Rebel, Jester, Mystic, Poet: Contemporary Persians illuminates the multifaceted histories and identities of Iranians today. Through works of art by Iranian-born artists across three generations, the exhibition sheds light on the rich heritage—as well as the trials and triumphs—of the Iranian people during a period of social and political unrest.
Drawing from the distinguished collection of financier and philanthropist Mohammed Afkhami, Rebel, Jester, Mystic, Poet highlights the unique evolution of contemporary art both in Iran and by Iranian artists who have left their native country. Paintings, sculptures, photographs, and videos by 23 artists express four interwoven themes, charting a nuanced and complex overview that transcends standard chronologies.
Credit: Exhibition overview from museum website.
Whether or not you go, the accompanying catalog, Rebel, Jester, Mystic, Poet: Contemporary Persians, tells the story of the evolution of Iranian contemporary art by examining the work of 30 artists.
This is art where the ills of internal politics remain astutely masked below a layer of ornamentation, poetry, or humor. What unites the disparate works into a coherent theme is the artists’ coping mechanisms, which consist of subversive critique, quiet rebellion, humor, mysticism, and poetry—hence the publication's title.
The subtitle Contemporary Persians is also a reference to a strategy of survival, this one used by Iranians in the United States during the early 2000s; at a time when ‘Iranians’ were identified with hostage takers and terrorists, they adopted the identity ‘Persians’, which remained free of such associations.
This title collects the work of a number of artists who are already well-known in the United States, including among others Afruz Amighi, whose work is in the permanent collection of the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York and Monir Farmanfarmaian, who received a major exhibition at the Guggenheim Museum in 2015.