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b. 1957, Iran

Shirin Neshat Biography

Iranian artist Shirin Neshat is renowned for her photography, video installations, and films that explore the suppression of individual freedoms in society, particularly of Muslim women in the Middle East.

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Born in 1957 in Qazvin, Iran, Shirin Neshat moved to California in 1975 and started her studies four years later at the University of California, Berkeley, just as the Islamic Revolution began. The Iran-Iraq War would last until 1988, preventing her return.

Although she graduated in 1983, Shirin Neshat did not create work until she returned to Iran in 1990, when she discovered that drastic changes had occurred during wartime and 11 years of a conservative government. Women were now forced to wear a full-length chador—a central focus of her black-and-white photographic series 'Women of Allah' (1993–1997). In these works, female martyrdom was explored through self-portraits, the artist's body covered in a chador, showing only her hands, face, and feet, which had been covered in Farsi poetry to signal the strength of individual thought.

In 1998, Shirin Neshat created her video installation entitled Turbulent (1998), which won her the Golden Lion at the Venice Biennale in 1999. The two-channel video depicted the contrasting freedoms of expression given to Iranian men and women through two scenes. The first shows a male singer standing on a stage singing a love song written by 13th-century poet Rumi, at the end of which he receives a round of applause; the second shows a woman gasping and warbling to an empty theatre, receiving, unlike the man, no applause. The piece belongs to a trilogy alongside Rapture (1999) and Fervor (2000). These precede her prolific output of other films that include Possessed (2001), which was shot in Morocco and captures a woman in a state of hysteria without a chador, rendering her exempt from ideological oppression.

'The more you're against the wall, the more creative and inventive you become in how to break the rules', Shirin Neshat has said in regards to how radical Iranian women are. She frequently collaborates with others in order to expand her works' formal and ideological potential. Her 2001 film Passage was created in collaboration with Philip Glass, for instance, while her first feature film, Women Without Men (2009)—an adaptation of Shahrnush Parsipur's 1989 magical realist novel of that name—was made with the Screenwriters Lab of the Sundance Institute. It follows the lives of four women during the British- and American-backed coup of 1953.

The Broad museum, Los Angeles, exhibited over 230 photographs and eight video installations by Shirin Neshat in late 2019. The exhibition, a section of which travelled to Goodman Gallery in London in 2020, included Land of Dreams (2019), which she shot in New Mexico. That film shows an Iranian photographer approaching various strangers to take their portraits and asking them to describe their dreams. She then takes these dreams back to a 'surreal Iranian colony tucked inside a mountain' where 'people are secretly analysing the American people's dreams.' The photographer is 'like a spy but also like a mediator', explains Neshat.

Shirin Neshat, who currently lives in New York, has exhibited widely internationally, including at Mathaf: Arab Museum of Modern Art, Doha, Qatar (2014); National Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art, Seoul (2014); Mücsarnok Kunsthalle, Budapest (2014); Espacio Fundación Telefónica, Madrid (2013); Faurschou Foundation, Beijing (2013); and Yorkshire Sculpture Park, England (2011).

Biography by Tessa Moldan | Ocula | 2020

Shirin Neshat Featured Artworks

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The Colony by Shirin Neshat contemporary artwork
Shirin NeshatThe Colony, 2019Video and sound installation
Goodman Gallery Contact Gallery
Land of Dreams by Shirin Neshat contemporary artwork
Shirin NeshatLand of Dreams, 2019Video and sound installation
Goodman Gallery Contact Gallery
Paulita Cowboy, from Land of Dreams series by Shirin Neshat contemporary artwork
Shirin NeshatPaulita Cowboy, from Land of Dreams series, 2019C-print and ink
119.4 x 84.6 cm
Goodman Gallery Contact Gallery
Jenasis Greer, from Land of Dreams series by Shirin Neshat contemporary artwork
Shirin NeshatJenasis Greer, from Land of Dreams series, 2019C-print and ink
182.9 x 121.9 cm
Goodman Gallery Contact Gallery
Consuelo Quintana, from Land of Dreams series by Shirin Neshat contemporary artwork
Shirin NeshatConsuelo Quintana, from Land of Dreams series, 2019C-print and ink
60 x 40 cm
Goodman Gallery Contact Gallery
Isaac Silva, from Land of Dreams series by Shirin Neshat contemporary artwork
Shirin NeshatIsaac Silva, from Land of Dreams series, 2019C-print and ink
152.4 x 101.6 cm
Goodman Gallery Contact Gallery
Magali & Phoenix, from Land of Dreams series by Shirin Neshat contemporary artwork
Shirin NeshatMagali & Phoenix, from Land of Dreams series, 2019C-print and ink
152.4 x 101.6 cm
Goodman Gallery Contact Gallery
Untitled from Possessed Series by Shirin Neshat contemporary artwork
Shirin NeshatUntitled from Possessed Series, 2001Cibachrome print
47.5 x 60 inches
Sundaram Tagore Gallery Contact Gallery

Shirin Neshat Recent Exhibitions

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Contemporary art exhibition, Nona Faustine, Shirin Neshat, Julian Opie, Kay Rosen, Suara Welitoff, Not So Simple at Krakow Witkin Gallery, Boston
Closed
5 August–2 September 2020 Nona Faustine, Shirin Neshat, Julian Opie, Kay Rosen, Suara Welitoff Not So Simple Krakow Witkin Gallery, BostonBoston
Contemporary art exhibition, Shirin Neshat, Land of Dreams at Goodman Gallery, London
Closed
20 February–31 May 2020 Shirin Neshat Land of Dreams Goodman Gallery, LondonLondon
Contemporary art exhibition, Group Exhibition, I’ve grown roses in this garden of mine at Goodman Gallery, London
Closed
3 October–2 November 2019 Group Exhibition I’ve grown roses in this garden of mine Goodman Gallery, LondonLondon

Shirin Neshat Represented By

Goodman Gallery contemporary art gallery in Johannesburg, South Africa Goodman Gallery Johannesburg, Cape Town, London

Shirin Neshat In Ocula Magazine

Frieze Los Angeles: Shows to See Ocula Feature Frieze Los Angeles: Shows to See By Tessa Moldan, Los Angeles

Los Angeles' art scene has a lot to offer during Frieze Los Angeles, with galleries, non-profits, and museums gearing up for the fair's second edition between 14 and 17 February 2020. In this Ocula Lowdown, Tessa Moldan lists a selection of the city's must-see shows.

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Suad Garayeva Ocula Conversation Suad Garayeva By Stephanie Bailey, Baku

Suad Garayeva is Curatorial Director of YARAT Contemporary Art Centre, overseeing YARAT’s permanent collection and temporary exhibition programme. Previously she worked as a curator and a specialist in Contemporary Art from Russia and the CIS at Sotheby's, London, curating the pioneering At the Crossroads exhibitions, which introduced...

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Shirin Neshat In Related Press

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Your Concise Los Angeles Art Guide for Fall 2019 Related Press Your Concise Los Angeles Art Guide for Fall 2019 10 September 2019, Hyperallergic

Below you'll find a fun mix of museum and gallery shows, performances, and film screenings taking place over the next few months in the greater Los Angeles area. We know how hard it is to keep track of all that's going on, so we've compiled some of the events that stood out to us and organized them according to theme and type. We're hoping...

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Shirin Neshat Related Press Shirin Neshat 1 May 2018, The Gentlewoman

On 20 January, the Iranian-born filmmaker and artist Shirin Neshat joined the Women’s March in New York to mark the anniversary of President Donald Trump’s first year in office. The week before, she was at a protest in Union Square in support of the people’s uprising in Iran.

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'SHE': International women artists at Shanghai Long Museum West Bund Related Press 'SHE': International women artists at Shanghai Long Museum West Bund 26 September 2016, Art Radar Journal

Launched at the end of July 2016, SHE: International Women Artists Exhibition  at Shanghai Long Museum West Bund presents a collection of works by female artists that are, according to curator Wang Wei, 'gathered together not only by their gender, but also by the true creativity'. Exhibitions of women’s art have been...

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Shanghai museum’s 'SHE' - a timely exploration of women’s art down the ages Related Press Shanghai museum’s 'SHE' - a timely exploration of women’s art down the ages 5 September 2016, South China Morning Post

With another woman British prime minister in power and the election of America’s first woman president a distinct possibility, the theme of the SHE  exhibition in Shanghai – a city known to raise strong women – feels timely. The cavernous space of the Long Museum features works by 105 woman artists from 13 countries and...

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Shirin Neshat In Video & Audio

Shirin Neshat: the power behind the veil Related Video & Audio Shirin Neshat: the power behind the veil 11 May 2016, Louisiana Channel, Louisiana Museum of Modern Art

In many middle eastern cultures men are totally restrained from any expression of emotion, says Iranian artist Shirin Neshat (b. 1957) in this interview: "All my photographs are about controlled emotions. They are always a juxtaposition of the dark side of life and the good side of life. Of light and darkness. Pain and joy. Violence and...

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