Iran Modern at Asia Society Museum

Ambika Rajgopal of Saffronart shares a note on the exhibition of Iranian modern art at the Asia Society Museum, New York.

Untitled, 1973, Abolghassem Saidi. Image Credit: http://asiasociety.org/new-york/exhibitions/iran-modern#!artworks

Untitled, 1973, Abolghassem Saidi. Image Credit: http://asiasociety.org/new-york/exhibitions/iran-modern#!artworks

London: Don’t forget to catch the first major international exhibition of Iranian modern art, from the 1950s to the 1970s at the Asia Society Museum in New York. The Asia Society Museum has been committed to closing the cultural chasm that exists between Asia and America. By promoting and showcasing a wide range of traditional and contemporary exhibitions of Asian and Asian American art, the museum has given Asian art a wider platform for exposition.

The focus of the exhibition is to highlight the thriving glory of Iran’s flourishing art scene before the Islamic Revolution of the 1979s. The exhibition features 100 works by 26 artists that encapsulate the international presence that these Iranian artists had with the rest of the art world. The collection of this exhibition have been loaned from leading artistic institutions like JPMorgan Chase Art Collection, The Museum of Modern Art, New York, and Tate, London.

Crossroads (Earthwork), 1975, Marcos Grigorian. Image Credit: http://asiasociety.org/new-york/exhibitions/iran-modern#!artworks

Crossroads (Earthwork), 1975, Marcos Grigorian. Image Credit: http://asiasociety.org/new-york/exhibitions/iran-modern#!artworks

Curated by scholars Fereshteh Daftari and Layla S. Diba, the thematic exposition of the paintings, sculptures and photographs, unravels the provenance and subsequent evolution of Iranian modernism. Embedded within Iran’s political and cultural climate, the exhibition highlights the global interaction that Iranian art from this period enjoyed.

Untitled, 1977, Monir Shahroudy Farmanfarmaian, Image Credit: http://asiasociety.org/new-york/exhibitions/iran-modern#!artworks

Untitled, 1977, Monir Shahroudy Farmanfarmaian, Image Credit: http://asiasociety.org/new-york/exhibitions/iran-modern#!artworks

 A threefold division explores the artistic genres of Saqqakhaneh, abstraction and calligraphy. Saqqakhaneh was the name of the artistic movement coined by the art critic Karim Emami in 1963. The movement amalgamated popular symbols of Shi’a Muslim culture within modern art. Each of the three sections features a monographic highlight of selected seminal artists, who played an influential role in defining Iranian Modernism.

Ledge (1), 1970, Siah Armajani. Image Credit: http://asiasociety.org/new-york/exhibitions/iran-modern#!artworks

Ledge (1), 1970, Siah Armajani. Image Credit: http://asiasociety.org/new-york/exhibitions/iran-modern#!artworks

The Saqqakhaneh movement, with its direct roots in the heart and soul of Iranian lineage, arose as a retaliation of the mimicry of Western values. Instead the movement assimilated Iranian traditions with Western modernity to form a unique pastiche, which was both distinctive and relevant on a global scale, a ‘spiritual Pop Art’ of sorts. In addition to the artworks, the exhibition features plenty of archival material to substantiate the history, politics and cultural environment of the pre- Iranian revolution.

One of the proponents of the Saqqakhaneh movement whose works can be seen in the exhibition is Parviz Tanavoli. Tanavoli created a new language for sculpture in Iran, by combining pre Islamic art motifs and modern day objects. A recurrent feature in his work is the word heech, meaning ‘nothing’. The letterform of the word- nasta’liq makes an appearance in a few of his works. The word stands as a metaphor for his fluctuating feelings towards the past and the sense of discontentment with the inadequacy of the present.

Heech (Nothing), 1972, Parviz Tanavoli. Image Credit: http://asiasociety.org/new-york/exhibitions/iran-modern#!artworks

Heech (Nothing), 1972, Parviz Tanavoli. Image Credit: http://asiasociety.org/new-york/exhibitions/iran-modern#!artworks

Some of the many other artists in this exhibition include: Siah Armajani, Charles Hossein Zenderoudi, Nicky Nodjoumi, Faramarz Pilaram and Behjat Sadr.

The exhibition will be on view from September 6th 2013 to January 5th 2014.

For more information, please click here.

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