exhibition

12.06.2019 – 01.05.2020

11 am - 7 pm

Looking for Oum Kulthum

Shirin Neshat

Azzedine Alaïa foundation

On the occasion of Paris Photo Week, the Association Azzedine Alaïa presents the exhibition, “Looking for Oum Kulthum” by the Iranian artist Shirin Neshat.
Internationally known for her photographic, video, and film work, which reflects the complexity of Islamic society and culture, Neshat offers for the first time in France her new works inspired by the homonymous movie “Looking for Oum Kulthum” unveiled at the Venice Film Festival in 2017.

A film within a film, “Looking for Oum Kulthum” relates the story of Mitra, an Iranian-born director living in exile, who dreams of making a film dedicated to legendary Egyptian singer Oum Kulthum.

Cherished all over the Arab world, the untouchable and controversial figure of Oum Kulthum, the extraordinary singer, political activist, and independent woman in a conservative society – and the powerful fascination she exerts on the public – are the points of departure behind Neshat’s new series of eight photographs and two videos.

  • Ask my Heart, 2018, original print © Shirin Neshat courtesy noirmontartproduction, Paris

  • Oum Kulthum, 2018, original print © Shirin Neshat courtesy noirmontartproduction, Paris

  • Miss Oum Kulthum, 2018, original print © Shirin Neshat courtesy noirmontartproduction, Paris

  • I see you holding back the tears, 2018, original print © Shirin Neshat courtesy noirmontartproduction, Paris

  • The first thing about love, 2018, original print © Shirin Neshat courtesy noirmontartproduction, Paris

  • The Ruins, 2018, original print © Shirin Neshat courtesy noirmontartproduction, Paris

  • Love decided our fate, 2018, original print © Shirin Neshat courtesy noirmontartproduction, Paris

Inspired by classic 1950’s Egyptian movie posters, the eight photographs feature the actresses of the film in portraits of Oum Kulthum at different stages of her life and career. These are frontal and striking images that attempt to capture the mythical nature of this famous Egyptian diva. Each large portrait carries the title of one of Oum Kulthum’s songs, written with ink on the print in Arabic calligraphy.

The video, “Remembrance” (8:33 minutes) in a dreamlike atmosphere shows a boy led into a space-time labyrinth by the singer’s voice. The young man’s shifting point of view reveals the many facets of Kulthum – her private and melancholic side, her strong presence, and her deep desire for freedom.

In the video “In Trance”(9:43 minutes), the focus is on the mystical power of her music, which is still capable of hypnotizing listeners. This reflection on the ecstatic experience linked to Kulthum’s voice, while revealing the fragility and uncertainties of the young singer, who wonders how to approach her audience at an emotional level, begins to emerge.

shirin neshat exhibition,looking for oum kulthum - video sylvie delpech

This exhibition pays homage to a great artist and to one of Azzedine Alaïa’s great passions. Kulthum’s voice was a constant presence in the Alaïa atelier during his many late nights at work, or through dinner with friends à la cuisine. As he often liked to recall his childhood in Tunisia:

Every first Thursday of the month we had to dine early. We had to stay calm, to make no noise, because my grandfather was trying to catch at the radio the waves coming from Egypt, because Oum Kulthum was singing. This is the first great voice I listened to in my childhood. Azzedine Alaïa

in association with Noirmontartproduction

Loooking for Oum Kulthum,2018, original print © Shirin Neshat courtesy noirmontartproduction, Paris

SHIRIN NESHAT

Born in Qazvin, Iran, Neshat moved to the United States at a very young age to pursue her education and was forced to remain there because of Khomeini’s revolution, which imposed a Shiite Islamic republic in Iran at the end of the 1970s. Neshat returned to her country fifteen years later, and found the profound social changes caused by the new regime would mark her existence going forward through her artistic researches.
Her work centers on the contrasts between Islam and the West; femininity and masculinity; public life and private life; antiquity and modernity; and bridges the spaces between these subjects. From the first and iconic photographic series entitled Women of Allah (1993-97), composed of black and white female portraits with overlapping inscriptions in Farsi (Persian), Neshat’s work soon expanded to video and films that would earn her important awards such as the Golden Lion at the 1999 Art Biennale, with the video installation Turbulent (1998), and the Silver Lion at the Venice Film Festival in 2009, with her first film work entitled Women Without Men, dedicated to Iran in 1953.
The Broad Museum, Los Angeles, presents a largest retrospective, and catalogue, of the artist Shirin Neshat: I Will Greet the Sun Again, from October 19th 2019 – February 16th 2020.

The Broad Museum de Los Angeles présente du 19 octobre 2019 au 16 février 2020 une rétrospective majeure de l’artiste, accompagnée du catalogue Shirin Neshat : I Will Greet the Sun Again.