Art Dubai 2014: Global Art Forum 8
by Stephanie Bailey, Ibraaz
In March 2014, Ibraaz and the Kamel Lazaar Foundation launched an online media partnership with Art Dubai 2014 for the eighth iteration of the Global Art Forum.
In this exclusive interview from Art Dubai, Ibraaz Managing Editor Stephanie Bailey talks to Shiva Balaghi, a scholar in Iranian cultural history, about Balaghi's work with the collection of Mohammed Afkhami and the practice of collecting Iranian art.
Stephanie Bailey: We are here with Shiva Balaghi, a scholar in Iranian cultural history who has just spoken at the Global Art Forum on her work with the collection of Mohammed Afkhami. Shiva, one thing I wanted to ask you about was the notion that you put forward: the collection as an archive. I wanted to ask you how this then relates to what you said about Mohammed Afkhami’s collection having the potential to show an alternative Iranian history.
Shiva Balaghi: Well, Mohammed has been collecting Iranian art in Dubai now for a decade, and he is particularly interested in Iranian politics and Iranian history, so in his collection he tends to gravitate towards those types of works of art. This book that Venetia Porter and I are writing about his collection – and the talk today was a little preview of that – really takes his collection as an archive of Iranian history, and says: what are the moments that Iranian artists from the 1960s to the contemporary period think are important? How do these artists reflect that history? And how does that history manifest itself in their artwork? So we really think of the art collection as an archive that presents an alternative history of Iran.
SB: This leads on quite nicely to a date that you mentioned in your talk, 1962, which was the year that the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) acquired – was it two works?
ShB: Yes, two works, and the artists were Pilaram and Zenderoudi. Alfred Barr collected them for MoMA when they were still young and in the early stages of their career; they are now both considered modern masters. The Afkhami collection has several examples from both artists – I chose to show just a couple of them – and so my theory is, why is it that when we go into MoMA and we look at the way they hang the canonical works of modernism these two works aren’t hung, and yet they were acquired? I call it a closeted modernism; it’s nodding to the fact that yes, there was non-western modernism, and yet not inscribing it into MoMA’s hanging of the canonical works of modern art.