Friday, 25 October 2013

What it Was Like to Travel to Iran With Andy Warhol in 1976

Andy Warhol in Isfahan, Iran, in 1976. (Bob Colacello). Courtesy Asia Society

by , Asia Society
Longtime Vanity Fair contributor Bob Colacello has said he was the Andy Warhol biographer who knew Warhol for more than 15 minutes. He was editor of Warhol's Interview magazine from 1971 to 1983, and became actively involved in all aspects of life — business and social — at The Factory, Warhol’s studio, including procuring celebrity clients for Warhol's famous silkscreened portraits. Colacello's book, Holy Terror: Andy Warhol Close Up, came out in 1990. Not one to be pigeonholed, Colacello also published an expansive biography of Ron and Nancy Reagan in 2004.

In 1976, Colacello traveled to Iran with Warhol, and recently at Asia Society New York, Colacello  appeared in a panel discussion on Iran's art scene in the 1960s and 70s. (The complete video of the event is embedded below.)

First, can you describe what brought about your trip to Iran with Andy?

Well, it happened because we had gotten to know the Iranian ambassador to the United Nations, Fereydoon Hoveyda, and he actually arranged for Andy to do a portrait of the Shabanu, or the Empress, Farah Pahlavi. So the purpose of the trip was basically for Andy to take polaroids of her, which then would be made into portraits.

Thursday, 24 October 2013

Politics on canvas

Nicky Nodjoumi and the New York enclave
The artist's work transcends borders and displays a worldliness that is a hallmark of Iranian artists in New York.
Nodjoumi's artwork walks a fine line between art and politics.
Nicky Nodjoumi, Hasty Retreat, 2012, Oil on Canvas, 70 x 50 in / 177.8 x 127 cm. Courtesy of Taymour Grahne Gallery.

by Hamid Dabashi, Al Jazeera

The corner of Laight and Hudson in New York, where the newly established Taymour Grahne Gallery was exhibiting its very first show, seemed like an odd place for an Iranian artist to reflect back on his lifetime achievement. But early in September, the gallery was the scene of a spectacular opening featuring the large-scale oil paintings of Nicky Nodjoumi, Chasing the Butterfly and Other Recent Paintings.

After decades of unwavering, principled, and quiet work, Nodjoumi has finally arrived as a major aesthetic visionary of his contemporary time, having carved a commanding angle on our lived experiences from the assured perspective of a global worldliness that has patiently and consistently crossed all artificial borders of identity and politics.

Today it is the overwhelming political force of his art that immediately attracts his viewers. The Huffington Post captured the very essence of the evident political implication of Nodjoumi's art when covering his exhibition: "Iranian Artist Nicky Nodjoumi Talks Revolutions, Secret Police And The Vietnam War."

Tuesday, 22 October 2013

The Pomegranate Lady and Her Sons

Excerpt: 'The Pomegranate Lady and Her Sons' by Goli Taraghi

by Asia Society

Drawing on childhood experiences in the old-money neighborhood of Shemiran in Tehran and, later, adult exile in Paris and Tehran after the 1979 revolution, Iranian novelist Goli Taraghi captures universal experiences of love, loss, alienation, and belonging — all with an irresistible sense of life's absurdities. Out this week from W.W. Norton, a new collection of her short fiction, The Pomegranate Lady and Her Sons, translated into English by Sara Khalili, gives English-language readers an opportunity to meet a writer Azar Nafisi has hailed as "a natural storyteller, at once original and universal, filled with passion, curiosity, empathy, as well as mischief — definitely mischief."

For a sense of Taraghi's range, the title story relates how a woman traveling from Tehran to Paris is obliged to help an old woman, the Pomegranate Lady, find her way to her fugitive sons in Sweden. In "The Encounter," meanwhile, a woman's world is upended when her former maid becomes her jailer. And in "Gentleman Thief," excerpted below, a new kind of polite, apologetic thief emerges from the wreckage of Iran's revolution.

Taraghi will read from The Pomegranate Lady and Her Sons and discuss her work in a conversation with Brigid Hughes at Asia Society New York on Monday, October 28.

Thursday, 17 October 2013

Art meets Politics: Iranian Revolution poster art on display

by Kyle Sherard, Mountain Xpress

There are roughly 200 connections between Asheville and the Iranian Revolution of 1979. No, really. It just so happens that one of the largest privately held collections of posters from the Iranian Revolution, nearly 200 in number, resides here in Asheville.

For the next two months, 146 of these posters are on view as part of In Search of Lost Causes: Images of the Iranian Revolution: Paradox, Propaganda and Persuasion, a multi-institutional exhibition series and program, showing at three institutions across Asheville.

Thirty posters hang in UNCA’s Ramsey Library, 10 line the walls of Firestorm Cafe and Books and the remaining 106 fill up two floors in the Phil Mechanic Studios’ Flood and Courtyard Gallery in the River Arts District.

The weekend-long schedule begins at UNCA on Friday, Oct. 17, with an opening reception, film screening and lecture by Dr. Dabashi, an Iranian-born scholar, cultural historian and the Hagop Kevorkian Professor of Iranian Studies and Comparative Literature at Columbia University. Using a N.C. Humanities Council grant, Dabashi traveled to Asheville to co-curate the exhibitions with Steward, and give a series of lectures and presentations on the collection’s historical and contemporary significance.

The collection belongs to Carlos Steward and Cynthia Potter, who operate the Courtyard Gallery in the Phil Mechanic Studios. They received the posters in 1999 as a gift from a source they will not disclose. Dabashi believes the donor was heavily involved in the inner-workings of the revolution, which took place between 1977 and 1979.

The posters span from the Revolution’s build-up in post-coup, 1960s Iran to the height of the Revolution to the aftermath in the early '80s.

Wednesday, 16 October 2013

Incisive exhibition reveals range of Iranian modern art

Iran Modern exhibit spans three decades leading to the 1979 Revolution
Parviz Tanavoli’s mixed media composition, “Innovation in Art” (1964) consists of a Persian carpet adorned with hand painted Islamic motifs and a jug (used in toilets in lieu of bidets) inserted in the centre. From the Iran Modern exhibition, courtesy Asia Society and Guardian.

by Shadi Harouni for the Tehran Bureau, Guardian

I went to see Iran Modern with a mixture of excitement and apprehension. On the one hand, I was eager for the chance to see the works, many of which have been hidden away for decades; on the other, I had the sour memory of past exhibitions curated through a western orientalist lens. This unprecedented display of Iranian art from the 1950s up to the Revolution of 1979, on view at Asia Society in New York, brings together works from private and public collections around the world, including the Andy Warhol Foundation, New York's Museum of Modern Art (MoMA), and the Mathaf in Doha, Qatar. From the first pieces I encountered, I sensed that this was to be no exotic narrative of Iranian modernism meant for a western market. The quality of curation and scholarship involved has produced an exciting and valuable exhibition.

At first, I found myself playing the comparison game, looking at the dates on the labels to see how the works stacked up against their western counterparts. Who influenced Manoucher Yektai to use such heavy impasto in the 1950s? Do Marcos Grigorian's earthworks of the 1960s precede or follow those of Robert Smithson? The game can continue down to the year and even the month, but it is senseless and soon tiresome. And, thankfully, it is hardly the point of the exhibition. Indeed, many of the works, especially those in the distinctly Iranian Saqqakhaneh style, well represented, do not have European counterparts. The show soon takes you out of comparison mode and into richer considerations.

Contemporary Iranian art speaks from the heart

Masoumeh Mozafari, ‘Heat stroke’, 100x100cm, Acrylic on Canvas, 2011. Courtesy of the artist and {}.

by Aya Johanna Daniëlle Dürst Britt, {}

During World War II, the third floor of the building at Herengracht 401 in the Dutch capital of Amsterdam hid a number of German Jewish artists behind its facade. Today the post-war art venue Castrum Peregrini, which was founded subsequently, offers a temporary shelter to the contemporary artwork of over twenty Iranian artists carefully curated by Shaheen Merali. The latter titled the current collection of graphics, photographs, paintings and various installations ‘Speaking from the heart – The polemic sensibility from Iran’.

According to the internationally acclaimed artist Mehraneh Atashi (1980), this title somewhat unnecessarily replaces an earlier one. Atashi is among the twenty-three Iranian artists who already participated in the earlier though differently titled exhibition also curated by Merali, at the Freies Museum in Berlin in 2011. The only difference in the line-up is Reza Abedini, the famous graphic designer and artistic director of the Azad Art Gallery. He designed the poster accompanying the present exhibition and replaced late fellow artist Farideh Lashaei (1944-2013) in ‘Speaking from the heart’.

Aesthetic opposition

The Azad Art Gallery in Tehran is an initiative run by the artists listed at the bottom of this article, who are all taking part in the Amsterdam exhibition. The Azad Art Gallery exhibits artwork for a maximum of two weeks: a time-span long enough for the public to pay a visit, but usually short enough not to arouse the suspicion or repercussions of the regime. After the Iranian elections of 2009 gave birth to a series of events generally referred to as the ‘Green Movement’ (which originated a year ahead of the wave of uprisings in the Middle East dubbed the ‘Arab Spring’), Iranian artists found their social work space often confined to the borders of the city, or, in some cases, even limited to the confines of their homes. Their personal experience of gross human rights violations and immense social distress is a prominent and confronting feature in most of their works.

The House on Iran Street

But streets do not just disappear, do they?
Image from Flickr via Kamyar Adl. Courtesy Guernica 

by Hooman Majd, Guernica

The Past


The streets still glimmer from the early freezing rain, and the traffic is heavier than usual. Shared taxicabs are packed with passengers, crammed into small cars, and they sweep by her without slowing down. She stands on the corner of the busy avenue, looking at the massive snowcapped mountain that dominates the view in the northern part of the city, and puts her arm out from under her black chador in the hope that a vacant cab, or at least a cab with room for one more body, will materialize. She holds the chador tightly under her chin with one fist and keeps her stare toward the mountain. Eventually a battered orange Paykan taxi, belching thick black soot from its exhaust, stops, and the driver gruffly asks her destination through his half-opened window. The two chador-clad women seated in the back of the cab, their faces barely visible, stare straight ahead, their bodies stiff as mannequins.

Abbasabad-e-Einedoleh,” she says loudly, turning away from the mountain for a moment and glancing at the women. “Khiaboon-e Iran.” Iran Street. The taxi driver grunts and accelerates without a word, leaving her standing on her corner. She sticks out her arm again, unconsciously waving her hand slowly in an up and down motion, and turns her gaze back to the mountain. Presently another taxi stops and the unkempt driver shouts at her, demanding her destination.

“It’s your lucky day,” he says in response, a little more politely. “I’m going downtown anyway.” She climbs into the back of the car and sits next to another woman, also fully enveloped in a black chador.

Tuesday, 15 October 2013

Busting Geographical and Cultural Boundaries

Traditional Persian classical music enjoys an almost unassailable status in Iran – in contrast to the country's rather disreputable but creative underground scene. The "New Sounds of Iran" Festival shows how the two apparently conflictive genres can be combined. Amin Farnanefar reports on the event and new trends in Iranian music
by Amin Farzanefar, Qantara

A key concern in the ongoing German integration debate is a call to open cultural institutions such as museums and concert halls up to non-European culture - to bring the German public closer to its immigrant communities -, but also to get more members of migrant communities into the "hallowed halls".

If this goes according to plan, as it has done for example for a while now in at the Cologne Philharmonic, then as well as Smetana, Grieg and Beethoven audiences also get to hear works by regional icons such as Mohammad Reza Shadjarian, Sezen Aksu and Anwar Brahim. A series of events at the Elbe Philharmonic Hall in Hamburg and the Cologne Philharmonic makes it visibly and audibly plain to what extent the concept of "high culture" is being influenced and changed by migration and globalization.

"New Sounds of Iran", initiated by the new Cologne-based "Academy of the Arts of the World" and its "Diwan" association is probably the largest festival of Iranian music to take place in Europe. Its primary achievement is to afford a passage through the latest developments in Iranian music – and it shows that traditions are also in flux there, in a productive tussle between various trends from East and West, North and South.

Global melancholy

The virtual map in use here, the "music of the imaginary Iran" – to use a title coined by music ethnologist Martin Greve for a book originally on Turkey – not only spans the Iranian homeland, but also naturally the vibrant exiled community and its Diaspora. Many representatives of the Iranian musical avant-garde live in Europe, Canada or the US: The gruelling authorisation process for concerts or CDs through the puritanical Ershad Ministry drives many bands and musicians out of the country sooner or later.