Translations in Contemporary Iranian Art: Historicity, Marketability, Mobility

Thu, Mar 29, 2018, 12:00 pm to 1:20 pm
Robertson 002
Sharmin and Bijan Mossavar-Rahmani Center for Iran and Persian Gulf Studies

The contemporary Iranian art scene is young, dynamic, and multifaceted. A complex and highly sophisticated social network, rather than the usual texts and artifacts, govern the development of its narratives and aesthetic judgments. In it, the letterheads of institutions seem to carry no weight in penetrating and amassing data in ways that the words of a friend of a friend might. A critical analysis of this art seems to be possible only through the awareness that one was barred from the friend of someone’s friend, and therefore excluded from a part of the network that remains vital to the story. This paper traces the role of contemporary Iranian art, its production, its institutions, and its politics, which is based on the methodological impossibilities of this social network: fragmented but tightly linked; endlessly becoming yet never complete; marketable yet ethical; neither here nor there; and impermanent but indisputably ancient. 

In order to get a sense of what contemporary Iranian art is and what it does today, we ought to examine the ways in which the diverse makers, buyers, and consumers of contemporary art, from Tehran to New York and beyond, defy art history’s myths about originality, beauty, and singular, stable identities. This art as such could perhaps be grasped with a deployment of multiple perspectives, albeit fragmented but inclusive of the world that it depicts. Through the three categories of historicity, marketability, and mobility, this paper reconsiders the definitions of ‘contemporary’ and ‘art’ in its global context.

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