New Art Exhibit "Iran Modern" Uncovers Forgotten Chapter of History

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

(Asia Society)

“Iran Modern," a new exhibition currently on display at the Asia Society in New York City, focuses on art created in Iran in the 1950s, 60s, and 70s. The show is the first major exhibition of art from this era in an international museum, and paints a vibrant portrait of a country—and time period—that many Americans are entirely unfamiliar with.

Melissa Chiu, director of the Asia Society Museum, hopes the exhibit will help an American audience better understand the chapter of Iranian history that immediately preceded that country's 1979 Revolution.

"It is hard today for a lot of people today to imagine what Iran was like during this time and that’s part of the purpose of this exhibition." Chiu says.  “Iran during this time was very open, cosmopolitan."

"Iran Modern" features pieces from 26 artists of the period, men and women who were invested in reinterpreting the modernist trends of the art world at that time, putting a regional spin on Pop Art themes and collaborating with international artists to push the boundaries of visual art.   

Chiu says one of the major challenges of the show was simply finding the material because international sanctions prevent U.S. museums from borrowing work from any state-run galleries, museums or universities in Iran. The show's curators instead acquired pieces from private collectors and museums in London, Paris, Los Angeles, New York and other cities around the world.  

From the ornate cut-glass mirror work of Monir Farmanfarmaian (who often collaborated with Andy Warhol) to the protest art self-portraits of Ahmad Aali, the art of "Iran Modern" depicts a thriving, cross-pollinating creative culture—an art scene that was in dialogue both with Iranian culture and history and with the West.

"This was a period when there were many connections between the U.S. and Iran, cultural ties, exchanges, artworks being acquired," Chiu says. "We wanted to bring out this connection, but also bring out a period that’s been under-recognized. There’s never been a exhibit in this way.”

"Iran Modern" will remain on on display at the Asia Society until January 5th, 2014. Later this month, when the new Iranian President Hassan Rouhani visits the U.S. to attend the United Nations General Assembly. He's made plans to pay "Iran Modern" a visit as well. 

 

Ardeshir Mohassess, Untitled, 1978

Ink on paper

H. 17 x W. 12 1/12 in. (44.2 x 32.5 cm)

Katayoun Beglari-Scarlet and Peter Scarlet Collection

Faramarz Pilaram, Untitled, 1972

Oil on canvas

H. 47 x W. 47 in. (119.4 x 119.4 cm)

Houman M. Sarshar Collection, New York

Marcos Grigorian, Untitled, n.d.

Sand and enamel on canvas

H. 30 x W. 25 in. (76.2 x 63.5 cm)

Grey Art Gallery, New York University Art Collection

Gift of Abby Weed Grey, G1975.570

Monir Shahroudy Farmanfarmaian, Untitled, 1977

Mirror, reverse-glass painting and plaster on wood

H. 41 1/2 x W. 41 1/2 (105.4 x 150.4)

Zahra Farmanfarmaian. Photo: Joshua Sage

Monir Shahroudy Farmanfarmaian, Untitled, c. 1975–1976

Mirror, reverse-glass painting, plaster, and wood

H. 31 1/2 x W. 27 1/2 in. (80 x 70 cm)

Private Collection

Parviz Tanavoli, Heech (Nothing), 1972
Bronze on wood base
22 1/4 x 12 x 8 inches (56.5 x 30.5 x 20.3 cm)
base:  5 x 5 x 5 inches (12.7 x 12.7 x 12.7 cm)
Grey Art Gallery, New York University Art Collection
Gift of Abby Weed Grey, G1975.54

Abolghassem Saidi

Untitled, 1973

Oil on canvas

78 3/4 x 78 3/4 in. (200 x 200 cm)

Collection of Sam Bayat-Charlotte Denise Madeleine Bayat

Photo courtesy of the collector

Ghasem Hajizadeh

Yesterday-Today, 1970

Oil on canvas

51 3/16 x 76 3/4 in. (130 x 195 cm)

Collection of the artist

Photo courtesy of the artist

Rana Javadi

Breaking into the Police Station. 23 Bahman 1357 (February 12, 1979), 1979

Gelatin silver print

20 x 24 in. (50.8 x 61 cm)

Private Collection

Photo: courtesy of Rana Javadi

Mohammad Ehsai

Untitled, 1974

Oil on canvas

 47 1/4 x 31 1/16 in. (120 x 79 cm)

Collection of the artist

Photo courtesy of the artist

Nicky Nodjoumi

Untitled, 1976

Oil and charcoal on canvas 70 x 45 in. (177.8 x 114.3 cm)

Collection of the artist

Photo:  Gina Fuentes Walker

Siah Armajani

Shadow Casting Structure (9), 1970

Felt pen on graph paper

17 5/8 x 22 1/4 in. (44.8 x 56.5 cm)

Collection of the artist, courtesy of Beam Contemporary Art, New York and London

Photo courtesy of Beam Contemporary Art and the artist

Siah Armajani

Reading Room No. 1 (model), 1978

Painted wood, glass, and balsa

16 ¾ x 24 x 39 1/2 in. (42.6 x 61 x 100.3 cm)

Collection of the artist, courtesy of Beam  Contemporary Art, New York and London

Photo: Larry Marcus

Parviz Tanavoli

The Poet and the Beloved King (Lovers), 1964

Wood, tin plate, copper, steel, fluorescent light, plexiglass, and oil paint

76 ¼ x 40 3/16 x 43 5/16 in. (194 x 102 x 110 cm)

Tate: purchased using funds provided by Edward and Maryam Eisler, 2011

Photo: Courtesy of Tate

Mythili Rao

Takeaway Host John Hockenberry at the Asia Society's New York City exhibit "Iran Modern."

Mythili Rao

Takeaway Host John Hockenberry at the Asia Society's New York City exhibit "Iran Modern."

Mythili Rao

Takeaway Host John Hockenberry at the Asia Society's New York City exhibit "Iran Modern."

Takeaway Host John Hockenberry at the Asia Society's New York City exhibit "Iran Modern."

Takeaway Host John Hockenberry at the Asia Society's New York City exhibit "Iran Modern."

Takeaway Host John Hockenberry at the Asia Society's New York City exhibit "Iran Modern."

Takeaway Host John Hockenberry at the Asia Society's New York City exhibit "Iran Modern."

Takeaway Host John Hockenberry at the Asia Society's New York City exhibit "Iran Modern."

Guests:

Dr. Melissa Chiu

Produced by:

Vince Fairchild and Mythili Rao

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