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Shirin Neshat


A real point of reference for my “art education” but also for my life. In 2012 on the occasion of Shirin Neshat's solo show at Gladstone Gallery in New York I wrote an article for Equipèco magazine starting with these words; “Tahir Square, Cairo. Bolivar Square, Bogotà. Puerta del Sol, Madrid. Occupy Wall Street, New York. We will remember of 2011 as the year of the protests and the search of democracy by many Arab countries but also of the calling into question of the democracy by the Western world for which it is necessary a new and active participation and involvement”. This is to say that words like “revolution” are not so far from us living in the Western part of the world. Revolution is one of the key words of Shirin Neshat’s artistic practice which has an incomparable ability to summarize in an image a world of contradictions and differences with many facets (cultural, artistic, political, economic, etc.) confirming again that the revolutions not only can be but also must be possible without weapons or violence but with the culture, the poetry, the art. In that photographic series, "The Book of Kings", the artist was inspired by the 60.000 verses of the epic poem Shahnameh, written by the Persian poet Ferdowsi, a very important text for the Iranian cultural identity, telling the mythical past of Persia from the creation of the world until the Islamic conquest of Persia. As in the series "Women of Allah” in which Neshat portrays herself or other female subjects, by framing either their face, hands or feet, overlaid with meticulously inscribed Farsi texts, in “The Book of Kings,” she similarly covers the faces or the bodies of young Iranians with texts and illustrations drawn from Shahnameh and from contemporary poetry by Iranian writers and prisoners linking in this way contemporary Iran with its mythical past. What is also evident in this photographic series is the overlap of antithetical and opposing iconographies: the realism of the youth and the spirituality of the poetry, the constriction and the freedom, the emancipation and the repression, Modernity and tradition, etc. Also in these artworks there are only two colours, black and white, in a game of light and shadows representing an equilibrium between good and evil or violence and love that coexist in the same place as it happens in our daily life. In some photos there are also some red stains recalling the violence of revolutions. On the occasion of the cooperation with the Dutch National Ballet for the ballet The Tempest, one of the most representative and complex William Shakespeare’s plays, Shirin Neshat along with her life partner Shoja Azari presents a mix of existing and new videos on the theme of colonialism and oppression. Once more time Shirin Neshat enchants us with the highest aesthetic value of her socio-cultural analysis bringing us a message of peace, justice and democracy that with her poetry and sensitivity goes straightly to the heart.


Shirin Neshat is an Iranian-born artist and filmmaker living in New York. Neshat’s early photographic works include the Women of Allah series (1993–1997), which explored the question of gender in relation to Islamic fundamentalism and militancy. Her subsequent video works departed from overtly political content or critique in favor of more poetic imagery and narratives. In 2009, Neshat directed her first feature-length film, Women Without Men, which received the Silver Lion Award for Best Director in the 66th Venice International Film Festival. Neshat’s recent photographic series include The Book of Kings (2012) and Our House Is on Fire (2013).

Neshat has been the subject of numerous solo exhibitions at galleries and museums internationally, including the Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam; the Serpentine Gallery, London; Hamburger Bahnhof, Berlin; the Walker Art Center, Minneapolis; the Musée d’art contemporain de Montréal; and the Detroit Institute of Arts. A major exhibition of her work recently opened at the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden in Washington, DC. Shirin was included in the 48th Venice Biennale of Art (1999), Whitney Biennial (2000), Documenta XI (2002) and Prospect.1 New Orleans (2009). She was awarded the Grand Prix of the Gwangju Biennial (2000), the Golden Lion Award, the First International Prize at the 48th Venice Biennial (1999), the Hiroshima Freedom Prize (2005), and the Dorothy and Lillian Gish Prize (2006). Neshat is currently working on her second feature-length film, based on the life and art of the legendary Egyptian singer Oum Kolthum. Neshat is represented by Gladstone Gallery, New York and Brussels.


Het Nationale Ballet – The Tempest , 2014


foto Angela Sterling 0424 dansers: ensemble

Courtesy the artist and Het Nationale Ballet

Mana (Masses), from The Book of Kings series, 2012


Ink on LE silver gelatin print 40 x 30 inches (101.6 x 76.2 cm). Copyright Shirin Neshat. Courtesy Gladstone Gallery, New York and Brussels

Divine Rebellion, from The Book of Kings series, 2012


Acrylic on LE silver gelatin print 62 x 49 inches (157.5 x 124.5 cm). Copyright Shirin Neshat. Courtesy Gladstone Gallery, New York and Brussels

Salah (Masses), from The Book of Kings series, 2012


Ink on LE silver gelatin print 40 x 30 inches (101.6 x 76.2 cm). Copyright Shirin Neshat. Courtesy Gladstone Gallery, New York and Brussels

Women Without Men (2009)


feature film still. Copyright Shirin Neshat. Courtesy Gladstone Gallery, New York and Brussels


All photos on this website are copyrighted material and all rights are reserved. Please contact the artist studio to ask the permission to use them.

© 2019 Raffaele Quattrone. All Rights Reserved. This website has a non commercial purpose.

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