YARAT presents Labour, Leisure and Dreams: 1960s-1980s through eyes of Azerbaijani masters

YARAT Contemporary Art Space, a not-for-profit non-governmental contemporary art organization in Baku, for the first time presents an exhibition of works by leading Azerbaijani painters Mikayil Abdullayev, Rasim Babayev, Sattar Bahlulzade, Gennady Brijatyuk, Nadir Abdurahmanov, Kamal Ahmed, Ujal Hagverdiyev, Igor Zhuk, Javad Mirjavadov, Boyukagha Mirzazade, Ashraf Murad, Toghrul Narimanbekov, Nadir Gasimov, Eldar Gurban, Maral Rahmanzade, Altay Sadigzade, Ogtay Sadigzade, Tahir Salahov, Khalida Safarova, Mahmud Taghiyev, Taghi Taghiyev, Farhad Khalilov, Gayyur Yunus at the Museum of XX-XXI Century Azerbaijani Painting.

The works will be showcased May 26, 2018 – January 6, 2019.

This exhibition brings together works by leading Azerbaijani painters who together defined a key
period in Azeri Soviet art. After the death of Stalin in 1953, there was a new wave of freedom of
expression across the Soviet Union and the artists were the first to benefit.

Having been suddenly exposed to two pivotal shows of the time, the 1956 Picasso exhibition at the Pushkin Museum and the American National Exhibition in 1958, which for the first time showed works by Abstract Expressionists to the Soviet public, the new generation of Azeri artists heralded a new direction in painting.

Away from the dogmatic prescriptions of Socialist Realism they developed their own distinct styles, unique in terms of their use of bright color, daring subject matter, bold brushstrokes, heavy impasto, and adoption of folklore elements.

While some artists, such as Tahir Salahov, pushed the technique of Realism, to add more expressive lines and emotive renderings, forming the famous Severe Style, others abandoned it altogether. Led by Mirjavad Mirjavadov they adopted a bold palette and a heavily layered technique both in form and content.

Often adding basic, earthly materials to their works these artists, who together founded the Absheron School of Colourists, used a language often borrowed from Oriental symbolism and folk-tales to express their discontent with the status quo. Still others, such as Boyukagha Mirzazade and Maral Rahmanzade, perfected their technique of realistic depictions of the changing lifestyle around them portraying a new era of openness and progress.

How does one navigate such distinct styles and worldviews? What brings together such different
artists as Sattar Bahlulzade and Toghrul Narimanbekov? This exhibition follows three popular
themes largely preoccupying Azerbaijani painters in the period between the thaw of 1960s up until the perestroika at the end of 1980s. Labour, Leisure and Dreams suggests an existence structured by the Soviet realities, yet deconstructed, repurposed and re-imagined through art. It proposes a new
vantage point to view, analyse and appreciate the masters of the Golden Period in Azerbaijani
painting of the 20th century. It is an invitation to momentarily enter the world that they inhabited
and to envision the ideas and fantasies that moved them.

Curator: Suad Garayeva-Maleki

Research: Farah Alakbarli

Location: Museum of Azerbaijani Painting of the XX-XXI Centuries

Bayil District / National Flag Square, Baku, Azerbaijan

Dates: 26 May – 6 January 2018

Exhibition open: Tuesday through Sunday, from 11:00 until 20:00.

Admission is free


YARAT is an artist-founded, not-for-profit art organisation based in Baku, Azerbaijan, established by Aida Mahmudova in 2011. YARAT (which means ‘create’ in Azerbaijani) is dedicated to contemporary art with a long-term commitment to creating a hub for artistic practice, research, thinking and education in the Caucasus, Central Asia and surrounding region.

YARAT comprises YARAT Art Centre, ARTIM Project Space, YARAT Studios, YAY Gallery and an extended educational and public programme. YARAT Art Centre, a 2000m² converted Soviet-era naval building, opened in March 2015 and is the organisation’s main exhibition space.

The exhibition programme features new commissions by artists responding to the region. It supports and provides access to artists from the region, while engaging and introducing established, international artists.

In October 2015, YARAT opened ARTIM, a central, accessible and dynamic space in Baku’s Old City. ARTIM (meaning ‘progress’ in Azerbaijani) shows experimental practices and new work by emerging Azeri art professionals (selected through open call) and the international artists from the residency programme. It features multiple small-scale projects each year and hosts ARTIM LAB, a programme enabling young artists to engage in workshops and daily studio practice to generate new ideas and works.

In 2016 YARAT launched a renewed residency programme. Aimed at developing young Azerbaijani voices and emerging international artists, the focus is on new, innovative practices and artists with an interest in the region. The residency programme hosts 6 international and 4 local artists a year at YARAT Studios’ spaces.

Education has been at the heart of YARAT’s activities since its creation. With a dedicated public
programme that includes courses, workshops, lectures, screenings, festivals, literature and theatre
clubs and family weekends, YARAT aims to give access to broad audiences of all ages. The public programme invests proactively in building communities and nurturing a wider understanding of, and participation in, contemporary art.

About the Museum of Azerbaijani Painting of the XX-XXI Centuries

Situated on the National Flag Square the Museum of XX-XXI Century Azerbaijani Painting was
founded by the Heydar Aliyev Foundation. The Museum was inaugurated in June 2015 by the
President of Azerbaijan, Ilham Aliyev and the First Lady Mehriban Aliyeva.

It presents works by both prominent and lesser-known Azerbaijani painters from State Collections, such as the National Picture Gallery and the Museum of Modern Art. From 2018 onwards YARAT was commissioned to present a series of exhibitions with the works from the collection and to organize a public programme of events running throughout the year.