Review: Art By Iranian Women

Sem-Art Gallery prides itself on drawing attention to not just art, but geographies. The belief that Art is without boundaries has always been the gallery’s thematic mantra.

The art venue’s current exhibition is no exception to the rule. The Other Half of Iran is the first ever female-only showcase of Iranian art in France.

Eight artists, all born and still working in Iran, are on show. Each one dealing with the question: ‘What has been the role of women in Iranian society over the past 50 years?’

Mosiac (2010) by Monir Shahoudry Farmanfarmaian

Although Sem-Art denies there is a political backbone to their exhibition, it is difficult to overlook the controversy of putting the words “Iran”, “women” and  “art” in the same sentence. Yet the gallery urges visitors to look beyond preconceived assumptions.

The exhibition on its purely artistic merit is a vigorous blend of art styles (calligraphy, painting, sculpture), and a rare assemblage of emerging and established artists. The latter in no way breaks the continuity of the exhibition.

With The Passage of Time Series (2012) by Samira Alikhanzadeh

The fact that all the art created belongs to the fairer gender is either a mute point or a cause for rejoice, dependant on your viewpoint.  What is more relevant, is that the artists’ unfair treatment by their country’s rulers has long been a issue. Attacking this suppression is evident in some shape or form across most of the artwork on show.

Yet the hidden power of this lightweight exhibition lies in the heavyweight decision to stage it.  However much the gallery argues the exhibition is politics-free, it has taken a bold step under the curatorial direction of Nina Moaddel. Little wonder the gallery has been able to garner the attention and support of such luminaries as super-curator Hans Ulrich Obrist.

City Girl (2010-12) by Shirin Aliabadi

The exhibition is open to the public until late December, and it will be interesting to see if one of Monaco’s top commercial galleries can translate a headline exhibition into bottom line sales.

But maybe this is one show that does not need the false blessing of the notoriously clandestine ‘universe’ of art collectors. In a time where politicians are randy to condemn the threat of Iran’s political agenda, the eight ambitions of the artist bring tranquility to the media fervor that surrounds Iran right now.

Iran is certainly not a nation that has fully relaxed its Draconian traditions or solved the political strife between the genders. Yet there is something spiritedly cathartic in how the women have translated their lives as females, as Iranians and as modern citizens through their respective artworks. This is a show of neutral global human values, as much as it confronts one gender’s national sufferance.

Take the opportunity to witness the full spectrum of Iran’s hardline history over the past half-century as told from The Other Half of Iran.

Untitled (2012) by Bita Vakili

The exhibition runs until 20 December 2012.

CityOut Directory: Sem-Art Gallery Monaco

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