Talinn Grigor. Contemporary Iranian Art: From the Street to the Studio. London: Reaktion Books, 2014. 296 pp. Illustrations. $39.00 (paper), ISBN 978-1-78023-270-6.
Reviewed by Shabnam Rahimi-Golkhandan
Published on H-AMCA (September, 2015)
Commissioned by Sarah-Neel Smith
Untitled [Shabnam Rahimi-Golkhandran on Contemporary Iranian Art: From the Street to the Studio]
Contemporary Iranian Art: From the Street to the Studio is a lavishly illustrated book that sets out to accomplish a formidable scholarly feat: to provide an overarching history of the contemporary art of Iran, while also complicating the constructing elements of that agenda—neither “Iran” nor “history,” “contemporary” nor “art” are to remain stable and flat constructs in architectural historian Talinn Grigor’s account. Grigor demonstrates that “art”—consciously lowercased—is heavily implicated in government policy, constructions of national identity, and architecture. At the same time, she historicizes the category “contemporary” both in order to reframe existing categories of “modern” and to complicate the spatial and temporal singularity of “Iran.” In the author’s own words: “[t]he struggle of identity in modern Iran can be interpreted as multilayered and intensely contested pictorial discourse.… In post-revolutionary Iran, all of this thinking about art has to be embedded in the minutiae of strategies of power and identity, of colonial pasts and bright futures” (p. 12).