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What’s On Now - Modern Times

"Sign From Iran - Contemporary Iranian Posters"
19.05.16 - 19.11.16

“Sign from Iran” is a poster exhibition at the Museum for Islamic Art that showcases the extraordinary achievements of contemporary graphic designers in Iran. It highlights the contribution of Iranian graphic design to the modern Muslim visual world, and its fascinating encounter with Western culture.

No visitor will remain indifferent to the creative power and free spirit that pulsates through these posters from Iran. It seems that they carry a message that bursts across the boundaries of time and place. Contrary to expectations, the prohibitions and restrictions of the Iranian regime have yielded surprising innovations, both in traditional calligraphy and in contemporary typography. These in turn have paved the way for modern, sometimes subversive, interpretations, and the tentative signs of protest that sprout between the lines.

 “Sign from Iran” opens a small window to the lively graphic design scene in Tehran, and its representation in the world of culture. The posters in the exhibition are the products of a great wave of creativity that peaked in the last decade in the form of advertisements for cultural activities in Tehran: book fairs, local and international graphic design competitions, film festivals, musical events, and so on. Alongside the commercial posters are more personal ones, with philosophical or political elements. 

The exhibition is made up of sixty posters, representing the work of twenty-seven Iranian artists over the years 1973-2013. Among them are outstanding veterans of poster art and talented young artists who combine various media of art and graphic design. Some have exhibited in international poster biennials and won important awards.  

Iranian typographical posters use decorative elements of the centuries-old Persian calligraphic tradition. Digitization of Persian script has opened up unlimited creative possibilities, however, and produced a new range of typographical experiments in contemporary Iranian graphic design. The result has been the enrichment and development of poster art.

The growing international interest in the Iranian visual culture emerged in the wake of the “Green Movement,” a grass-roots protest against the election in 2009 of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad as president of Iran. Iranian students used social media to spread word of the protest movement to the West. It sparked a wave of global sympathy, and with it interest in Iranian history, culture, thought and society.

In 2011, as a result of the Arab Spring, the artistic and social changes in the Middle East drew increasing international attention. In 2012, the Kunstquartier Bethanien in Berlin hosted an initiative titled “Right-to-left: Arabic and Iranian visual cultures.” It included exhibitions, seminars, and lectures on the modernization of Arabic and Iranian typography. Some of the posters exhibited in Berlin are part of the new exhibition at the Museum for Islamic Art. The artists, part of the new generation of graphic designers in Iran, implanted critical, ironic and political messages in their posters.

Our new exhibition overcame the obstacles involved in bringing Iranian posters to Israel, thanks to the discreet collaboration with Israeli graphic designer and curator of the exhibition, Yossi Lemel. The project was made possible through Lemel’s connection with Dr. Marta Sylvestrova, curator of the Moravian Gallery in Brno, Czech Republic, which owns an extensive collection of Iranian posters.