Thursday, 29 September 2016

Tehran's towers: how the Iranian capital embraced bold architecture

Despite its rich history of boundary-pushing designs, Tehran’s architecture scene had lain largely dormant since the 1979 revolution – until now
The Orsi Khaneh project, by Keivani Architects, in Tehran’s affluent Gisha district. Courtesy the Guardian.
by Saeed Kamali DehghanThe Guardian

From its iconic Azadi (freedom) tower, which has ridden out a revolution, an eight-year war and innumerable protest rallies, to the elegant museum of contemporary art or the city theatre, Tehran has long been home to a brand of wacky, yet distinctively Iranian, contemporary buildings.

In the few decades leading up to the 1979 Islamic revolution, architects such as Houshang Seyhoun, Kamran Diba and Hossein Amanat pushed the boundaries of traditional Persian architecture by using traditional elements in modern designs; Amanat’s freedom tower epitomises those efforts.

After the revolution, however, the Iranian capital’s architectural scene suffered a serious blow as the country was consumed first by war then by postwar reconstruction. But more recently, with young architects educating themselves in worldwide trends, and the relative stability of the country compared to its post-revolutionary upheaval, a new generation are following in the footsteps of the veterans. The city has embraced a bold, experimental architecture.

Tehran in 2016 “is in a constant mood of reconstructing and rebuilding itself,” according to Mehran Gharleghi, director at London’s Studio Integrate, who has previously worked in Tehran for the prominent architecture firm Mirmiran. “The municipalities accommodate new designs, at least compared to Europe, and there’s a big appetite for new buildings.”

“Tehran has a unique structure,” he adds. “It is more dynamic than any European capital, and at the same time it’s not a typical Middle Eastern city. Its urban scene is quite chaotic at the first glance. But, similarly to cities like Tokyo, this means Tehran is constantly able to renew its visual identity.”

Tehran’s mayors are also influential. Former president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was one. And the incumbent, Mohammad Bagher Ghalibaf, who has run eye-catching projects such as installing Picasso and Matisse billboards on the city’s streets, has presidential ambitions himself – leading, says Ghaleghi, to “the motivation of Tehran’s mayor to commission ambitious projects and improve the urban set-up”.

Monday, 26 September 2016

Street artists use anonymity to accentuate the message

In their latest task the Index on Censorship youth advisory board look at anonymous art around the world

by Josie Timms, Index on Censorship

In the latest issue of Index on Censorship magazine, The Unnamed: Does anonymity need to be defended?, Index’s contributing editor for Turkey, Kaya Genç, explores anonymous artists in Turkey. In the piece the artists discuss how vital anonymity is in allowing them to complete their more controversial work. The Index on Censorship youth advisory board have taken inspiration from this piece for their latest task, in which they investigate anonymous art around the world.

Keizer by Constantin Eckner

Prior to the January 25 Revolution political street art was anything but common in Egypt, yet it has proliferated in public spaces in the aftermath of the revolution. One of the most productive street artists in Cairo is Keizer, who has gained popularity and notoriety in recent years. Like Banksy and other street artists, he uses the well-known stencil technique to empower his fellow countrymen, and people in general, with his thought-provoking work. He likens people to ants, which are featured in most of his graffiti. Keizer explains on his Facebook account that the ant “symbolises the forgotten ones, the silenced, the nameless, those marginalised by capitalism. They are the working class, the common people, the colony that struggles and sacrifices blindly for the queen ant and her monarchy.”

Ants feature in Keizer’s work to sybolise “the forgotten ones, the silenced, the nameless, those marginalised by capitalism”. Image: Keizer. Courtesy Index on Censorship.

Asked about the reason for protecting his identity, Keizer said: “I am very concerned over my safety and the repercussions of street art which I’ve already had a taste of, especially with this current regime. Including death threats,

my twitter account was hacked twice. In the past five years of working on the street I’ve been caught once. I came out of it with a few bumps and bruises, nothing major. I consider myself lucky that I came out one day later.

Sunday, 25 September 2016

Sima Bina: a life devoted to Iranian folk music

by euronews

Banned from performing in public in her home country, like every other female singer, legendary Iranian folk musician Sima Bina was recently on stage in the German city of Cologne.

As a specialist of Iranian folk music, she says she seeks inspiration in every corner of Iran. However, the ban on women performing solo in her homeland means she has performed all over the world except there.

“It is disappointing that I cannot sing in Iran, because the music I have collected belongs to the people and I yearn to go on tour and deliver to the people what I have learned from them. But I know it is not possible and this disappointment is sometimes reflected in my songs,” she says.

Starting at the age of nine on a children’s programme on national radio, Sima soon had her own show dedicated to folk music and has devoted her career to reviving forgotten folk songs and melodies. Her work covers the whole spectrum of folk music from across Iran and further afield.

According to Euronews’ Mohammad Mohammadi: “Sima Bina has not limited her art to the folk music of Iran. Half of her recent concert in Cologne was made up of Afghan music performed with Afghan artists.”

“Our brothers and sisters in Afghanistan are part of our nation. We speak the same language. The borders are defined by politics, but the people are close and this togetherness can be strengthened by music,” says Sima Bina.

Saturday, 17 September 2016

Open letter from the Board of Directors of the Association of Iranian Painters

An open letter from the Board of Directors of the Association of Iranian Painters, to the Artistic Deputy of the Ministry of Culture and Islamic Guidance, à propos the concerns, doubts, and questions as regards the dispatch of the collection of objects of art to an exhibition tour abroad.

In the Name of God 
September 13, 2016
Mr. Ali Morad-Khani, Eminent Artistic Deputy of the Ministry of Culture and Islamic Guidance:

In view of the fact that the supervision and responsibilities of the presentation of the national treasure of the Tehran Museum of Contemporary Arts outside the country has been officially delegated to you, we formally recognize you as the person to act in response to our enquiries. This is because Mr. Majid Mulla-Nowruzi, the Director of the Museum is not responding to our questions on this matter, claiming that he has already made everything clear. He has formally asserted, “there is no need for us to discuss all matters with all individuals; but if we make any mistakes then at that time they may comment on the issue.” (ILNA Press, September 6, 2016.)

The Iranian Art Society is deeply concerned about the fate of the country’s national heritage; it is concerned that the national treasure is to be sent outside the country, according to an international contract; the very national treasure which, on September 7, 2016, in an interview with the Persian Deutsche Welle website, Herman Partsinger, the Director of the Prussian Cultural Heritage Foundation refers to as “the most valuable twentieth century art collection beyond the borders of Europe and North America.” All these concerns are because the senior directors of the Ministry of Islamic Guidance have not clarified the nature of the contract, or they have kept silent and have obviously avoided giving clear answers. Even the report on the Persian Deutsche Welle website of September 7, 2016, entitled, “The German Capital City to Host the First Tehran National Treasure Exhibition” has inreased the current obscurities.

Thursday, 15 September 2016

On Iranian Art

artnet Asks: Omid Tehrani on Iranian Art
Iman Afsarian, Car Showroom, Mirror Hall (2010). Courtesy of Assar Art Gallery and artnet.
by artnet Galleries Teamartnet

As one of Iran’s major art world figures, Omid Tehrani is dedicated to advancing and promoting the best of Iranian Modern and contemporary art to both a national and international audience. As the founder, co-owner, and director of Tehran’s Assar Art Gallery, he is also a specialized dealer who has assisted many new collectors in entering the exciting Iranian art market. During his 20-year career, Mr. Tehrani has collected and presented some of the country’s most important artists and archives in a variety of major private and public institutions.

Under his direction, Assar Art Gallery mounts unforgettable exhibitions by some of the country’s most exciting established and emerging artists. Be sure not to miss the upcoming solo presentation of Iman Afsarian, one of Iran’s most celebrated still-life painters, opening on September 23.

Tell us about your background in art and what led you here.

I was raised in a family of collectors and began collecting myself at the age of 17. At the time, I was also painting and studying painting and thought of selling my own work, but gradually I realized I am a much better dealer than an artist. I was very much encouraged and inspired by one of Iran’s legendary gallerists and a dealer for over 50 years, the late Mrs. Seyhoun, and began working for a private gallery in Tehran. Later opened my own gallery.

Thursday, 8 September 2016

How to combat Islamophobic harassment

Artist creates illustrated guide to fighting harassment

Maeril hopes her comic can "help someone being harassed while making sure any violence escalation remains unlikely."  Courtesy CNN.
Story highlights: 
  • Artist Maeril created a comic strip guide to fight anti-Muslim harassment
  • Maeril wanted to share "useful, clear steps" to help someone being harassed
  • The comic guide was widely shared on social media

Alison Daye, CNN

If you saw someone being harassed in a public space, you tell yourself you'd intervene on behalf of the victim, or report it.

In practice, that doesn't always happen. But Marie Shirine Yener wants to help.

Yener is a 22-year-old artist who lives in Paris. Under the pseudonym "Maeril," she has created a comic-strip guide offering step-by-step instructions on how to assist Muslims facing harassment in public spaces. The guide's four simple illustrations show how to create a safe and calm environment for the harassed person while ignoring the aggressor.

Maeril was moved to create the comic strip through her own connection to Muslim friends and her family's link to the Muslim diaspora. She posted the guide on her Facebook page, where it has been widely shared and translated into English.

Her illustrated message comes amid a rash of anti-Muslim sentiment in France, where dozens of beach towns recently banned the wearing of "burkinis" -- head-to-toe swimwear -- favored by some Muslim women (the ban was later overturned by the French courts).

Thursday, 1 September 2016

“Peace and Paper”

Iran Contemporary Art Biennale 2016

Biennale in Iran invites cross-cultural connection through fragile medium. 

The second edition of the Iran Contemporary Art Biennale brings together paintings, photographs, installations and video art highlighting peace, not war. 
Shadi Ghadirian, ‘Nil’ from the “Nil” series, 2008, 76 x 76 cm. Image courtesy the artist, ICA Biennale and Art Radar.
by Lisa Pollman, Art Radar

The Iran Contemporary Art Biennale (ICA Biennale) successfully concluded its second edition “Peace on Paper” on 31 July at the Niavaran Cultural Center (NCC) in Tehran, with the second leg of the Biennale opening on 20 September 2016 at the Abadan Museum of Contemporary art.

Originally, the Biennale was slated to open in Istanbul, with paper chosen as the primary medium due to the ease in which the material could be transported. After the terrorist bombing of the Istanbul Ataturk Airport in early July 2016, the Biennale was moved back to Tehran, with an even more urgent message towards cultivating peace.

Founded by Majid Abbas Farahani, the organisation originally known as the Culture of Peace Biennale (CP Biennale), the Iranian Contemporary Art Biennale aims to provide an international platform for exchange through the “language” of contemporary art, as noted in the event’s press release:
The Iran Contemporary Art Biennale is an independent and non-profit organization and has been dedicated to the advancement of discourse on peace in the field of contemporary art in Iran. It provides a context for the production and exhibition of Iranian as well as international contemporary art and related cultural practices.
The “ICA Biennale” began as a venture to showcase Iranian contemporary art by providing an international platform for innovative contemporary Iranian artists; alongside established international artists so as to create a space for cultural and social appreciation and exchange.