Shirin Neshat (Iranian, b. 1957)
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Shirin Neshat (Iranian, b. 1957)


Shirin Neshat (Iranian, b. 1957)
ink on gelatin silver print
54 x 40in. (137 x 101cm.)
Executed in 1998, this work is unique
Annina Nosei Gallery, New York.
Acquired from the above by the present owner.
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Lot Essay

When the acclaimed photographer and filmmaker Shirin Neshat returned to Iran after years of absence in 1990, the drastic changes and social and political transformations of her homeland struck her forcefully and inspired her to put together a visual discourse on the subjects of feminism and the role of women in society. With her well-known photographic series Women of Allah and later with her first video installation and stills Turbulent of which the present work is a fine example, Neshat subtly addresses the issues of women through beautiful, visually striking images. Shameless is a black and white photograph of the well-known Iranian musician Sussan Deyhim posing as a veiled woman, dressed in black chador, gazing sternly at the viewer. Her uncovered face, delicately resting on a radio broadcast microphone, acts as a social and political statement as if the apparently silent woman aimed at addressing to larger crowds.

Executed in 1998, a year before Neshat won the Golden Lion at the Venice Biennale, the present unique work forms part of her iconic depictions of women. The almost undecipherable Farsi script, perhaps not meant to be read but rather to ornate and blur its significance, is written directly onto the photographs. It revives poetry by Iranian writers Forough Farrokhzad and Tahereh Saffarzadeh, who each tackled in their distinctive style issues of female identity in their native Iran and evokes the ban of Iranian women from taking part in public performances and recordings. The combination of imagery, text and social statement results in an outstanding portrayal of women in contemporary society.

In Shirin Neshat's works, the women are caught between power and fragility, mysterious concealment and revelation of a seductive appeal. Through the use of recurring symbols such as the veil, calligraphy and the aestheticised portrait of the woman, Neshat does not aim to reinforce stereotypes, but rather to reveal the contradictions of a complex society. By addressing such issues, the artist not only reconciles with her past, but also alights the present condition of women in her homeland.

Shameless is a fine and powerful composition, aesthetically beautiful and ideologically complex and leads the way to an everlasting dialogue across borders and cultures.

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