When so much negative news arrives from the Middle East on a daily basis, it is very encouraging to receive information about an art exhibition to promote Contemporary Iranian artists. Established in 2004, Magic of Persia, MOP, Foundation promotes Iranian art and culture to a wider audience inside and outside of Iran, and strives to make a notable contribution to its long-term
Remembering Tomorrow, which opens this Friday in Tehran, is a selection of the most interesting, and exciting, Iranian artists of today. The exhibition will travel to Dubai on Sunday the 13th of March for a week until the 17th. It will open in the presence of HE Sheikh Nahayan Bin Mubarak Al Nahayan, Ministry of Culture, Youth and Social Development of the United Arab Emirates, who says about MOP:
“I greatly appreciate the work of Magic of Persia. I strongly support its vision, and value its extraordinary achievements and success. I share your hope and expectations that Magic of Persia will continue as a valuable force for the preservation and dissemination of Persian Art & culture around the world.”
Established names such as Shirin Neshat, winner of the First International Prize at the Venice Biennale in 1999, will be presented alongside up and coming young stars such as Sassan Behnam-Bakhtiar. A multitalented Renaissance man, who has already sold works in Sotheby’s and Christie’s, is definitely the one to watch.
A bridge between the Middle East and the West, a step closer to the ancient culture of Persia while jumping fearlessly to the now. Behnam-Bakhtiar masters the power of imagery to its full potential. Be it photographic collages; be it acrylic and gold leaf on canvas. He breaks stereotypes and old clichés with great command and smooth easiness. For instance, in the Eternal Series, the traditional Iranian tiles with the use of geometric patterns become the “blank canvas” onto which popular images such as the map of Iran or a pomegranate, the symbol of fertility in ancient Persian culture, are elevated to the sacred with the use of golden leaf. The works become magic and evocative at the same time.
Shirley Elghanian, Founder / Chairman of the MOP Board of Trustees, says:
“No Magic of Persia (MOP) exhibition would be complete without a work by Sassan Behnam Bakhtiar! Let alone this first ever traveling exhibition of MOP ‘Remembering Tomorrow’ beginning in Tehran and ending in Dubai where it goes under the hammer to benefit the art Initiatives of the charity. Ever since 2010 Sassan has been supporting MOP. Year after year he has been donating one of his amazing pieces to the charity’s fundraising auctions. Tens of thousands have been raised from Sassan’s generous donations alone.”
Sassan Behnam Bakhtiar.The Real Me series.Kashan. Artwork exhibited in the show. Courtesy the artist.
Sassan has kindly agreed to respond to the following questions:
What inspired you to create the new Invincibleseries?
The Iranian people inspired me.
I wanted to put the focus on the Iranian people representing each and every one of them as warriors, heroes, angels and modern gladiators since in my mind, they are the definition of such.
Do you see yourself as a bridge to increase understanding between our perception of Persian culture and the West? How?
My work focuses on the reintroduction of our culture, heritage and people to the world, so definitely yes. My work is colorful, expressive and alive, focusing on the positive as opposed to pain and suffering, and what is hot or that sells based on international demand.
Why did you decide to get involved with the MOP Foundation?
MOP Foundation has been gathering the best of Iranian contemporary artists together since 2004, partnering with the biggest name of the industry such as Christie’s, Sotheby’ and Saatchi Gallery to name a few. In 2010 I was selected to join the reputed MOP family of artists alongside Parviz Tanavoli, Farhad Moshiri, Shirin Neshat, Reza Derakhshani, Nicky Nodjoumi, Ardeshir Mohassess and many more, which of course I gladly accepted and have been supporting the foundation ever since.
Your works where part of the RCA Secret Dubai section at last year’s Art Dubai, and again this year as well. Tell us a bit more about this exciting exhibition.
I like what The Royal College of Art is doing with their Secret program, so agreed to take part naturally when they approached me back in early 2015. During the exhibition anyone can snap up original postcard-sized artworks by internationally acclaimed artists such as Yinka Shonibare, Zaha Hadid, John Baldessari and Paul Smith to name a few, and the fun part is that the buyers chose their works based on the work itself only, since the artist name is hidden and they will be able to see it only when the piece has been purchased – I think that is a great initiative.
Can you let us know about your next project?
I am currently working on a body of art films which is part of the series. We are experimenting with something new with industry professionals to create a more interactive way of communicating the messages behind each piece to our audience so really excited on getting the first films completed and released!
I have also recently started working on a series of works comprising of numerous extra large paintings, as well as another body focusing on collages and photography.
Full list of artists: Shahriar Ahmadi, Rasoul Akbarlou, Amirnaser Akhlaghi, Pooya Aryanpour, Maryam Ashouri, Mohamad Bahabadi, Sassan Behnam-Bakhtiar, Ladan Broujerdi, Mohammad Bozorgi, Alireza Chalipah, Henry Dallal, Karim Eskandari, Darvish Fakhr, Firouz Farman-Farmaian, Khosrow Hassanzadeh, Sahand Hesamiyan, David Montalto, Shokoufeh Malekkiani, Farbod Mehr, Alireza Nekouei, Shirin Neshat, Nicky Nodjoumi, Nasser Ovissi, Leila Pazooki, Taher Pourheidari, Ali Akbar Sadeghi, Abo Shahi, Hadieh Shafie, Koorosh Shishegaran, Newsha Tavakolian, Behnaz Zangi, Sepideh Zare.
For more information about Sassan Behnam-Bakhtiar, please visit www.sassanbehnambakhtiar.com
For more information about Magic of Persia Foundation, please visit