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Masques of Shahrazad in London: Evolution and Revolution of three generations of Iranian women artists


: 9 - 14 March 2009
Where: The Mall Galleries, SW1, London
Opening Hours: 10am-5pm

Fathi, Golnaz - Untitled - 156x125cm - Acrylic on Canvas, 2008


An exhibition featuring work by 28 Iranian women artists runs at The Mall Galleries, London, 9 - 14 March 2009.  Opening on International Women's Day and thirty years on from the upheavals of the Iranian Revolution, the Masques of Shahrazad is an opportunity to survey the Iranian artistic landscape of the last three decades.  It is a moment to celebrate established artists and to uncover the new names that will bear the standard for women's art in Iran for decades to come.

Ghadirian, Shadi - Nill, Nill - Photograph - 76x76 cm - 2008

This exhibition takes its cue and inspiration from Shahrazad, or Sheherazade, as the heroine of A Thousand and One Nights is often called.  Like the legendary storyteller, these artists have had to adopt feints and stratagems, beguiling, charming and evading authority to sustain their artistic endeavours.

The Masques of Shahrazad includes work by celebrated Iranian artists such as Pariyoush Ganji, Maryam Javaheri, and Mansoureh Hosseini as well as Farideh Lashai, Golnaz Fathi, and Farah Ossouli, alongside younger artists who are beginning to register on the international art scene, namely Samira Alikhanzadeh, Shadi Ghadirian and Tahereh Samadi Tari.

Samadi, Tahereh - Restless - Oil on Canvas - 2008 - 153x152 cm

The exhibition illustrates themes that range from time, a constant yet fragmented notion as depicted here, to politics.  Each generation of artists deals with these themes in very different ways, but there is a shared sense of identity and heritage, expressed through reinterpretations of the Iranian creative vernacular.

Fariba Farshad, Director of Candlestar and joint curator of the exhibition, says: 'Gradually, Iran's female artists have engineered a shift in the limitations and barriers that constrained their predecessors, and have cleverly turned their weaknesses into strengths.  Each of the three generations of artists we have selected for this show have had to evolve their own strategy to circumvent authority and express themselves, overcoming their fears and showing things that other people are afraid of expressing. Their works are sharp, subtle and perhaps subversive, without appearing to be any of these things; this is the genius of the masque.  And a strange thing has happened:  the decision to be an artist is no longer frowned upon. Many of the parents of this new generation of artists know what Shahrazad knew - that in the making of art there lies a path to a kind of liberation.'  


Ossouli, Farah - Childhood paradise - 74x74cm - Gouache on cardboard, 2005

The exhibition is produced by Candlestar, in association with the Day Art Gallery, Tehran.  All works are for sale.

"The masque has its origins in a folk tradition where masked players would unexpectedly call on a nobleman in his hall, dancing and bringing gifts on certain nights of the year, or celebrating dynastic occasions. Spectators were invited to join in the dancing. At the end, the players would take off their masks to reveal their identities."

"[Shahrazad] had perused the books, annals and legends of preceding Kings, and the stories, examples and instances of by gone men and things; indeed it was said that she had collected a thousand books of histories relating to antique races and departed rulers. She had perused the works of the poets and knew them by heart; she had studied philosophy and the sciences, arts and accomplishments; and she was pleasant and polite, wise and witty, well read and well bred."
Sir Richard Burton, The Book of One Thousand Nights and A Night (trans.1885)

Hosseini, Mansoureh - Refuge to light - 120x70 - oil on canvas, c. 1996

Masques of Shahrazad Artists: Mania Akbari, Azadeh Akhlaghi, Samira Alikhanzadeh, Nahid Arian, Bahar Behbahni, Fataneh Dadkhah, Fatemeh Emdadian, Yasmine Esfandiary, Golnaz Fathi, Pariyoush Ganji, Shadi Ghadirian, Yassi Golshani, Shahla Habibi, Mansoureh Hosseini, Maryam Javaheri, Shila Kalamian, Delaram Kia, Farideh Lashai, Farah Ossouli, Raziyeh Poursalari, Azadeh Razaghdoost, Tahereh Samadi Tari, Zahra Shahamatpour, Delbar Shahbaz, Maryam Shirinlou, Shideh Tami, Gizella Varga Sinai, Maryam Zandi.

Candlestar Ltd. is an international cultural agency specializing in production, collaboration and commissions for individual artists, designers and major educational and cultural institutions.  For more information visit

Day Art Gallery is an internationally renowned art gallery based in Iran that focuses on contemporary Iranian visual arts, with a wide roster that includes Dariush Gharahzad and Maryam Zandi.  For more information visit

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