A new exhibition in Paris takes an unprecedented view of contemporary Iranian art including some works never seen before in France.
Offering a chronological look at the country’s heritage, the show is organised in sections, ranging from the 1960s to the 1979 revolution, the Iran-Iraq conflict, and the postwar period up until today.
Much of the pre-1979 material comes the archives of the Shiraz-Persepolis Festival of Arts, an international event held every summer until 1977, which unfolded primarily through music, drama, dance and film.
“The festival itself was a very liberal space within Iran at the time, and also a very contested space,” says the exhibition’s curator Vali Mahlouji.
“We can very clearly say that, for example, Iranian music has benefited fundamentally from the festival. Films were premiered at the festival. In theatre, it was a new platform for contemporary Iranian theatre. So this is just a brief mention about some of the legacies of the festival,” he adds.
The second part of the exhibition focuses on the revolution and the war with Iraq.
While the political upheaval put the brakes on the more modernist, subversive artistic movements of pre-revolutionary Iran, creative expression was by no means halted. Photographs, films and installations testify to the bravery of some artists in the face of state repression.
“It seems that most of the time, the war and the revolution were like a blind spot in our art history,” says co-curator Morad Montazemi. “That’s what we wanted to illustrate, despite the violence and the problems, it was important to show these works, because they allows people to change their thinking about contemporary art in Iran.”
Documentaries and photographs of the chemical bombings of Halabja and Sardasht by Saddam Hussein tell of the tens of thousands of Iranians and Iraqi Kurds killed during the war.
In the third part, which documents the post-war period up until today, photographs, films and installations bear witness to modern-day Iran.
“Art is the reflection of a people’s will. This exhibition allows visitors to come out with their own interpretation of contemporary Iranian history. It’s a way for Iran to free itself from the weight of historical storytelling,” says euronews correspondent Omid Lahabi at the exhibition.
‘UNEDITEDHISTORY, Iran 1960-2014’ runs at the Musée d’Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris until the end of August.