Thursday, May 27, 2010

Vasif Kortun named to curate UAE pavilion at 2011 Venice Biennale

Vasif Kortun named to curate UAE pavilion at 2011 Venice Biennale
Vasif Kortun, one of the inspired forces behind the rising passion for contemporary art in Istanbul -- and the success of many of Turkey's young artists -- has been named to curate the UAE pavilion for the 2011 Venice Biennale. Kortun, whom I met years ago in Istanbul when I wrote a story about the Istanbul art scene for Art & Auction, was the founding curator of the Elgiz Museum; subsequently, he founded Platform Garanti Art Center, an alternative space and archive for works by young artists.

The appointment, though, is not without irony; in 2006, the New York Observer observed:

"Next year, in 2007, I think it's like the year of the suicide—the art world commits suicide," said Vasif Kortun. "It starts with Moscow, and then there's the Emirates, and then there's Venice, then in Istanbul; there's Documenta, there is Muenster Sculpture Projects—there's like fifty biennials next year."

Mr. Kortun, whose polite patience punctuates his lengthy disquisitions on the state of the contemporary art world, holds some responsibility for this biennial blitz. After all, it was he who founded the one in his native Istanbul.

But Kortun's eye for talent is sharp, and his instincts are striking-hot. I look forward to seeing what he does for the UAE - and the response.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

too long away!

Has it been so many months? Been furiously finishing my new book, Radical State: How Jihad Is Winning Over Democracy In The West, which comes out May 31 (find it here), writing a couple of articles on Islamic Contemporary collections, dealers, and collectors, and working on two exhibitions of works by Iranian, Iraqi, and Turkish artists that have been underway for over a year now.  

Meantime, Ms. Kino picks up the slack for me once again, following in my trails with a simple interview in the Times with Shoja Azari based on his exhibition at LTMH. 

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

My article on Iranian photography is this month's Art & Auction cover story! 

Read it here  - but if you can get a copy of the magazine, even to browse through (try Barnes & Noble; they usually have it), you should, as the images are just stunning!

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Okay. This one has been making me crazy all day, and I'm now at the point where I can't possibly keep quiet about it - so here we go.

  Over a month ago, when I was writing an article on Iranian photography,  I requested a catalogue from Bonham's auction house for their most recent sale of Middle Eastern contemporary art.  They sent me 20, yes, 20 catalogues, all for other sales, but not the one I requested, despite several repeat requests.  Only yesterday, after twice informing them that I did not want their other catalogues and that it was too late to send me the one I'd asked for in the first place, did the Middle Eastern art catalogue arrive.

So, you know, I looked it over.

And to my astonishment, I found, among its pages, a lot for a sculpture by Arman.

Now, that might have made sense if Arman were from the Middle East, or worked in the Middle East, or had been Islamic.  But Arman was born in France. In the 1970s, he became an American citizen.   He lived in New York, Paris, and Vence.  And he was Jewish.  So why, I asked Bonham's, did they include one of his works in a sale of Middle Eastern art -- and not only that, but one that their staff specifically referred to (despite its actual title) as a sale of "contemporary Islamic art"?

I've just received word back. The answer: because its a sculpture made from  a lute, which is a Middle Eastern instrument, and therefore the expert in charge of the sale thought that it might be interesting to Middle Eastern buyers.

To which I can only say: "oh." 

(Actually, I could say a lot more, but I think it pretty much all speaks for itself.)

The good part is: it got me back to blogging.

Happy new year.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Oh, I've been terrible about keeping this up, and I know it...even as the world increasingly notices the richness of these works, with events like the focus on Arab and Iranian photography at Paris Photo in November, and an exhibition at the Quai Branly along with it.  Am now just finishing up an article on Iranian photography to be published in the spring, and along the way have encountered works by artists I hadn't known before, with one in particular having taken my breath away: Parastou Farouhar.  Have a look and a read.

Friday, November 13, 2009

and a glorious exhibition of Iranian photography opens in Paris.  I was not even aware that Iran had been at the forefront of photography as early as the 1930s - and as far back as 165 years ago...

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Arab and Iranian Art at Sotheby's London

Sotheby's London pioneered the Arab & Iranian art sales, and they deserve much of the credit for bringing this work to the attention of the Western art public.  Now they've gone a step further, and incorporated Arab & Iranian art into their  general Contemporary Art sale, scheduled for October 16.  Okay, so it's possible they couldn't locate enough good work to produce an exclusive Arab & Iranian art sale again -- much of it continues to be marketed in the Middle East -- but somehow, I doubt that's the case; and even if it were, the fact is, Sotheby's has taken what had been a niche movement and integrated it into the global art scene. No longer is Islamic contemporary art a kind of isolated species; the best of these works belong exactly where Sotheby's has put them: side by side with sculptures by Arman (and the ones coming up in October are stunning), and works by Anselm Kiefer, Anish Kapoor, and Christo.

And oh, those gorgeous calligraphies: works by Ehsai,  and by Koorosh Shishegaran (an artist whose work I did not know previously but am definitely going to find out more about!) and Nasrollah Afjei.  Of course, there are the requisite Shirin Neshats, 
but they become increasingly monotonous and, well, weak, once one becomes familiar with other Iranian and Middle Eastern artists. The top lot (if not my own favorite): Mona Hatoum's "Untitled (Baalbeck Birdcage),"  a
 122 x 117-inch cage which explores and entraps space, leaving the viewer, as it were, isolated and alone.   Viewings are from Sunday 11th -  Thursday 15th October at 34-35 New Bond Street.

Top: Mohammed Ehsai, "Untitled"
Right: Shirin Neshat, "Bonding"
Left: Mona Hatoum, "Untitled (Baalbeck Birdcage)"