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East-West Divan

Artists from Afghanistan, Iran, Pakistan. Photo tour through the exhibition parallel to the 53rd Venice Biennale.
Jun 2009

He who knows himself and others
Here will also see,
That the East and West, like brothers,
Parted ne'er shall be.
Thoughtfully to float for ever
'Tween two worlds, be man's endeavour!
So between the East and West
To revolve, be my behest!
Johann Wolfgang von Goethe,
West-Östlicher Divan (1819)

Turquoise Mountain presents East-West Divan: Contemporary Art from Afghanistan, Iran and Pakistan during the 53rd International Art Exhibition of the Biennale di Venezia. The exhibition includes recent works by ten artists from three countries, better known in the West for stereotypes of terrorism and Islamic extremism than for their rich artistic heritage and vibrant contemporary cultures.

East-West Divan challenges these negative perceptions with works by both emerging and established artists, who are engaged in an ongoing dialogue between the artistic traditions of East and West. Nowhere is this dialogue more present than in the grand architecture and decorative traditions of Venice, whose lucrative trade routes with the East produced some of the most spectacular fusions of Eastern and Western art and architecture.

East-West Divan meditates upon the links between the artistic traditions of Venice and the Persian artistic heritage shared by all three countries in this exhibition. The exhibition includes new works of art responding to traditions such as miniature painting, calligraphy and Islamic geometric design, revealing how contemporary artists, far from being overburdened by an ‘anxiety of influence’ from their rich cultural past, have found new ways to challenge and transform this cultural inheritance.

Playing with a broad range of references which bring together Pop art and Shi’ite shrines, modernist abstraction and Islamic architecture, the exhibition reflects on how culture and history can co-exist with today’s globalised, melting pot society. The title of the exhibition is taken from a collection of poems by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, inspired by the Persian poet Hafez, and refers to the ‘divan’ or council chamber, as a physical symbol of the coming together of different cultures.

East-West Divan presents a subtle and complex meditation upon the realities and perceptions of contemporary life, history and politics in the Middle East, South and Central Asia, unraveling – just a little - the tightly knotted relationship between East and West.


Khadim Ali
* 1978 Quetta, Pakistan; lives there and in Karachi, Pakistan. His family is from Hazarajat, Afghanistan.

Shezad Dawood
* 1974 London, UK; lives there and in Pakistan.

Monir Shahroudy Farmanfarmaian
1924 - 2019

Khosrow Hassanzadeh
* 1963 Tehran, lives there.

Bahman Jalali
* 1944 Tehran, Iran; lives there.

Aisha Khalid
* 1972 Faisalabad, Pakistan. Lives in Lahore, Pakistan.

Imran Qureshi
* 1972 Hyderabad, Pakistan. Lives in Lahore, Pakistan.

Nusra Latif Qureshi
* 1973 Lahore, Pakistan. Lives in Melbourne, Australia.

Zolaykha Sherzad
* 1967 Kabul, Afghanistan. Lives in New York, USA, and Kabul.

Farzana Wahidy
* 1984 Kandahar, Afghanistan. Lives in Ontario, Kanada, and in Kabul, Afghanistan.

>> Photo documentation
32 image pages, nearly the complete exhibition.
© Copyright photos: Haupt & Binder

(From a press release of the organizers)

Photo documentation
of nearly the complete exhibition

East-West Divan
Contemporary Art from Afghanistan, Iran and Pakistan

Scuola Grande della Misericordia
Fondamenta della Misericordia 3519/A
Cannaregio, Venezia

7 June - 4 October 2009
Daily 10 am - 6 pm

Curator: Jemima Montagu

Organized by:

Turquoise Mountain



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