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'Iran Inside Out' inside Chelsea Art Museum, New York

It is a sad mechanism of art media that always in times of war and crisis the art world turns toward the art scene of this region. Later, they often are soon forgotten: Who still remembers any of the acclaimed artists from Sarajevo, that we talked about after the city's bombardment?


Iran is now in the media - so the art world features the art scene of Iran. Let's hope in five years from now we will know more Iranian artists than today.


With all these doubts I went to the new show 'Iran Inside Out' at the Chelsea Art Museum, New York City: But they were without reason - it is a very interesting exhibition about Iranian art and cultural identity!

The subtitle clarifies the aim of the show: 'Influences of Homeland and Diaspora on the Artistic Language of 56 Contemporary Iranian Artists'.


The curators Sam Bardaouil and Till Fellrath confront 35 artists still living inside Iran with 21 Iranian artists living outside Iran. The original occasion for the show was the 30th anniversary of the Iranian revolution.


Negar Ahkami: 'The Source' 54" x 48" / 137 x 122 cm, acrylic and glitter on gessoed panel, 2009 (c) Negar Ahkami. Courtesy Leila Taghinia-Milani Heller Gallery


Some of the art looks somewhat unusual to my (Western) eyes: Negar Ahkami (outside Iran) plays with the swirling all-over patterns of the Persian aesthetic. She puts this against the Western media pictures of Iran.


Shirin Alibadi & Farhad Moshiri 'Operation Supermarket' series: 'Shoot Friedns' and 'We are all Americans' ink jet prints (c) courtesy CAM Collection Dubai / Chelsea Art Museum NYC


Shirin Aliabadi and Farhad Moshiri (inside Iran) focus on consumerisam in general and the Western influence on every day's life in Iran. In the series 'Operation Supermarket' they form slogans from modified consumer goods, like detergent bottles. I think these are very strong works.


Sarah Rahbar: Flag#32 'Did you see what love did to us but once again' mixed textiles 2008 (c)


Sara Rahbar (outside Iran) does works with American flags on which she puts Persian patterns, textiles, symbols and Farsi writings.


She sais about the exhibited work 'Flag#32':  'The title is pretty close to what the text says. It is about what the pains of love can do to us, and what love can cause us to do.. its a very strong and intoxicating emotion and this piece can be about a personal intimate relationship between a man and a woman, and it can be about a love for a country , nationalism, revolution, war and so on. it really has many, many layers to it!'


Siamak Filizadeh: 'Rostam 2 The Return' photomontage digital print on canvas (c) courtesy by Aaran Gallery and Chelsea Art Museum, NYC


Siamak Filizadeh (inside Iran) makes images of absurd body builder superheroes with guns and luxury brand items. He questions the traditional hero epic and confronts it with bits of pieces from modern superheroes taken from media images or ads. This way he makes his fun of both role models.



Saghar Daeeri (inside Iran) does decorative paintings about it girls of Teheran: 'My works are about showing Teheran's girls' connection and communication with each other through fashion. My aim is to show that these girls are everywhere. In Iran and everywhere in the world.'


Saghar Daeeri: 'Coffeshop of Tehran' of 2008, 100 X 150 cm, Acrylic on canvas (c)


I think it is a very good show: It tries to avoid Western clichés of Iran. The distinction between inside and outside Iran is an interesting viewpoint.


I got the impression the artists outside Iran focus in their art a lot about their Persian roots. That is why some of their art looks more Iranian, than the art of the Iran residents.


In contrary the art by artists from inside Iran often looks very 'Western'. Often it is about the specific problems and the lack of individual freedom in many areas of their lifes. They way most of them do that could be done now in New York too.


by Chris Neuschler



'Iran Inside Out - Influences of Homeland and Diaspora on the Artistic Language of 56 Contemporary Iranian Artists'  Chelsea Art Museum, New York City, from 26 June - 5 September 2009



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Adeela Suleman: Feroza (Turquoise), 2005. Aluminum cooking utensil, spoons, and aluminum jar (burni), hand painted; inside padded with foam and cloth. (c) Photograph by Artist's Documentation


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