Contemporary art in Iran: A history in 8 artists



Iran’s top contemporary artists command high prices at auction. Do you know who they are?

In the 35 years since the revolution, Iran has emerged as one of the most prolific and productive countries for contemporary art in the Arab region. As a number of exhibitions and cultural fairs are highlighting Iranian art in 2013, Art Radar spotlights eight of Iran’s best known contemporary artists.

Watch Shirin Neshat’s Turbulent on Youtube.com

The Asia Society in New York will host “Iran Modern” from 6 September 2013 to 5 January 2014. According to the Society’s website, the exhibition will include “100 paintings, sculpture, photography, and works on paper by the most noteworthy Iranian artists of the 1950s to 1970s” such as Siah Armajani.

The Asia Society’s exhibition focuses on Iranian modern art created during the vibrant time period before Iran’s revolution. That was then, this is now. Contemporary art is happening in post-revolution Iran, with five contemporary artists leading the field in terms of sales.

Top 10 Contemporary Iranian artists at auction. Chart courtesy Artprice.com, dated 3 August 2012.

Top 10 Contemporary Iranian artists at auction. Chart courtesy Artprice.com, dated 3 August 2012.

While some of these artists may not be familiar by name, several of them are commanding high prices for their works at art auction. Iranian’s Press TV reported on 29 June 2013 that Tehran’s second art auction of Iranian contemporary art totaled USD 2.5 million.

Iran is a country heavily sanctioned by the United States, European Union and United Nations for its involvement in terrorism and nuclear weapons according to the CIA’s World Factbook. Iran is also home to 2.4 million Afghan refugees. Crimes of human trafficking are common. In addition, it has one of the “highest opiate addiction rates in the world.” A 2002 estimate of its population’s literacy rate shows the imbalance between genders as 83.5 percent of males, and 70.4 percent of female,  aged fifteen and over, can read and write.

A country like Iran, which is filled with so much political and social upheaval, in addition to having a long history and rich cultural traditions, also inspires its talented contemporary artists.

"Shirin Neshat," by Shirin Neshat. Published by Rizzoli Publishers, 2010. Image courtesy Photoeye.com.

“Shirin Neshat,” by Shirin Neshat. Published by Rizzoli Publishers, 2010. Image courtesy Photoeye.com.

Shirin Neshat

Shirin Neshat is one of the most high-profile contemporary artists from Iran. She fled the country in the 1970s, and lives and works in New York. According to her short biography published on TED, her art reflects being caught between two cultures while also examining the “complex social, religious and political realities that shape her identity—and the identities of Muslim women worldwide.”

Neshat is known for her photographs, videos and multimedia installations. She won a Golden Lion for her work at the Venice Biennale in 1999. She also won a Silver Lion for best director at the 2010 Venice Film Festival with her first feature film “Women Without Men” which told the story of four women struggling with oppression in Tehran.

Abbas Kowsari 'Halabche', 2003 Digital c-print. Image courtesy Victoria and Albert Museum.

Abbas Kowsari ‘Halabche’, 2003, digital c-print. Image courtesy Victoria and Albert Museum.

Abbas Kowsari

Photojournalist Abbas Kowsari, born in 1970 in Tehran, is senior photo editor for E’temad newspaper in Tehran. His photographs have been published in international publications such as The New York TimesTime magazine, Paris MatchDer Spiegel and Benetton’s Colors as stated on his gallery’s site.

According to the Victoria and Albert Museum’s website describing Halabche, the closely cropped photo of a peshmerga (a Kurdish combatant) wearing a T-shirt adorned with a picture of rock star Bryan Adams highlights the “incongruity between warfare in Iraq and western pop culture.” This contrast between Middle Eastern realities such as war, and Western entertainment is a theme in several contemporary Iranian artists’ works.

Abbas Kowsari, untitled, female cadets at police academy graduation ceremony, 2005. Published in Paris Review.

Abbas Kowsari, untitled, female cadets at police academy graduation ceremony, 2005. Published in Paris Review.

Kowsari was invited to film the first ever group of female cadets at their police academy graduation in Tehran, and the photos were published in the Paris Review. The police chief needed to obtain special permission from Iran’s spiritual leader Ayatollah Khamenei in order to create all-female police units.

Farhad Moshiri, 'God in Color', 2012, Hand embroidery on canvas, 7.7 feet x 15.6 feet x 2 inches / 232 x 474 cm x 5 cm. Image courtesy Galerie Perrotin.

Farhad Moshiri, ‘God in Color’, 2012, hand embroidery on canvas,
7.7 feet x 15.6 feet x 2 inches / 232 x 474 cm x 5 cm. Image courtesy Galerie Perrotin.

Farhad Moshiri

According to Galerie Thaddaeus Ropac, Tehran-based Farhad Moshiri, who was born in Shiraz, Iran, in 1963 and educated at California Institute of the Arts, “overturns both pop culture and highbrow imagery by transforming it into figurative artwork.” His works are often hand-embroidered and sparkle with his use of glitter, sequins, and crystals. Even though his shimmery works look playful, he is addressing  “the flaws of contemporary Iran all while toying with its traditional forms; he acknowledges the appeal of the western world in addition to its limitations.”

Farhad Moshiri, 'Self portrait on flying carpet', 2009, Embroidery and acrylic on canvas, 70 3/4 x 70 3/4 inches / 180 x 180 cm. Photograph: © Guillaume Ziccarelli. Image courtesy Galerie Perrotin.

Farhad Moshiri, ‘Self portrait on flying carpet’, 2009, embroidery and acrylic on canvas, 180 x 180 cm. Photograph by Guillaume Ziccarelli. Image courtesy Galerie Perrotin.

Reza Derakshani, 'End of Party', mixed media on canvas, 160 x 180 cm. Image courtesy artist.

Reza Derakshani, ‘End of Party’, 2011, mixed media on canvas, 160 x 180 cm. Image courtesy the artist.

Reza Derakshani

Born in Sangsar in 1952, painter, musician and performance artist Reza Derakshani grew up in a tent in the countryside. His nomadic childhood inspires his art. He studied art in Tehran and Pasadena, California. In 1983, following the Islamic Revolution, he lived in exile in New York and Italy. He currently lives and works in Dubai and Austin, Texas.

Derakshani’s gallery, Kashya Hildebrand, had this to say about the artist and his method of working: “By investigating the essential nature of his cultural identity in a singularly original manner, he has connected to the spirit of the most exciting art made internationally today.”

Reza Derakshani, 'Masters of Persian', mixed media on canvas, 180 x 200 cm. Image courtesy artist.

Reza Derakshani, ‘Masters of Persian’, 2008, mixed media on canvas, 180 x 200 cm. Image courtesy the artist.

Derakshani’s artwork is collected by high-profile figures such as Leon Black, Sting and Trudie Styler and the Royal family of Abu Dhabi. The British Museum has recently commissioned new works.

Babak Roshaninejad, 'No.3', 2005, oil on canvas, 100 x 100 cm. Image courtesy Assar Art Gallery.

Babak Roshaninejad, ‘No.3′, 2005, oil on canvas, 100 x 100 cm. Image courtesy Assar Art Gallery.

Babak Roshaninejad

Self-taught painter Babak Roshaninejad, born in 1977, lives and works in Hamedan, Iran, his birthplace. Inspired by social philosophy, he uses painting to express his views on life and existence according to his gallery, the Assar Art Gallery.

Roshaninejad has participated in various art fairs in Moscow, Dubai, and Istanbul. His work is in the permanent collection of The Tehran Museum of Contemporary Art.

Babak Roshaninejad, 'Sleeping in the street,' 2005, oil on canvas, 100 x 100 cm. Image courtesy Assam Art Gallery.

Babak Roshaninejad, ‘Sleeping in the street,’ 2005, oil on canvas, 100 x 100 cm. Image courtesy Assam Art Gallery.

Roshaninejad is known for painting large canvases with a limited palette. He paints portraits, construction machinery, and images from newspapers,  to show a a rapidly transforming society. In addition to painting, he has published several books of fiction.

Alireza Adambakan, 'War & Sex 5, 2001, mixed media, 40 x 20 cm. Image courtesy artist.

Alireza Adambakan, ‘War & Sex 5′, 2001, mixed media, 40 x 20 cm. Image courtesy the artist.

Alireza Adambakan

Tehran-based painter Alireza Adambakan, born in 1976 in Tehran, Iran, paints landscapes and cityscapes.

He has participated in numerous art fairs, and regularly exhibits in galleries. “Growing up in a family where tradition and religion had a strong presence throughout his upbringing, his work reflects directly on the presence of these two elements” according to his biography posted at the Assar Art Gallery.

In Tehran, Adambakan also paints murals and works as an arts researcher and writer for art magazines.

Alireza Adambakan'72tan 4', 2010, mixed media on canvas, 150 x 200 cm. Image courtesy artist.

Alireza Adambakan, ’72tan 4′, 2010, mixed media on canvas, 150 x 200 cm. Image courtesy the artist.

A press release for the art fair Contemporary Istanbul describes his paintings as haunting, his imagery originating from chaos and inspired by his psychological ties to religion.

Afshin Pirhashemi, 'Revenge', 2012, oil on canvas, 100 X 150 cm. Image courtesy Ayyam Gallery.

Afshin Pirhashemi, ‘Revenge’, 2012, oil on canvas, 100 X 150 cm. Image courtesy Ayyam Gallery.

Afshin Pirhashemi

Afshin Pirhashemi, born in 1974 in Urmia, where he lives now, is known for his black and white photo-realistic paintings of women.

His artistic talent was seen from childhood. As a teenager, he received a grant from the Italian Ambassador to study at the Rome Art Academy, and then received his BA at Azad University.

According to ArtTactic, the price range for his paintings is from USD 10,000- 50,000, and he is listed as having high market confidence. Pirhashemi won awards for his painting at the 2003 Tehran 6th International Art Biennial, and the 2004 Beijing Art Biennial Award.

Afshin Pirhashemi, 'Marriage', 2012, oil on canvas, 150 X 300 cm. Image courtesy Ayyam Gallery.

Afshin Pirhashemi, ‘Marriage’, 2012, oil on canvas, 150 x 300 cm. Image courtesy Ayyam Gallery.

Golnaz Fathi, untitled, 2010, acrylic on canvas, 140 x 200 cm. Image courtesy October Gallery.

Golnaz Fathi, untitled, 2010, acrylic on canvas, 140 x 200 cm. Image courtesy October Gallery.

Golnaz Fathi

Golnaz Fathi, born in 1972 in Tehran, is one of the few women to study traditional Persian calligraphy. She undertook a six-year training course and became trained in the highest level. Pure Islamic calligraphy is mainly practised by men, so Fathi made the decision to work in the field of fine arts according to her London-based gallery.

The calligraphic tradition is seen in her paintings and mixed media works, but she is also working on developing an abstract language of mark-making.

Golnaz Fathi, untitled, 2010, mixed media on paper, 65 x 50 cm. Image courtesy October Gallery.

Golnaz Fathi, untitled, 2010, mixed media on paper, 65 x 50 cm. Image courtesy October Gallery.

Fathi exhibits her work internationally, and her artworks are in prestigious collections such as Brighton & Hove Museum, UK; Carnegie Mellon University in Doha, Qatar; Islamic Art Museum, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia; Asian Civilization’s Museum, Singapore; The British Museum, London, UK; Devi Art foundation, New Delhi, India; Farjam Collection, Dubai, UAE; and Salsali Foundation, Dubai, UAE.

Susan Kendzulak

80

Related Topics: Iranian artistsoil painting, lists

Related Posts:

Subscribe to Art Radar for more on contemporary art from Iran


Comments

Contemporary art in Iran: A history in 8 artists — 2 Comments

  1. I am so impressed with the works by these 8 artists from Iran, either those who still live in Iran or in exile. there is strongenergy as well as tension which I guess related to the socio-cultural condition in Iran that is rather similar to Indonesian life where people are intellectually splitted wherether goiung to modernism or religionism. Anyway, I would like to know more about Iranian contemporary art. Bravo.

    Kind reagards,
    M Dwi Marianto

  2. Pingback: Muftah » Modern and Contemporary Iranian Art, On Display and In Demand

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>