will come into your story somehow. I’m talking about the art, not any political engagement..or any sort of socialist realism that you will feel. In Russia, before the revolution, they had great writers. After the revolution, because there were purely socialist realism stories, you don’t see any good writers. [They] were censored and [had] to publish their work underground…I know that my engagement is to write a good story. If I suffer with my people..their happiness, the beauties, or the evils that they make will all be reflected in my story.

Wednesday, 9 November 2011

''Humanity Is What Art Is All About''

Interview with Mohammad Reza Shajarian

For Iranians around the world Mohammad Reza Shajarian is the embodiment of classical Persian culture. In the summer of 2009 his support of the Iranian reform movement made him vastly popular among the young generation. 

An interview by Marian Brehmer, 
You're touring Europe at the moment. Can Europeans actually understand the depth of Persian music?

Mohammad Reza Shajarian: The Iranians in Europe can understand the music and its meaning. Europeans without Iranian roots can get a feel for the music, but not for the words. My music is based on poetry. All it does is to express the poem. Without knowledge of Persian literature you cannot understand the connection between music and words.

What comes to your mind when you think of Germany?

Mohammad Reza Shajarian: To me, Germany is about being hard working and tidy. Since 1987, I have been performing in Germany about every second year.

In Germany, Iran's public image is shaped by politics and by the nuclear issue. Do you see yourself as an ambassador for your country when performing abroad?

Mohammad Reza Shajarian: I don't know if Iranians would consider me as their ambassador or not. But our Iran is not what the government claims it is. Our people are entirely different from our government. They have nothing to do with terror and killing or nuclear power. Actually, this difference is really striking. That's why we can observe a big conflict between people and government at the moment.

In the strict sense of Islamic jurisdiction string instruments are haram, forbidden. On the other hand, Iran has a rich tradition of classical music. Although there are many gifted singers, Iranian women are not allowed to sing in public. Their voices are considered arousing by the mullah regime. How to cope with these contradictions?

Mohammad Reza Shajarian: This contradiction was created 1400 years ago. The Islamic fractions will not give up trampling on our culture, nor will Iranians give up their culture. This contradiction will continue to exist. The government is opposed to the very Persian identity of Iranians and wants to impose its Islamic identity on us. But while accepting Islam, Iranians have never lost their culture.

Tuesday, 1 November 2011

Art that's fit to print:

posters, lithographs in Dubai exhibitions

Recovery Plan by Thierry Guetta (aka Mr Brainwash), who featured in the British graffiti artist Banksy's film Exit Through The Gift Shop. Courtesy Pro Art Gallery

For the majority of us, picking up a print is the closest we’ll ever get to hanging work by a modern master in our homes. They may lack the glow of a true original, but signed editions are an affordable and accessible way to pack the walls with big names without stumping up big bucks for the privilege.

It is in this spirit that two Dubai galleries have assembled a collection of signed prints, lithographs and select unique pieces by some of the defining names in art from the past 100 years.

Currently at Pro Art Gallery, tucked away in Palm Strip Mall opposite Jumeirah Mosque, is Editions: Prints and Multiples, which throws together signed prints by modern masters such as Alberto Giacometti and Pablo Picasso with street-art ­luminaries such as the stencillers Banksy and Blak Le Rat, the pop artist Roy Lichtenstein and several key figures in contemporary Chinese art.

“Prints and multiples are not only finding their true value but are also democratising the art market,” says Tatiana Faure, the director of Pro Art Gallery.

Faure refers to the strength of prints and lithograph works at auctions internationally: “Entry-level buyers and collectors have been rushing in recent years to this more affordable side of the art market. Prints and multiples offer investors with as little as a few hundred to hundreds of thousands of dollars the chance to get into art and buy a big name.”

Highlights of the print selection include the now very familiar frozen grin of Yue Minjun, who was among the leading lights in the Chinese art boom of a few years ago and works in oil to represent his cynicism about China’s transition from communist revolution to economic giant with a bitter, strained smile.

Monday, 31 October 2011

The Lioness of Iran

Shiva Rahbaran interviews Simin Behbahāni October 2011

 Guernica Magazine

Iran’s most prominent poet, a two-time Nobel nominee, on the greatest epic in history, the nightmare of censorship, and why her country will eventually achieve democracy.

Simin Behbahāni is optimistic about where Persian thought and literature are headed despite Iranian society’s many post-revolution disillusionments. She speaks of the ruinous itinerary of the “literature of censorship” and the phenomenon of self-censorship, but she believes that exceptional knowledge has been stored up given Iranian social and cultural resistance to the consequences of the 1979 revolution. This knowledge creates fertile ground for the growth of contemporary Persian literature. From this perspective, the importance of poets and writers for the survival of Iranian civil society is undeniable. Behbahāni points out that this role has been inherited today after a thousand years of attacks on Iran’s writers and thinkers.

Behbahāni views her poetry in its historical context. She sees herself as an iconoclast, but has never severed her link with Iran’s past literature. On this same basis, far from attaching any importance, as a poet, to ‘being a woman,’ she considers any reference to it an insult. In other words, her poetry is part of Persian poetry as a whole, whether produced by men or by women. Behbahāni’s poetry is varied and, as she puts it, “multi-vocal,” because her poetry is the poetry of the “moments” of her life— whether the moments of “convoys of war martyrs on their way to the cemeteries” and “lorries carrying the bodies of executed prisoners, dripping with blood” or the moments of happiness. For Behbahāni, a good poem is one in which “today’s language, today’s events, and today’s needs” are poured into the mold of rhyme and meter.

Sunday, 30 October 2011

Contemporary Art in the Middle East

Farhad Moshiri (Iran, b. 1963), Eshgh (Love), Swarovski crystals and glitter on canvas with acrylic, mounted on mdf, signed and dated 2007, 170 x 155 x 8 cm, sold for over $1 Million.

by , arts, ink.

As far back as art historians seem to be able to go, art has always existed as a means of resistance, a catalyst to revolution, and a construct for exposing societal and political flaws.  With the continual privatization of the art market all over the world, guiding it out of the hands of restricting state and religious direction and patronage, artists are freer than ever to combine their own dissatisfactions with the existing power structure, stereotypes, preconceptions, etc. with forms of art that are more experimental and avant-garde.   Increasingly, the once European and U.S. dominated art market has shifted considerably.  Though cities like London and New York are still the major sellers of art, and Paris may always be the prime location for exhibition, some of the highest selling and most talked about art is coming out of places like Beijing and Dubai.   Themes that are common are usually similar to the same values coming out of Western contemporary art like feminism, war, and consumerism.  Aesthetically, the two hemispheres have been producing vey similar looking art as well.  Some point to this as an achievement in the universality and pervasiveness of art, though the point has also been made by some scholars that European art has had its own form of ‘colonialism,’ and Middle Eastern art (and for that matter, African and Asian) has been overly influenced by Eurocentrism, to the point where the unique Middle Eastern artistic tradition has been overshadowed and replaced with art that is a product of European art history.  If this is the case, the Middle East seems to be beating the West at their own game.  In 2008, Farhad Moshiri became the first Middle Eastern artist to sell an artwork at auction for over $1 million (specifically $1.05 million), and the numbers have only been growing since, with the Dubai Art Faire attracting some of the most elite in the art world, to the point where they have been the ones donating to the Louvre.

Saturday, 29 October 2011

Islamic Galleries at the Met Have a Grand Reopening

by Carolyn Weaver, VOA

It was eight years in the making.  Now, New York’s Metropolitan Museum is reopening its enormous collection of Islamic art in a grand new setting. The objects span nearly 13 centuries and many cultures - and include items ranging from paintings to architectural works to medieval Korans.

The Metropolitan Museum has some of the richest holdings of Islamic art anywhere - but the collection has been largely out of sight for the last eight years, as the museum renovated. Now, the 15 new galleries have greatly expanded the museum's display space for Islamic art. The rooms are grouped by regions and period, from the 7th century to the end of the 19th century.

“Our galleries are named the Galleries for the Art of the Arab Lands, Turkey, Iran, Central Asia, and later South Asia," said Sheila Canby, the Met’s chief curator for Islamic art.  "We have done that because that is the geographical region, area, that we cover."

Friday, 28 October 2011

Iranian puppet theatre: Where humans fear to tread

by Nuala Calvi, The Stage

In a society where people and particularly women are constrained by a code of conduct set out by an oppressive government, puppetry has evolved as an art form because the dolls are free to act out scenarios that are forbidden to people. Nuala Calvi investigates the creative world of Iranian puppetry
 A scene from Yas-e-Tamam's The House of Bernarda Alba

The last few years have seen an explosion of interest in puppetry for adults in the UK, with the monumental success of War Horse and the founding of Suspense, London’s first puppetry festival for grown-ups. But that’s nothing, it turns out, compared to what has been underway in Iran - where increased censorship in theatre has led more and more artists to turn to the art form.

“One of the most noticeable things about Iranian theatre at the moment is the huge outpouring of puppetry,” says Anousheh Adams, a British- Iranian expert on international arts. “It’s a massively popular art form there now, on a scale that I haven’t seen in any other country.”

Mapping Tehranto: Queen Gallery

by Sima Sahar Zerehi, Shahrvand 

It’s a small narrow gallery space nestled in a refurbished brownstone, a typical building for Toronto’s east end.

The interior is a combination of brick walls and picturesque narrow wooden stairways – a relatively high ceiling and large storefront windows give the boutique space a sense of airiness.

At night, when the street is dark, the space glows – distinguishing itself from its neighbouring shops – coming to life with the presence of patrons and visitors poised to see the works of emerging artists.

Just a few short blocks away from Toronto’s Distillery District, Queen Gallery is a tell-tale sign of the expansion of the city’s art scene into the east end.

Having just celebrated its second anniversary, the boutique gallery is no longer simply the new kid on the block of the Iranian-Canadian art scene.

During its two short years, Queen Gallery has made its mark as a destination for those interested in contemporary art produced by Iranian artists residing in all corners of the world.

Thursday, 27 October 2011

The women behind Tehran's mysterious 'Ladies in Red'

Every day, a woman dressed in red from head to toe stands in Tehran’s Ferdowsi Square, seemingly waiting for someone.
This strange scene takes place daily between 6pm and 7pm. The young lady in red always stands in the same spot, in the northwest corner of the square. This is in fact a performance art piece, which, with the authorities’ approval, has been going on for nearly three months now. The lady in red, played by volunteers, is not always alone - on October 13, about 40 ladies in red spread all over the square.

Photo posted on the Facebook group Lady in Red. 

The event is promoted on Facebook under the title “Lady in Red, Reperformance.” The idea is to bring back to life one of the capital’s local legends. As the story goes, in the 1960s and 1970s, a woman with a bony, weathered face, who always wore make-up, stood in Ferdowki Square from dawn to dusk. This lasted for two decades. Everything she wore was red: her bag, her shoes, her socks, her skirt – and of course the rose she always carried around. Toward the end of her life, she added a red veil and a red cane. Because of her expression, passers-by believed she was waiting for someone who she expected to show up at any minute.

“The legend says that a lady had a rendezvous with her beloved, but he never showed up”

New York's Met Museum showcases a world of Islamic treasures

Reopened department's galleries feature 12,000 objects that aim to promote 'mutual understanding and education'
  Thousands of Islamic artefacts have gone on display at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York. Photograph: Tim Knox for the Guardian

The timing could hardly be more symbolic. The Metropolitan Museum of Art's Islamic department closed in 2003, as war loomed with Iraq. Now, on 1 November, just over a decade after 9/11, the department reopens in a grandiose suite of new galleries displaying 12,000 objects in 19,000 square feet of space.

Here are priceless Persian carpets, delicate Iznik ceramics, exquisite Mughal miniatures, and a 14th-century tiled prayer niche from medieval Isfahan inscribed with verses from the Qur'an. There is an astrolabe, dated 1291, made by a Rasulid prince from modern Yemen; and a voluptuous Safavid tile panel from 17th-century Iran, showing a sexily deshabillé courtesan desporting herself in a garden, with a be-ruffed European merchant kneeling at her feet.

Wednesday, 26 October 2011

Macedonia's Riches Before Alexander

A terra cotta figure from the Louvre's collection depicts a dancer wearing the Iranian headdress known as ''the Phrygian Bonnet.'' / RMN/H. Lewandowski

by  Souren Melikian , The New York Times

At distant intervals a major art show leads to a new understanding of events that changed the course of world history.

“In the Kingdom of Alexander the Great, Ancient Macedonia” on view at the Louvre Museum here does so through stunning visual evidence. Discovered mostly within the past four decades, it reveals “the other Greece” — one that does not fit the image cherished by the European cultivated elites since Renaissance times.

Gone is the cliché of Alexander invading an unknown Middle East in retaliation for the “Median Wars” waged by the emperors Darius and Xerxes against Greece. Intercourse between Iran and Macedonia started long before, and it left an imprint on Macedonian art that has yet to be acknowledged.

Better still, the show demonstrates that the supposedly remote Macedonia isolated in the far north of the Hellenic world was influenced at an early date by lands very far to the east. The distant Mecenian civilization fascinated Macedonia, as witness the pottery excavated at Livadia near Aiane. Some two-handled vessels — say “kantharos” if you wish to sound sophisticated — have profiles that call for comparison with artifacts found in the heart of present-day Turkey where the Hittites laid the foundations of one of their Indo-European cultures in the early second millennium B.C.

Tuesday, 25 October 2011

Christie's Middle East sale hopes to encourage a new, younger group of buyers

A slow exposure picture shows a woman passing the artwork 'The Last Supper I' by Iranian artist Mehrdad Mohebali during Christie's exhibition held at Jumairah Emirates Twin Towers in Gulf Emirate of Dubai, United Arab Emirates. Christie's eleventh auction will take place on 25 and 26 October 2011, presenting Modern and Contemporary Arab Art as well as Iranian and Turkish Arts. The auction will also present US movie star Elizabeth Taylor's legendary jewels. EPA/ALI HAIDER.

DUBAI.- The new sale format to be introduced to Christie's Middle East sales this October includes works by Sohrab Sepehri, Farhad Moshiri, Louay Kayyali, Paul Guiragossian, Mahmoud Said and Charles Hossein Zenderoudi alongside works, often by these same artists, estimated from $2,000 in the new part II sale. Together, the sales to be held on October 25th and 26th comprising 46 lots in part I and 155 lots in part II, are expected to realize between $6.5 and $9 million. It is anticipated that the new part II sale will encourage a new, younger group of buyers to Christie‟s, a reflection of the continuing maturity of the market in the region and the attraction of works by artists from the Middle East and Turkey to an ever increasing group of international buyers.