In 2011, the British Museum acquired an important work completed in 1958 by the renowned modern artist Charles- Hossein Zenderoudi. This large, linocut print on linen, entitled “Who is this Hossein the world is crazy about?” illustrates dramatic scenes from the martyrdom of Imam Husayn, grandson of the Prophet Muhammad, at the Battle of Karbala (in modern Iraq) in 680 AD.
In the presence of Charles-Hossein Zenderoudi himself, a series of presentations considered the work in detail and discussed his oeuvre more widely. Ladan Akbarnia, Farjam Curator of Islamic Art at the British Museum, introduced and situated the work within the context of the Persian parda and passion play traditions. Marie Rivière Zenderoudi, Professeur agrégé, specialist in contemporary art and in the work of Zenderoudi in particular, placed it within the wider context of his oeuvre. Following this was a panel discussion chaired by Venetia Porter.
Charles-Hossein Zenderoudi Zenderoudi has been one of the most important protagonists of the international art scene since 1960. His works, including paintings, photographs and videos, feature in prominent private and public collections. He also regularly works on public commissions. Zenderoudi was born in Tehran in 1937 and before leaving his native country of Iran in 1960, he laid the foundations for an artistic revolution known as Saqqakhaneh in 1958, the name of which stems from the title of one of his works.
Zenderoudi’s artistic influence still has a strong impact today on the younger generations of artists in the Middle East. Zenderoudi’s œuvre is eclectic and complex in terms of expression. It explores various thematics such as the obliteration of time, the preservation of spaces and the fluidity of thought. His œuvre is a witness to an optimistic universalism. As early as 1960, Zenderoudi began to receive critical acclaim. He was an award-winner of the Venice, Sao Paolo, Paris Biennials and others. His works are showcased in prestigious museums such as the Museum of Modern Art, New York; Centre Georges Pompidou, Paris; The British Museum, London; the Modern Arab Museum, Doha; Alborg Museum, Denmark; Amman Museum, Jordan.
Still from: Looking at Ta'ziye (The Spectators),Abbas Kiarostami, 2003
The second part of the afternoon presented Abbas Kiarostami's“Looking at Ta’ziye” (The Spectators). Independent curator and writer Vali Mahlouji introduced Kiarostami’s important installation followed by a discussion on the wider context of appropriations of the ritual form of performance by contemporary Iranian artists. In the interface between performance and film, Kiarostami's piece focuses on the gaze of the spectators watching a live ta’ziye performance. The screening included footage of the original passion play performance filmed by Kiarostami.
The multi-channel video projection combined footage of an original Ta’ziye performance as well as the spectators of that performance. In a triple screen projection, footage of the central performance was flanked by over-sized images of the original spectators in close up. The audience mediated the performance through the emotional and cathartic response of the local spectators. It is a precursor to Kiarostami’s“Shirin” in which the filmmaker only depicts the facial expressions of the audience of film within his film. In its full version in Rome in 2003 the Ta'ziye was performed live in a specially constructed circular arena with large screens showing the local Iranian spectators.
Abbas Kiarostami Kiarostami is the most internationally acclaimed Iranian film director, screenwriter, photographer and film producer. An active filmmaker since 1970, Kiarostami has been involved in over forty films, including shorts and documentaries. Kiarostami attained critical acclaim for directing the Koker Trilogy (1987–94), “Taste of Cherry” (1997), and “The Wind Will Carry Us” (1999). In his recent films, “Certified Copy” (2010) and “Like Someone in Love” (2012), he filmed for the first time outside Iran, in France and Japan, respectively. He is the recipient of countless awards including the Palme d'Or, Cannes Film Festival (1997).
Ladan Akbarnia Akbarnia is Farjam Curator of Islamic Art at the British Museum and a specialist on the art of medieval Iran and Central Asia. Before coming to the British Museum in September 2010, she served as Hagop Kevorkian Associate Curator of Islamic Art at the Brooklyn Museum, Executive Director of the Iran Heritage Foundation and as Consulting Curator for the Aga Khan Museum Collection. She received her BA from Vassar College and her MA and PhD from Harvard University.
Vali Mahlouji Mahlouji is a London-based independent curator, art advisor, writer and translator, who trained first in archaeology and philology and later as a psychoanalyst. He is currently independent curatorial adviser to the British Museum on its modern/contemporary Iranian collections. His book,Perspectives on the Festival of Arts, Shiraz-Persepolis, by Black Dog Publishing is due in 2015
Venetia Porter Venetia Porter is Assistant Keeper (Curator), Islamic and contemporary Middle East, responsible for the collection of Islamic art, in particular of the Arab World and Turkey as well as developing the collection of the modern and contemporary art of the Middle East.
Mme Rivière Zenderoudi Marie Rivière Zenderoudi, expert on Zenderoudi's oeuvre, is an academic, university lecturer, and specialist in contemporary art. She has taught Art History, the Philosophy of Art, and the Visual Arts. As an art collector, she has organized university conferences on the subject and has worked for national institutions as well as having held various positions in the fields of education, art education, and arts in education.
The Different Perspectives on Modern and Contemporary Iranian Art program sponsored by MOP Foundation, in partnership with the British Museum and in collaboration with independent curator and writer Vali Mahlouji, focuses on the increased interest in Iranian art and features Iranian artists, curators, and critics. These talks explore the oeuvre of significant Iranian artistic figures and assess the legacy and importance of these artists' works within the context of modern and contemporary Iranian art production and beyond. Each panel discussion includes leading figures in the Modern and Contemporary Art industry.