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Capturing Iran’s Past
Fotokunst – PhotoArt – هنر عکاسی

07.11.2019 to 26.01.2020

The special exhibition in the book art gallery and the Mshatta Hall at the Pergamonmuseum includes four photo series and a mirror installation. It is a critical examination of the past that reflects on political and societal developments and situates them in the present.

These photographic works employ different means to evoke identity-forming functions of the past, while also inviting viewers to question the historical conditioning of their own familial, social, cultural and national identities. The exhibition shows selected works in dialogue with historical objects from the collection at the Museum für Islamische Kunst (Museum for Islamic Art).

Four Artists

Taking up varying perspectives, four established, Iranian-born photo artists use their works to address the historical conditionality of Iranian Modernism. Their imagery treats the past as a foil for comparison, in order to question it on several levels through metaphors and allegories and draw on it to make statements about the present. These artists employ different visual strategies while making reference to diverse pasts. The timeframe extends from Iran’s beginnings with photography in 1842 up to the Iran-Iraq War (1980–88).

Shadi Ghadirian

Shadi Ghadirian’s work Qajar (1998) restages studio portraits from the period of the Qajar dynasty (1779–1925) while adding a contemporary element to them. By combining traces of the past with the present, she points out traditions that have affected life today. In her series Nil Nil (2008) she staged seemingly idyllic interior spaces that nonetheless contain concealed objects of war. Although the Iran-Iraq War ended in 1988, Ghadirian tells us of the traumas that continue to have an effect on the psyches of everyone who experienced the war.

Arman Stepanian

In Gravestones (1999–2000) and Doorbells (2004), Arman Stepanian sets group and individual portraits from the Qajar and Pahlavi (1925–1979) dynasties into contemporary scenery. These works could be interpreted as a reminder that the conditions of our present situation were shaped by our forefathers.

Najaf Shokri

In Irandokht (2006) and The Registration Congregation of Iranian Men (2006–12), Najaf Shokri scanned passport photographs used for Iranian identification documents during the Pahlavi dynasty. The appropriation of photographic objets trouvés, or found objects, represents a reflection of individual and collective identity, whose origins lie in the past.

Taraneh Hemami

In Hall of Reflections (2000–12) Taraneh Hemami transformed the photographs and letters of Iraninan émigrés to the USA into mirror assemblages. These reveal the pain of not belonging brought about by emigration as well as the loss felt over a missing a place that is now a thing of the past.

Curators: Agnes Rameder, Martina Müller-Wiener, Margaret Shortle, Stefan Weber

The exhibition is financed by the Hauptstadtkulturfonds, Berlin and the Freunde des Museums für Islamische Kunst. Additional cooperation and support is provided by all artists, the Afrand Gallery Tehran, AG Galerie Tehran, and the Silk Road Gallery Tehran.

Shadi Ghadirian, Qajar #3, detail, 1998 © Shadi Ghadirian, courtesy of the Silk Road Gallery
© Shadi Ghadirian, courtesy of the Silk Road Gallery

James-Simon-Galerie, Bodestraße
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partially wheelchair accessible
Please note: Pergamonmuseum is exclusively entered through James-Simon-Galerie!
Site plan: Entrance to the Pergamonmuseum and Neues Museum (PDF)

All groups meet at the information desk at the upper foyer in James-Simon-Galerie, entering by using the big stairway.
Advice for group visits to the Pergamonmuseum an the Neues Museum (PDF)

Due to a technical issue, the lift is out of service until further notice, meaning the Museum für Islamische Kunst is not currently wheelchair accessible. The major architectural exhibits – such as the Processional Way, featuring the Ishtar Gate and the Market Gate of Miletus – are still accessible to people with mobility issues. 


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