MoCA Los Angeles acquires taste for Iranian art

A painting by young Iranian artist Ali Banisadr has made it into MoCA’s permanent collection, while contemporary art from Iran continues to impress internationally.

Gifted to the Museum of Contemporary Art (MoCA), Los Angeles in 2012, Ali Banisadr’s painting It’s in the Air (2012) was part of the exhibition “A Selection of Recent Acquisitions” (10 February to 11 March 2013), which included some of the 117 works collected by the art institution over the past two years.
Ali Banisadr, 'It's in the Air', 2012, oil on linen, 82 x 120 inches. Image courtesy Ali Banisadr and MoCA, Los Angeles

by Art Radar Asia

Ali Banisadr: the art of war

Originally from Tehran, Ali Banisadr relocated to the United States at the age of twelve during the Iran-Iraq war. Although he is now based in New York, these childhood experiences of war and displacement continue to inform Banisadr’s work, as he explained in a 2011 interview with Asian Art Newspaper,
I decided I was going to make these charcoal drawings based on the sound of explosions that I used to hear at night…. This work prompted me to ask questions like, ‘Why the war happened?’ ‘Who was involved?’ ‘Who was behind it?’, etc. These questions opened a whole flood gate for me to think about world politics in general and world history. Thinking about the experiences in Iran has had a huge impact on the work I do now.
Ali Banisadr, 'Burn it Down', 2012, oil on linen, 30 x 36 inches. Image courtesy Ali Banisadr and Art Radar Asia.

By mingling his personal experience of war with the shared visual memory of European art, Banisadr creates, according to Julie Chae in The Huffington Post,
his own unique versions of ‘history paintings’; instead of glorifying the current political systems and power structures, however, his art questions myths, history, what really happened and what is really happening.
Banisadr’s work reflects the diaspora experience of belonging to two distinct cultures: while the artist himself cites Northern European painters among his influences – Willem de Kooning, Diego Velázquez, Gerhard Richter, Pieter Bruegel the Elder, Hieronymus Bosch and Tintoretto – critics have also highlighted the similarity between Banisadr’s work and traditional Persian miniatures.

Ali Banisadr, 'The Sun/Son', 2013, oil on linen, 16 x 16 inches. Image courtesy Ali Banisadr and Art Radar Asia.


Iranian art rising?

Also in MoCA collection…
Banisadr is not the only Iranian contemporary artist to have caught MoCA‘s attention; since 2011, the Museum has acquired works by Shiva Ahmadi and Shoja Azari. Azari’s The Day of the Last Judgment (2009) was displayed in “A Selection of Recent Acquisitions”, and Safe Haven (2011) by Ahmadi will be exhibited in another exhibition in March 2013.

Worldwide museum showings
September 2013 will see the opening of “Iran Modern” at the Asia Society Museum, New York, an international loan show tipped by ARTnews to be “the most ambitious survey of Iran’s prerevolutionary art to be staged outside Iran“.

In 2012, New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art marked the renovation of its Islamic Wing with “Contemporary Iranian Art from the Permanent Collection“, an exhibition of art by three generations of Iranian artists.

The Bâtiment d’Art Contemporain (BAC) in Geneva has held two exhibitions of Iranian contemporary art since 2011, and, in the same year, a selection of Iranian contemporary works showed in Other Gallery, Shanghai.

Shirin Neshat, “Rapture Series”, 1999, gelatin silver print, 44 x 68 1/4 inches. Copyright Shirin Neshat. Image courtesy Gladstone Gallery, New York and Brussels; and Art Radar Asia.

Decade of global recognition

Shirin Neshat, a videographer based in New York, won the The Dorothy and Lillian Gish Prize in 2006 and the Silver Lion at the Venice Film Festival in 2009 and was named Artist of the Decade by Huffington Post critic G. Roger Denson in 2010. Her work is in the permanent collections of the Guggenheim and MoMA in New York, and the Tate Gallery in London.

Monir Shahroudy Farmanfarmaian, who fled Iran’s 1979 revolution but returned in 2004, has exhibited her work worldwide and participated in the Bienal de São Paulo (2010), the Asia Pacific Triennial of Contemporary Art (2009) and the Venice Biennale (1958, 1966 and 2009). Y.Z. Kami‘s work has also featured at the Venice Biennale (2007) as well as in the collections of MoMA and the Met, New York.

Click on the video below to watch a conversation between Iranian curator Fereshteh Daftari and Ali Banisadr, held at MoCA.

Thanks for reading MoCA Los Angeles acquires taste for Iranian art

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