Shirin Neshat was one of the International Jury for 2013 Berlinale (the 63rd International Film Festival in Berlin) alongside actor/director Tim Robbins in February. This is a great year for Neshat, partly because she is taking part in an historic new season at the newly opened Islamic Arts Department of the world-renowned Paris Museum The Louvre in Spring 2013.
Neshat features alongside the artworks and films of Abbas Kiarostami who is less known for his artwork than his world renowned contributions to cinema. Six Pillars interviewed Abbas Kiarostami in 2005 when when he launched his Trees in Snow series (gelatin silver prints, the same medium employed by Neshat herself), and included an impressive and playful installation of tree trunks at Victoria & Albert Museum, while his photography was on display at the Zelda Cheatle Gallery.
With his long history of artworks (complemented by the series brought over by Candlestar most recently at Purdey Hicks Gallery, all taken from within a car) seems right and fitting that an institution as renowned and permanent
as The Louvre, with its new Islamic Arts Department opened late 2012, should house such titans of Iranian fine art as Neshat and Kiarostami. Six Pillars was lucky enough to interview Candlestar at the time of the exhibition, marking as it did a new branch of works for Kiarostami.
The Louvre museum states that Neshat’s Portraits of Women “refuse all form of victimisation , and instead employ a strength and obstinacy hidden behind the veil.” (NB in Iran women do not wear a veil, instead
covering their hair alone while some wear the long chadore – not always black – which reaches the floor. The face, however, is not covered as sometimes understood from the term ‘veil’ – this is comparable to the Indian concept of purdah (curtain) which can imply anything from social boundaries to the veil). While some art critics feel that Neshat’s images have now become almost too recognisable, they hold an undeniable place in the history of art, Neshat being the first of the wave of Iranian female artists to gain such renown showing abroad, you could say that aside from Monir Shahroudy, Neshat was the first Iranian female arts export from Iran for although there have been others, none have become a landmark such as she has. The black and white photographs featured at The Louvre are stills taken from several of Neshat’s films, e.g. Turbulent, Rapture and Women without Men, as well as from ‘The Book of Kings‘, a series of photographs notated with calligraphy and a play on the contrast of black and white.
While Kiarostami’s talks at the Louvre were last year, Sunday February 3rd was the date of Neshat’s talk and display of ‘Portraits de Femmes‘. Walid Rad, Orhan Pamuk and Ibrahim Malouf are also taking part in the new Islamic Arts Department at Louvre for this opening season, which ends on 13 and 14 April 2013 with a concert of Islamic world music.