New York, Asharq Al-Awsat – Perhaps it was all down to chance that the opening of a special exhibition of Iranian contemporary plastic arts at The Chelsea Art Museum coincided with the recent events that took place in Iran following the presidential elections that were held on 12 June.
The museum hosted 210 art works by Iranian artists based in Iran and others in exile, largely reflecting the changes taking place on the level of cultural debate both inside and outside of the country.
The art works by artists based in Iran are characterized by rebellion against the official institution, in their own style which can only be described as post-modernist. These artists are seeking to demonstrate their vitality and escape traditional [Iranian] art forms which are limited to crafts, calligraphy and decor.
At this exhibition entitled ‘Iran Inside Out’ one can distinguish between artists that are based in Iran, exiled artists, and artists who are members of the Iranian Diaspora.
The art works created by artists who are based outside of Iran are characterized by nostalgia, the use of methods and techniques borrowed from Iranian Islamic, popular and cultural history, as well as the use of miniatures, techniques used in calligraphy and décor, as well as some aspects of folklore.
The works of artists based inside Iran appear to be more vigorous and fresh in the way they use post-modernist art techniques. The “inside” works varied as they made the most of the media and new photographic and video techniques. These works sought to affiliate themselves with the “minimalist school” by using as few tools as possible to satirize life under the theocratic regime based on the concept of Waliyat al Faqih.
The exhibition includes paintings, sculptures, photography and video exhibits, as well as installation art. The exhibition contains the works of 35 artists based in Iran, as well as art work from 21 exiled Iranian artists, some of whom have gained a distinct presence within the United States and Europe.
This is the first exhibition to take place in New York to present a complete picture of contemporary Iranian art. The coordinator of the exhibition Sam Bardaouil said, “Some people think that art in Iran is about veiled women and calligraphy. Whoever thinks that has not seen the real art work that is beginning to grow in Iran.”
In the blurbs included in the exhibition catalogue, some of the Iranian-based artists addressed the difficulties they face with regards to censorship, and some of these artists discussed ways of overcoming this.
The exhibition put on show a painting by Mehdi Farhadian of a women’s football team. The picture, characterized by its soft colours, is a protest against the regime that does not allow women to attend football matches.
The exhibition is unique in the way that it brings together diverse works of art, representing a rare moment in which different worlds meet; the world of the Diaspora and that of internal Iran and its art work that symbolizes a protest against the culture of the official system.
The exhibition focuses on the new generation of artists inside [Iran], and succeeds in highlighting the efforts of this generation to provide surprising works of art that demonstrate that the mullah regime and its culture do not represent it. The diversity of this art work seeks to express everyday aspects of a culture that is portrayed as being uniform.
This artwork is characterized by a new energy that is willing to try different methods in order to keep up with the cultural transformations that the new generations in Iran is experiencing. This is reflected in the recent protests that were held in Iran following the elections against the authority and culture of the Wilayat al Faqih.