The Shahbanou and the Iranian Avant-Garde will be at once the first literary consideration of the cultural history of Iran in the 1960s and 1970s, as well as a partial portrait of an individual, the former empress of that country, Farah Diba. Under the Shahbanou’s patronage (“empress” in Farsi), members of the Western (and Eastern) avant-garde—from Merce Cunningham to Bob Wilson to Peter Brook—traveled to Iran to stage some of their most pivotal, crooked, and experimental works. Points that will form the skeleton of the book include the annual Shiraz Arts Festival (not only a space for exchange, but also a pleasure paradise for artists) and the establishment of the Tehran Museum of Contemporary Art (which, with one of the most significant collections of Western and Iranian modern art in the world, was open for just over one year before revolutionaries took over). This project aims to reveal the texture of the exciting, vexed, and tumultuous years leading up to the fall of the Iranian monarchy.
Negar Azimi is senior editor of Bidoun, an award-winning publishing, curatorial, and educational initiative with a focus on the Middle East. She studied international relations and biology at Stanford, politics at Harvard, and anthropology at Columbia. She has written for Artforum, frieze, Harper’s, the Nation, the New York Times Magazine, and Parkett, among other venues. She is a member of the Beirut-based Arab Image Foundation, with whom she is working on an exhibition and book about the late Armenian-Egyptian photographer Van Leo, and is also a board member of Artists Space in New York City.