The Great Game, Iranian Pavilion, Venice Biennale 2015

Iran in the 56th International Art Exhibition of Venice with themed exhibition “The Great Game”. The artworks include a wide range, from calligraphy and painting to sculpture and installation. Close to 2000 square meters is dedicated to Iran by the private sector in Venice, suitable to showcase works of 30 artists.

The exhibition inspired by the work of a contemporary Iranian poet. Little of the work is overtly political, the whole show is about tolerance and openness and dialogue…it is all about culture, and human values.

The first exhibition, entitled The Great Game, takes its inspiration from a 19th century tug-o-war over the lands of Central Asia. The second, entitled Iranian Highlights, offers a select mix of four Iranian contemporary artists who have forged various careers on the international stage over the past 50 years. The two exhibitions are meant to work in harmony together, all under one roof to share the story of Iran’s past and shed light upon its future.

The Iran pavilion stands sentinel in a former ship-building factory between two canals at the very northernmost tip of the city, along the Calle San Giovanni deep in Venice’s Cannaregio district. The atmosphere is industrial, with paintings mounted on makeshift walls erected from sheets of white canvas and sculptures perched on the bare concrete floor.

The pavilion’s open interior creates a seamless transition as visitors move between the two displays. Here, Iran has showcased 40 artists. Many are part of the larger of the shows, The Great Game, which brings together the work of artists from Iran and her neighboring Middle Eastern and Central Asian countries, including India, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Azerbaijan, Iraq and Kurdistan. The Great Game is followed by the Iranian Highlights exhibit – the traditional showcase of national artists at the Biennale – a choice selection of four Iranian painters, photographers and conceptual artists from across three generations.

In keeping with festival director Okwui Ewenzor’s desire to heal the horrors of history by focusing on the “current state of things”, The Great Game serves to underpin the common historical, geographical and artistic ties between Iranian artists and those from other countries. Ever aware of the unfavorable media presentation of this part of the world, the curators have tried to create a dialogue between viewers and works, enabling Biennale visitors to experience these regions through the eyes of the artists assembled instead of the news and media at large. Introducing the public to new artists in order to challenge preconceptions about Iran and its neighbors and to move away from negative stigmas is the overall goal. Pushing viewers to really think differently about the state of world affairs.

The Exhibition
Pavilion of Iran at the 56th International Art Exhibition la Biennale di Venezia.The Great Game / Iranian Highlights curated curated by Marco Meneguzzo and Mazdak Faiznia. Organization FFF Faiznia Family Foundation – Tehran Museum of Contemporary Art.

The idea of this exhibition, The Great Game. Iran, India, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Iraq, Central­ Asian Republics, Kurdish Region: art, artists and culture from the heart of the world, comes from the consideration that the geographical area of these countries is, in fact, a historically unique territory, its destiny indissolubly linked by its historical and cultural situation: around these places there took place, and still takes place, what since the XIX century has been known as “The Great Game” for supremacy in Asia. A tangle of political, economic, religious, and social situations also finds an expression and interpretation in the art produced in these places, and it is this that the exhibition proposed for la Biennale Arte 2015 hopes to show through the work of some forty artists working in the region and who are particularly aware of social-­political questions.

The section Iranian Highlights presents the work of four Iranian artists: Samira Alikhanzadeh, Mahmoud Bakhshi Moakhar, Jamshid Bayrami and Mohamed Ehsai, from different generations, genders, and expressive tendencies and instruments, who in this case are brought together by their will to display the wealth and complexity of Iranian art, which by its very nature is cosmopolitan, receptive, and accommodating as well as aware of its own cultural heritage.

The large space is conveniently compartmentalised and sectioned off by simple white sheets and you are greeted by the show stopping work of Paksitani artist T.V.Santhosh, Effigies of Turbulent Yesterdays. Installations go on to encircle the labyrinth which then take you off into the surrounding rooms of sizeable artworks, video installations, sculptures and content.


I’m Sorry, 2008
Adel Abidin
light-box Installation, metal box, plexiglas, LED lights and light bulbs

History, 2012
Parastoo Ahovan
installation, paper, metal & leather

Irreversible Violence (War series), 2012
Sara Rahbar
mixed media on vintage military bags

Action 141: Not What Was Meant, 2014
Reza Aramesh
16mm film transferred to HD video, wall projection and surround sound

Untitled, 1983
Ghasem Hajizadeh
mixed media on paper laid on canvas

How to Leave, 2015
Vahid Sharifian
digital print on metalic paper

National Highway No 1,2005-2006
Shilpa Gupta
6′ 28”en route, Srinagar to a Picnic in Gulmarg

Nil, Nil #9, 2008
Shadi Ghadirian
Digital Print

Frozen Conflict, 2013
Sitara Ibrahimova
video, 7′ 15”

Blank pages, 2014
Newsha Tavakolian

Shirin, 2013
Ghodratollah Agheli
mixed media (iron & tv video/electromechanical motion & mobile)

1555, 2009
Sonia Balassanian,
video-art, 4’50”,

Early Infinity No. 3, 2014
Mehrdad Mohebali
acrylic on canvas,

Untitled, 2010
Ahmad Morshedloo
pen on cardboard, polyptych (5 panels)

I Am out of You, 2015
Farokh Mahdavi
acrylic on canvas,

Iranian Man, 2000
Sadegh Tirafkan
digital print,

White House, 2005
Lida Abdul
16mm film transferred to dvd, 5’00’’

Security Barriers A-L, 2008
Bani Abidi
inkjet prints

Mosaic of Little World, 2015
Walid Siti
barbed wire, nails & thread

Canto III, 2015
Wafaa Bilal
bronze sculpture with gold finish

Opening Word of This New Scripture, 2015
Imran Qureshi
acrylic paint and gold leaf on canvas

On waiting, from the Ark of Salvation series, 2013
Shahriar Ahmadi
acrylic and gold leaf on canvas

Untitled 7 (Entropy series), 2010
Pouran Jinchi
ink and acrylic on canvas

Vatan (Homeland), 2011
Alireza Astaneh
relief on canvas with nails

Article 49, Pillars, 2014
Nazgol Ansarinia
cast resin & paint

Heech, 2014
Parviz Tanavoli,

Tavizeh, 2015
Sahand Hesamiyan
stainless steel, polyurethane glue, and paint

Children, 2014
Amin Aghaei
acrylic on canvas

To Find Is to Search, 2013
Rashid Rana
c-print + Diasec

On the Road, the Silk Road, 2010-2011,
Farhad Ahrarnia
hand-embroidery, silk, cotton, sequins and needles on digital photography

Untitled, 2009
Mitra Tabrizian
c-type photographic print

Awaz (Sound), 2015
Azad Nanakeli
video installation, 2 channel video and sound, 5’30”

Darulaman Palace, Dreaming Graffiti, 2012
Shamsia Hassani
acrylic paint on printed picture’s walls

Mirror of Literacy, 2010
Atefeh Samaei
digital print

Silent Shadow, 2015
Hema Upadhyay
old cabinet, handmade clay birds, iron wire, acrylic and watercolors

8 Year Old Persian Pickle, 2013
Babak Kazemi
installation, The Blue Shelf

Arabian Delight, 2008
Huma Mulji
rexine suitcase, taxidermy camel, metal, rods, cotton wool and fabric

Effigies of Turbulent Yesterdays, 2011-2013
T.V. Santhosh
fibreglass, steel and LED, screens

Lines of Confrontation, 2010
Saira Wasim
gouache, gold leaf, ink and marbling on tea, stained wasli paper, 9’51”

Dear, Dear How Queer Everything Is Today(from Rabbit in Wonderland), 2010
Farideh Lashai
painting with projected animation and sound

Day Off, 2010
Mehdi Farhadian
acrylic on canvas

Fragrance of a Funeral, 2010
Riyas Komu,
recycled wood, automotive paint and archival, print on linen

In the Seventh Sky, 2012
Mohsen Taasha Wahidi,
watercolor and mixed media with clay on vegetable paper

Talk Cloud 92-11, 2013
Mahmoud Bakhshi Moakhar
iron, fluorescent light

Try to Save, 2013,
Rashad Alakbarov
metal, light

AN, 2014,
Mohamed Ehsai

The green earth, 1999,
Mohamed Ehsai
oil on canvas,

Jamshid Bayrami
Digital Print,

Untitled, Jamshid Bayrami, 2012
Digital Print

No.8 from the Persian Carpet series, Ravar rug, 2013,
Samira Alikhanzadeh
digital print on Perspex, acrylic paint and mirror fragments mounted on board

No.7 from the Persian Carpet series, Borchalu rug, 2011,
Samira Alikhanzadeh
digital print on Perspex, acrylic paint and mirror fragments mounted on board, diptych

Talk Cloud 92-05, 2013,
Mahmoud Bakhshi Moakhar
Rusted Iron, Florescent Light

My Land-Meridian, 2004-2013,
Mahmoud Bakhshi Moakhar
Papier-mâché, Laser cut iron, Metal frame, 8 panels each

Venice Biennale 2015
The 2015 Art Biennale closes a sort of trilogy that began with the exhibition curated by Bice Curiger in 2011, Illuminations, and continued with the Encyclopedic Palace of Massimiliano Gioni (2013). With All The World’s Futures, La Biennale continues its research on useful references for making aesthetic judgments on contemporary art, a “critical” issue after the end of the avant-garde and “non-art” art.

Through the exhibition curated by Okwui Enwezor, La Biennale returns to observe the relationship between art and the development of human, social and political reality, in the pressing of external forces and phenomena: the ways in which, that is, the tensions of the external world solicit the sensitivities, the vital and expressive energies of the artists, their desires, the motions of the soul (their inner song ).

La Biennale di Venezia was founded in 1895. Paolo Baratta has been its President since 2008, and before that from 1998 to 2001. La Biennale, who stands at the forefront of research and promotion of new contemporary art trends, organizes exhibitions, festivals and researches in all its specific sectors: Arts (1895), Architecture (1980), Cinema (1932), Dance (1999), Music (1930), and Theatre (1934). Its activities are documented at the Historical Archives of Contemporary Arts (ASAC) that recently has been completely renovated.

The relationship with the local community has been strengthened through Educational activities and guided visits, with the participation of a growing number of schools from the Veneto region and beyond. This spreads the creativity on the new generation (3,000 teachers and 30,000 pupils involved in 2014). These activities have been supported by the Venice Chamber of Commerce. A cooperation with Universities and research institutes making special tours and stays at the exhibitions has also been establihed. In the three years from 2012-2014, 227 universities (79 Italian and 148 international) have joined the Biennale Sessions project.

In all sectors there have been more research and production opportunities addressed to the younger generation of artists, directly in contact with renowned teachers; this has become more systematic and continuous through the international project Biennale College, now running in the Dance, Theatre, Music, and Cinema sections.