Belgium’s famed neo-conceptualist takes over entire museum for solo exhibition in Tehran.

Wim Delvoye brings collection of “interplaying contradictions” to the Tehran Museum of Contemporary Art, as relationships between Iran and the West continue to thaw. 

Wim Delvoye, 'Maserati 450s', 2015, embossed aluminium, 450 x 180 x 80 cm. Image courtesy the artist.

Wim Delvoye, ‘Maserati 450s’, 2015, embossed aluminium, 450 x 180 x 80 cm. Image courtesy the artist.

Wim Delvoye‘s solo show opened on 7 March 2016 at the Tehran Museum of Contemporary Art (TMoCA) and was curated by Vida Zaim and Leila Varasteh, in collaboration with Museum Director Majid Mollanoroozi and Deputy Director Ehsan Aghaei. Closing on 13 May 2016, the “mesmerizing monographic exhibition” is unusual, as it represents the first time that the museum has facilitated arrangements for a non-Iranian artist’s work to populate both its interior and exterior spaces.

As TMoCA Deputy Director told Art Radar, this collection of work is vastly diverse and exemplifies Delvoye’s oeuvre – one that is often described as bringing together disparate components and techniques to form what is termed an “emulsion”:

In this show, Wim’s work is very diverse, showing the continuous challenge between tradition and modernity. The works initially appear to be rooted in tradition, and they change their forms to become a part of the modern world.

Wim Delvoye, Untitled (Car Tyre) installation shot from the Tehran Museum of Contemporary Art, 2010, hand-carved car tyre, 14 x 71 cm (each). Image courtesy the artist.

Wim Delvoye, Untitled (Car Tyre) installation shot from the Tehran Museum of Contemporary Art, 2010, hand-carved car tyre, 14 x 71 cm (each). Image courtesy the artist.

To create his work, Delvoye seeks the “off the beaten path” and travels the world to work with local artists. In an interview with the artist, Delvoye told Art Radar that working with Iranian artisans was a natural progression for him and one that provided him with much needed vitality:

I was already doing all kinds of things with metals like founding, laser cutting, welding, even printing, so I was looking forward to embossing and Isfahan is the place with the best artisans for that kind of craft.

I like doing things in Iran. There is good energy. The population is well-educated and young and in the last elections this population clearly voted for a more open society. My work needs that energy. There is no energy in Europe.

Wim Delvoye, 'Dump Truck', 2012', laser-cut stainless steel, 118 x 38 x 56 cm. Image courtesy the artist.

Wim Delvoye, ‘Dump Truck’, 2012′, laser-cut stainless steel, 118 x 38 x 56 cm. Image courtesy the artist.

In addition to providing energy to the artist, Persian art is famed for using hypnotic repetitions of pattern in its lush work. As someone who has a “full library of symbols and ornaments”, this aspect of Persian culture is of particular interest to Delvoye. Dr. Hamid Keshmirshekan, art historian and Professor of Contemporary Art at the University of London, discussed Delvoye’s use of patterning and motifs in his multilayered works in the exhibition catalogue:

The artist in fact ironically re-interprets and appropriates Gothic cathedrals, Persian miniature patterns, decorative motifs and plant ornament associated with glory of sanctity into a contemporary work of art. His reversal approach to the main functional or spiritual connotation of objects or historical entities reorients our understanding of how beauty can be constructed.

Wim Delvoye, 'Rimowa Classic Flight Multiwheel 971.52.00.4', 2014, embossed aluminium, 41 x 27 x 55 cm. Image courtesy the artist.

Wim Delvoye, ‘Rimowa Classic Flight Multiwheel 971.52.00.4’, 2014, embossed aluminium, 41 x 27 x 55 cm. Image courtesy the artist.

Delvoye is not the only one who has been interested in Iran’s rich traditional and contemporary offerings with Iran’s art scene becoming more visible in the West. Delvoye was actually approached several years ago to exhibit his work but declined, choosing to wait. In an article with The Art Newspaper, Delvoye told Tim Cornwall that Iran is “not what people think it is” and the artist is contemplating opening a gallery there:

Delvoye has bought a former palace and school in the city of Kashan, which he has been carefully restoring for possible use as a gallery. He has also collected works by Iranian artists, and compares the country and its culture to “a beautiful fairytale that has been asleep for 35 years. Now it has woken up.”

Lisa Pollman

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Related Topics: Islamic artmetalmixed mediamuseum showsnewsreligious artTehran

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By Brittney

Brittney is a writer, curator and contemporary art gallerist. Born in Singapore and based in New York City, Brittney maintains a deep interest in the contemporary art landscape of Southeast Asia. This is combined with an equally strong interest in contemporary art from the Asian diasporas, alongside the issues of identity, transmigration and global relations.

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