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. The exhibition's focus is a major new commission, produced following the artist's time in Azerbaijan. The exhibition 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.
Also marking the opening is an exhibition from YARAT's permanent collection, with work by artists from the Caucasus, Central Asia and neighbouring countries alongside work by international artists whose work has a resonance with Azerbaijan. The collection itself has been built over the past three years and will continue to grow in part through special commissions for exhibitions at YARAT Contemporary Art Space curated by Suad Garayeva.
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, Neshat 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, Neshat photographed over 50 individuals who came from communities across the country, of ages ranging from two to eighty years old. While making 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 that overlays the portraits. The assembled images make up a monumental installation which fills two entire walls of one of the 11 metre-high exhibition galleries of YARAT Contemporary Art Centre - a converted Soviet-era naval building.
As Shirin Neshat explains; "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 55 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."
YARAT Contemporary Art Centre is the first permanent space for YARAT, the not-for-profit organisation which has commissioned over 80 projects since it was created in 2011 by Founder and Creative Director Aida Mahmudova and a group of artists. The 2,000m 2 centre, converted from a Soviet-era naval building, overlooks the Caspian Sea and is a dedicated hub for contemporary art and art education in the region. Education is at the core of YARAT's activities and a study centre, with a library and auditorium, will house YARAT's comprehensive education programme featuring talks, screenings and workshops for diverse audiences from student artists to families.
Notes to editors Exhibition: Shirin Neshat: The Home of My Eyes Location: YARAT Contemporary Art Centre, Sabail District, Bailovo district, Baku, Azerbaijan, AZ 1000Dates: 24 March - 23 June 2015 Admission is free www.yarat.az
YARAT is a not-for-profit organization, based in Baku, Azerbaijan. Founded by Aida Mahmudova and a group of artists in 2011, YARAT is dedicated to nurturing an understanding of contemporary art in Azerbaijan and to creating a platform for Azerbaijani art, both nationally and internationally.
YARAT (which means create in Azerbaijani) has commissioned over 80 projects to date, the majority in Baku, Azerbaijan. Education is at the core of YARAT's work and they hold artist residencies, workshops, lectures, screenings and in 2014 they launched a summer school. YARAT's programme ARTIM (meaning progress in Azerbaijan) supports young practitioners in the arts providing opportunities to curate and feature their work in exhibitions. In 2012, YARAT opened a social enterprise YAY Gallery, where proceeds are shared between the artists and YARAT.
YARAT's has produced two Public Art Festivals in Baku, exhibitions in collaboration with the city's museums and international projects such as a collateral event for the 55th Venice Biennale and participation as a non-profit in Art Dubai.
The organisation continues to grow; in 2014 YARAT opened a new building housing artists' studios and apartments to support their residency programme. YARAT Contemporary Art Centre opens in March 2015 and is the organisation's first permanent project space and a hub for contemporary art and art education for the Caucasus, Central Asia and neighbouring countries. YARAT's programme is developed by Aida Mahmudova, Founder and Creative Director, Farid Abdullayev, Executive Director and Suad Garayeva, Curatorial Director of the centre.
About Shirin Neshat
Shirin Neshat, an Iranian-born artist, is widely acclaimed for her powerful video installations and photographs. Neshat's work 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 and returned to Iran for the first time in 1990 on a formative trip, which inspired groundbreaking 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 recognized 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, 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 biennials including Venice, Sydney, Johannesburg, Istanbul and the Whitney Biennial. 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.
About Dina Nasser-Khadivi
Dina Nasser-Khadivi is an independent curator and consultant, specialising in contemporary art from the Middle East, Iran and selected areas of the Caucasus. Originally a 19th and 20th century Orientalist art specialist at Christie's, Dina began to work with Middle Eastern and Iranian contemporary art in 2006, developing an international platform for the artists by organising numerous awareness-raising initiatives, such as the landmark symposium An Introduction to the World of Iranian Modern and Contemporary Art held at the Guggenheim Museum in New York, the Houston Museum of Fine Arts and the Museum of Contemporary Art in Los Angeles in 2010. In 2013 she curated Love Me, Love Me Not at the 55th Venice Biennale, which represented 17 artists from Azerbaijan, Iran, Georgia, Turkey and Russia. The exhibition went on to Baku in 2014, when it was shown at the Zaha Hadid-designed Heydar Aliyev Center in Baku.