Friday, 18 December 2015

Farideh Lashai: Towards the Ineffable

Farideh Lashai Rocks the Tehran Museum of Contemporary Art With Jackson Pollock and Cy Twombly
Farideh Lashai, Untitled (1967). Image: Courtesy of the Collection of Centre Pompidou, Paris and artnet.
by Benjamin Genocchio, artnet news

A sensual Picasso painting of figures and an airbrushed portrait of the Ayatollah Khomeini are the first things you see inside the imposing storage vault buried beneath the Tehran Museum of Contemporary Art.

It is hard to imagine a more unlikely pairing, the work of the greatest iconoclast of the 20th century next to the work of a man who imposed a medieval caliphate on what was then—and still is—the most cosmopolitan and sophisticated culture in the Middle East.

But then again Iran remains a frightening, if fascinating, bundle of contradictions.

We all know the Iran from the news: It's an ugly, belligerent Muslim state that locks up reporters, denounces the US and Israel, and yet educates and promotes women and is proud of its cultural, religious, and ethnic diversity. It's also a society closed to the outside world in which hospitality is an art form and visitors are graciously welcomed.

Iran is possibly the most bizarre and contradictory place on earth.

So to find an estimated $2 billion dollars worth of modern and postwar European and American art lining the racks at the Tehran Museum of Contemporary Art, several feet below ground, seems strangely normal in this abnormal place. It was bought with public money during the 1970s under the patronage of the Shah, whose oppressive and ultimately illegitimate rule ended abruptly with the Islamic revolution in 1979.

I've seen bits and pieces of the collection before, four years ago while reporting on the Tehran contemporary art scene for the New York Times. To say it's impressive is an understatement. The depth and diversity of the holdings are nothing short of monumental—around 1400 words of classic European and American art.

Thursday, 17 December 2015

Abbas Kiarostami on his fixation with doors, the still image and carpentry

The Iranian film-maker is showing a photographic series he’s worked on for 20 years at Toronto’s Aga Khan Museum
Abbas Kiarostami. Photo: Janet Kimber/Aga Khan Museum. Courtesy The Art Newspaper. 
by David D'ArcyThe Art Newspaper

Doors Without Keys, by the Iranian film-maker Abbas Kiarostami, is a maze-like installation of 50 photographs, all showing locked doors fr om buildings in Iran, Italy, France, and Morocco, printed life-size on canvas. The pictures, which have never been exhibited before, are now on view at the Aga Khan Museum in Toronto until 27 March 2016. The show, which is expected to travel, is co-curated by  Peter Scarlet, the former director of the Tribeca and Abu Dhabi Film Festivals and Amirali Alibhai of the Aga Khan Museum. At the show’s opening in November, 76-year-old Kiraostami, one of Iran’s best-known artists, talked about the still photograph and the visual nuances of wood.

Did you take still photographs before you started making films?

It happened afterwards. I owe it to the 1979 Revolution, because it was very hard to make films. I had to go on producing images, so I started taking still pictures. It became a parallel activity to filmmaking. They interact. There’s a mutual influence.

In the contemporary art world, the moving image seems to be replacing everything. Why do you remain drawn to still photography?

I guess it’s a defense mechanism, but also kind of a protest against all this—in my view—unwelcome movement in images. Some of my latest works are experimental films that last four or five minutes. But each still image can last four or five minutes. If an image is worth seeing, it takes concentration and contemplation. The reason why there is so much movement is probably that nothing is worth being seen in what is actually shown. This is my way of protesting against that.

Look at how people relate to the pictures shown here. They choose the best position, and they stand still in front of it, and they stare at it. This is the kind of opportunity that is given less and less in contemporary art.

#NotACrime: A Global Street Art Project for Human Rights in Iran

Ron English painted a version of the three wise monkeys focused on the tools of journalism. Courtesy IranWire.
by Saleem Vaillancourt, IranWire

The #NotACrime campaign launched a global street art project this year with nearly a dozen murals across New York City to raise awareness of Iran’s human rights crisis.

The murals were painted ahead of President Hassan Rouhani’s visit to the United Nations General Assembly opening in September, and developed into the largest ever single-issue mural campaign in the city. Artists from Argentina, Brazil, and the United States kicked it off, with six murals focused especially on the Baha’i religious minority in Iran and the authorities’ repeated attack on their right to higher education. Five more were created to raise awareness of the threats to free expression and jailed journalists in Iran.

A series of murals across the world began later in the year as the New York project inspired new works in Brazil, South Africa and Australia.

Maziar Bahari, who founded IranWire, started the #NotACrime campaign to expose the Iranian government’s abuses of the rights of its own citizens – and in particular to engage a new audience with these issues. Bahari partnered with Street Art Anarchy, an arts production group in New York, to curate the September murals campaign.

The project is considered by the New York street art community to be the largest single-issue mural campaign ever brought to the city. Street Art Anarchy worked with prominent international artists – such as Ron English, Nicky Nodjoumi, Alexandre Keto, and several others – to produce artworks that would inspire conversations about human rights in Iran and the power of the arts to advocate for social issues.

Wednesday, 16 December 2015

Inside the studios of Iran's artists

Italian photographer Matteo Lonardi headed to Tehran to learn about the country away from the news headlines and through its artists

The studio of Bita Fayyazi, 53, is set in smoggy south Tehran, far from the affluence of the capital in the northern reaches. Her art is complex and theatrical, achieved by working with a range of material and people. From those interactions she draws her inspiration. For a recent project, she had a group of people from different socioeconomic backgrounds decorate the interior of a house. Photograph: Matteo Lonardi. Courtesy the Guardian.
by Matteo Lonardi for Tehran BureauThe Guardian

In secondary school in Italy I was taught art as a form of understanding our predecessors. Teachers compared the harmonious proportions of classical Greek statues to the social equilibrium achieved in Athens in the fourth century BC, and linked Picasso’s Guernica to the horrors of the Spanish civil war.

I was fascinated by the connection between art and history. A few years later, after moving to New York for college, this connection appeared to me not in history books but in the studios of Indian artists.

In the summer of 2010 I was an intern in New Delhi at The Little Magazine, an arts and culture publication. The editor asked me to make an archive of works the magazine was publishing. The first day she gave me a list of names and cab fare.

At each studio, I photographed a few works. Soon I started interviewing and photographing the artists in their work spaces as well. I realised the stories and the images together offered interesting insights into Indian society and politics.

Afterwards I continued the project in Italy, Morocco and New York. A few years later, at Columbia Journalism School, I applied as a team of fellow students for a grant to continue the project as multimedia.

We chose Iran as a place to look at through its artists. We felt that media’s relationship to Iran had been based on stereotypes and one-dimensional portrayals. The idea was to talk about Iran through art instead of politics. The project, called Reframe Iran, uses photo, video and virtual reality components.

Tuesday, 15 December 2015

Egyptomania, orientalism and modernism

Farhad Ahrarnia at Lawrie Shabibi in Dubai

Lawrie Shabibi presents the first solo exhibition by the Iranian artist in the Middle East.

Running until 14 January 2016, “A Dish Fit for the Gods” features Farhad Ahrarnia’s unique works expressing the ambivalent engagement between West and East through a combination of sculpture, painting, photography and embroidery.
Farhad Ahrarnia, ‘The Delirium of Becoming, a Moment Caught Between Myth and History, No. 1′, 2015, digital print dyed onto cotton fabric, hand embroidered using silk, cotton and metallic thread, and needles, 147.5 x 113 x 2 cm. Image courtesy the artist, Lawrie Shabibi and Art Radar.
byC. A. Xuan Mai Ardia, Art Radar

A Dish Fit For the Gods” at Lawrie Shabibi in Dubai marks the first time Iranian-born, UK-based artist Farhad Ahrarnia exhibits in the Middle Eastern region.

Ahrarnia’s diverse work typically draws from his upbringing in Iran and engages with inter-cultural cross-pollination and influences, media manipulation of reality and the constant power play between tradition and modernity.

His hometown Shiraz, where he was born in 1971, provides a constant reference and source of inspiration for his artistic practice, which utilises local, traditional techniques and crafts such as embroidery, metalwork and mosaic in combination with contemporary ones such as photography and digital printing on canvas.

On the opposite spectrum lies another major source of inspiration: western modernism. Kazimir Malevich, a key figure of Suprematism, is one of the artist’s major influences, while the modernist architecture that coexists with ancient ruins and historic buildings in Shiraz provides Ahrarnia with a heightened receptivity to and aesthetic sensibility combining East and West, tradition and modernity.

From the West, celebrity icons and images, Hollywood posters, beauty pageants, Time magazine covers or heroic war photography also contributed to animate Ahrarnia’s imaginative work, which juxtaposed such imagery with references to his cultural heritage and that of other areas of the Middle East.

Sunday, 13 December 2015

Who is buying Iranian art?

A new generation of super rich gather in Dubai to collect modern and contemporary art from Iran

 Courtesy Reframe Iran

by Alexandra Glorioso, Nectarios Leonidas, Matteo Lonardi, João Inada, John Albert for Tehran BureauThe Guardian

Interest in modern Iranian art began to take off, first in the Middle East and then globally, after Christie’s held its first Dubai auction of Middle Eastern art in 2006. Sussan Babaie, art historian at the Courtald Institute of Art in London, told Tehran Bureau the surge of interest in Iranian art resulted from the amount of art the country had been producing while isolated from international buyers.

The boom in Iranian art lasted only until 2008, when just before the world recession, Christie’s Dubai auction sales peaked at about $29m for the year. Michael Jeha, Dubai managing director and head of sales of Christie’s, said widespread speculation in Iran’s art ended with the financial crisis and the onset of tighter international sanctions against Iran.

In 2009, sales at Christie’s in Dubai plummeted to $12m. And while Dubai had long been a hub for Iranian trade, sanctions against Iran after 2010 made sales even more difficult for Iran-based artists, who were unable to receive payment through many international banks and forced to resort to unreliable third parties. Dubai reluctantly implemented most sanctions by 2012 and became unwilling to process payments, even for non-sanctioned goods like art.

Times change. Dubai is now expected to benefit from the easing of sanctions in the coming year, and prices for Iranian art are already rising there. Christie’s Dubai sales will reach about $19m this year.

Demand for Iranian art is generally reflecting a global trend of rising interest in modern work, said Anders Petterson, founder of ArtTactic, the art market research company.

Collectors are crucial to sustaining demand for Iranian art after the years of boom and bust. So, what are they looking for? The Collectors, featured above, takes you behind the scenes.

This article is part of a multimedia project by ReframeIran, published in partnership with The Tehran Bureau

Via The Guardian

Saturday, 12 December 2015

Straight Shooter

A new documentary tells the story of a much-loved – and loathed – iconic Iranian automobile
Iman Safaei – Elahi Chap Konam (Oh God, May I Roll Over; courtesy the artist, Shirin Art Gallery and REORIENT)

By Nazli Ghassemi, REORIENT

Made against all odds in a tiny studio in the heart of Tehran, Iran’s Arrow – a 75-minute documentary written, directed, produced, and edited by Shahin Armin and Sohrab Daryabandari – is the story of a car called the ‘Paykan’. Meaning ‘arrow’ in Persian, the film chronicles the social impact of the car during its lifespan on Iranians and Iran itself, both before and after the Revolution. Through a collection of interviews, recovered archival footage, film clips, photographs, and data collected from various sources, Iran’s Arrow follows the Paykan’s tumultuous path in the hands of its Iranian consumers during the four decades in which it was produced.

The Paykan – a seemingly unremarkable car – became a key figure in propelling a nation into modernity upon its production in 1967, and was later radically transformed into a symbol of resistance and endurance following the 1979 Revolution. Afterwards, it was seen as a breadwinner in times of war and distress, and ultimately became a national relic when production came to a halt in 2005. A noble and humble servant, the Paykan is an emblem hacked in Iran’s collective memory; and, to find out more about both the car and the new documentary, I chatted with Shahin and Sohrab in their Tehran studio.

Friday, 11 December 2015

'Art Brief: Iranian Contemporary Los Angeles': Bridging communities, one pop-up at a time

Fariba Ameri, "River of Eden," mixed media on canvas. The artist was one of 12 to be featured in the Advocartsy exhibition, "Art Brief: Iranian Contemporary Los Angeles" at Arena 1 Gallery in Santa Monica. Courtesy Advocartsy and Los Angeles Times.
by Deborah VankinLos Angeles Times

Roshi Rahnama started the L.A.-based organization Advocartsy this year, which aims to connect artists, galleries and collectors and bring awareness to artists of Middle Eastern descent. It’s something that Rahnama, a former attorney who grew up in Tehran and immigrated to California with her family in 1979, had been thinking about for more than five years.

As an art collector and member of the Los Angeles County Museum of Art's Art of the Middle East Contemporary council, she knew scores of talented artists, particularly from Iran. From her dealings with galleries, she was plugged into the fine art world. But she saw a disconnect, she says, between those two milieus. Rahnama hopes Advocartsy can provide exposure for under-represented artists through a series of pop-up exhibitions.

On Thursday evening, Advocartsy debuted its inaugural installation, “Art Brief: Iranian Contemporary Los Angeles,” a show featuring 12 local Iranian and Iranian American contemporary artists. The exhibition of painting, sculpture and photography, co-curated by Rahnama and art critic Peter Frank, consists of artists from a variety of backgrounds.

“But if there’s one idea that binds the work, it’s identity,” Rahnama says. “That just emerged, naturally.”

Friday, 4 December 2015

Why the history of maths is also the history of art

In her new book Mathematics and Art, historian Lyn Gamwell explores how artists have for thousands of years used mathematical concepts - such as infinity, number and form - in their work. Here she choses ten stunning images from her book that reveal connections between maths and art.
Karl Gerstner (Swiss, b. 1930), Color Spiral Icon x65b, 2008. Acrylic on aluminum, diameter 41 in. (104 cm). Collection of Esther Grether, Basel, Switzerland. Courtesy of the artist and the Guardian.
by Lynn Gamwell, The Guardian

When I was a graduate student in art history, I read many explanations of abstract art, but they were invariably inadequate and misleading. So after completing my PhD, I went on to learn the history of biology, physics, and astronomy, and to publish a book detailing how modern art is an expression of the scientific worldview.

Yet many artworks also express the mathematics and technology of their times. To research Math and Art I had to learn maths concepts like calculus, group theory and predicate logic. As a novice struggling to understand these ideas, I was struck with the poor quality and confusing content of illustrations in most educational books. So I vowed to create for my book a set of cogent math diagrams that are crystal-clear visualizations of the abstract concepts.

As a lecturer at the School of Visual Arts in Manhattan, I wrote this book for my students, such as Maria, who told me she was never good at history because she couldn’t remember dates, and for Jin Sug, who failed high school algebra because he couldn’t memorize formulae. I hope they will read this book and discover that history is a storybook and that math is about captivating ideas.