Regular readers of Payvand know that my little pieces are a very personal account of what I do, see, observe and experience mainly in Tehran where I live. In the recent weeks, so many people have asked me if I had seen the Persian Gardens exhibition at the Tehran Museum of Contemporary Art that I felt it was indeed a real must, so I went to see this exhibition last week, and it took me a while to get over it enough to share my experience of visiting this show with you.
Oscar Wilde said that 'when critics disagree, the artist is in accord with himself' and although I do not consider myself an art critic by any means, I have seen so many exhibitions and museums, especially the modern art sections, around the world, that I have developed a sort of sense in this regard.
A few nights after I had visited the exhibition, I was invited to dinner at one of our best artistic couples, a painter and a sculptor. We were a few art lovers as well as a few others who are involved in art and art education and of course a few artists, one of whom had taken part in the Persian Gardens Exhibition at the museum. The after dinner conversation, which turned out to be all about the exhibition, was indeed most feverish and interesting as ideas and opinions were coming from all sides; it was all most enlightening. It started by the hosts' daughter, a lovely young lady who is studying art herself at the university, telling our art historian, educator and writer that she had not liked this particular exhibition. I was very surprised by this, so I asked her why and wanted to know her reasons. She said that 'it did not feel right' which was more or less my sentiment; to be quite honest I thought it was only me who did not 'quite' like the show. She said that she went to see this exhibition with an expectation which did not come true. Soon everyone who had seen the show was involved in the discussion, a few people thought the show was okay, others felt it was really good, and our young artist, who had taken part in the exhibition as a joint venture with another artist, said that it was a very personal aim of artists to interpret what a Persian Garden represented to each one of the individual or group work who took part and defended the show and what was on display. He insisted on the artists' right of expressing his/her feeling, which we all agreed with. However, of those of us who disapprove and had not found the exhibition rewarding, did not think that most of the works on show were bad at all; what we all, our hosts included, more or less felt was the fact, that many of the works on display had nothing to do in any way or form or stuck of imagination with Persian Gardens at all, and yet very definitely, they were very good works by the artists and could have been staged on any modern art shows.
Some of them were, to be quite honest, bad as well; but generally speaking many of them had very little to do with the title of the show. This was what we minded most and we thought that the viewers were cheated. We did discuss the artists' right for interpretation however; those who were on opposing side believed that once an artist takes part in a show under the certain title then the work produced must in some way have some relationship, modern or contemporary or not, with the title, in the eye of the viewer, rather than satisfy the ego of the curator, who seem to have excluded many. I spoke with another artist friend who knew the show well, and told me that, a bagh or a garden is a place where one can loll in happily for a long time without having any plans or project in mind and just allow the imagination to run free.
The actual exhibition consisted mainly of two parts, one of which was academic, and to do with history of Persian Gardens and the architecture as well as display of some related museum items, along with pictures and plan layouts of these gardens from different parts of Persia as well as a seminar on the subject by leading academics from Iran and the world, which seemed to have achieved good success in what it had aimed to achieve, from the reviews and talks that we heard. The other section consisted of many paintings, sculptures, installations, video art, mixed media, photo installation, web art even, photo installation and photo digital prints. This section was the one some were unhappy about.
I generally liked many of the works that were on display, yet I found the painting at best bad and at worst quite irrelevant to this exhibition, for example Kazemi Eternal Unity.
I have inserted pictures of one of the paintings that at least I found has some relevance by Anneh Mohammad Taheri. I found some others okay like the Parts of Ancient Gardens by Ebrahim Haghighi, as at least it had some relevance. I found the works by Behrouz Darash, a Night in the Persian Gardens very good and very interesting and actually liked them very much, but I thought they had little relevance to the show and they could be displayed at any other Modern Art exhibition with great success and admirations. I was truly surprised when I reached almost the end and saw in this big room the works of one of our great artists, Parviz Tanavouli, whose "The garden of Phoenix" - a video and neon installation - was so unacceptable by such a well known artist. To me he had under rated himself here. I even tried to think that he might have tried to make it into a joke but even that did not work for me at least.
Ms. Shirin Neshat's video work was displayed in this vast room, three panel screens, with comfortable seats for the viewers. It can not be denied that she is given a greater chance than many others, (who incidentally might produce as good a work as she does but maybe do not have got such a good PR). The work itself I found, like many others, rather sensationalist in a new age style way. I much preferred her last work last year at the museum. I guess you win some, you lose some, and again I remember what Oscar Wild said.
One of things that disturbed me was the fact that many great names had taken part in this exhibition, whose art is well known in different fields. This, to me, is over-using rather than abusing one's reputation and fame. One should not get involved in everything just because one can! One would hope and expect that these great names have a heart to leave something and when invited just say NO Thank You! If only this could happen, then may be new and less well known artist could get a chance to show their work.
I found the work by Mostafa Darebaghi, and the Group 30+ most interesting, rather good and pleasing and at least meaningful and in a modern way relevant.
The show is on until 4th November and that I hope you have a chance to see it if you are in Tehran. There is a book that accompanies the exhibition which contains pictures from the art works presented but concentrates on the academic material.
... Payvand News - 11/1/04 ... --