Making Histories / Shirin Neshat

Shirin Neshat

Making Histories

Curator Suad Garayeva

YARAT is to open a new centre for contemporary art in March 2015 in Baku, Azerbaijan. YARAT Contemporary Art Centre will be the first permanent space for YARAT. It is housed in a converted Soviet-era naval building overlooking the Caspian Sea which acted as a maintenance base for navy ships in the 1960s. The conversion has created a sumptuous 2,000m2 exhibition space spread over two floors. The building will showcase four temporary exhibitions a year by leading international artists, highlighting emerging movements and new commissions, as well as housing YARAT Collection displays and a new library. The auditorium provides a dedicated space for screenings, performances and YARAT’s educational events. An organic café completes the centre by providing a space for informal discussions and gatherings. The new Yarat ‘CAC’ is conceived as a dedicated hub for contemporary art and art education not only for Azerbaijan, but the wider region as a whole.

Aida Mahmudova, YARAT’s Founder and Creative Director, says “I am delighted we’ve reached this milestone in YARAT’s work. This centre will give us even more opportunity to engage with artists, audiences and institutions internationally and to further develop our education programme, which is at the core of our activities. For centuries Baku has been a site for cultural exchange and creativity – our art centre will extend this within a contemporary context”.

The YARAT Collection is presented for the first time with the opening of the new centre and focuses on artists from the Caucasus, Central Asia and neighbouring countries. Baku is the perfect common ground for the arts from this region: similarities in religion, language, and a common Soviet past between the various nationalities have been further reinforced by the dramatic socio-economic changes of the last twenty years. Connecting to global markets and influences for the first time in 70 years, artists were among the first to react and subsequently negotiate and reflect this transition in their works.

The first exhibition of the collection, entitled ‘Making Histories’, will bring together seminal works across varied media that are historically connected to the geo-culture of Azerbaijan and the potent sense of identity catalysed by exposure to radical socio-political changes. Some artists reference the symbolism of ancient traditions, some find nostalgia in transitory moments of the everyday, some question infallibility of existing narratives, while others project quasi-utopian optimism for a better future. Nevertheless, all works shown in this exhibition are explorations into what it means to be alive today and construct, block by block, the new histories of tomorrow.

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24 March – 23 June 2015

Shirin Neshat
The Home of My Eyes

curator: Dina Nasser-Khadivi

To mark the opening of YARAT Contemporary Art Centre in Baku on 24 March 2015, YARAT is delighted to announce the exhibition Shirin Neshat: The Home of My Eyes. This is a major new commission, produced following the artist’s time in Azerbaijan and also includes two of Neshat’s earlier works, the seminal video installations Soliloquy (1999) and Passage (2001) and is guest curated by Dina Nasser-Khadivi.

Shirin Neshat’s work has explored the complexities of cultural identity, gender and power to express a vision that embraces Persian traditions and contemporary concepts of individuality. In her recent photographic work, she has focused on the portrait as a prism to reveal the cultural dynamics and personal histories of her subjects, exploring the narratives that can be ‘read’ in an individual.

This new commission, The Home of My Eyes (2015), builds on Neshat’s growing interest in portraiture. During time spent in Azerbaijan in 2014, she photographed over fifty individuals who came from communities across the country, ranging from two to eighty years old. While taking the photographs, Neshat asked participants a series of questions regarding their cultural identity and their concept of home. The resulting responses are written in calligraphy overlaying the portraits. The assembled images make up a monumental installation which fills two entire walls of one of the eleven metre-high exhibition galleries of YARAT Contemporary Art Centre, a converted Soviet-era naval building.

As Shirin Neshat explains herself: “I consider the new series of images a portrait of a country that has for so long been a crossroads for many different ethnicities, religions, and languages. This series combines fifty-five portraits of men and women from different generations to create a tapestry of human faces which pays tribute to the rich cultural history of Azerbaijan and its diversity.”

Shirin Neshat, an Iranian-born artist, is widely acclaimed for her powerful video installations and photographs. Neshat’swork frequently refers to the social, cultural and religious codes of societies and the dynamics of certain oppositions, creating stark visual contrasts through motifs such as light and dark, black and white and male and female.

Neshat left Iran in 1974 to study, returning to Iran for the first time in 1990 on a formative trip, which inspired ground-breaking work. Between 1993 and 1997, she produced a series of innovative black and white photographs called Women of Allah, in which she superimposed Farsi calligraphy on the hands and faces of her subjects. She became internationally recognised in 1999 when her film Turbulent won the international prize at the Venice Biennale and, in the following year, she was the subject of a solo exhibition at the Serpentine Gallery in London. She has received a number of prizes, including the Crystal Award at the World Economic Forum, Davos 2014, the Grand Prix of the Biennale in Korea 2000, and the Silver Lion for Best Director at the Venice International Film Festival for her first feature-length film Women Without Men in 2008.

Neshat’s work has been shown worldwide in group and solo exhibitions, including the Detroit Institute of Arts, 2013; the Mori Art Museum, Tokyo, 2013; Yorkshire Sculpture Park, 2011; the Stedelijk Museum in Amsterdam, 2006; Walker Art Center in Minneapolis, 2002; National Museum of Contemporary Art in Athens, 2001; Kunsthalle Wien in Vienna, 2000; and the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York, 1998. She has participated in major biennales including Venice, Sydney, Johannesburg, Istanbul and the Whitney Biennale. She has also participated in film festivals including the Chicago International Film Festival, San Francisco International Film Festival and the Tribeca Film Festival.
Shirin Neshat lives and works in New York.

Image: Shirin Neshat, Anna from The Home of My Eyes series, 2015, Silver gelatin print and ink 152.4 x 101.6 cm. (60 x 40 in.) ©Shirin Neshat. Courtesy of the artist and Gladstone Gallery, New York and Brussels

Press contact:
Jamila Orujova – PR Manager Phone: +994 12 5051414 jamila.o@yarat.az

Yarat Contemporary Art Centre
Sabail District, Bailovo district, Baku, Azerbaijan, AZ 1000
Hours: 11 a.m. – 8 p.m.
Except Tuesdays: 11 a.m. – 10 p.m.
entrance free