Jonathan Ruffer grant: Researching Persian pop and Turkish psychedelia

Sara Makari-Aghdam, curator at the Vane Gallery in Newcastle upon Tyne, was awarded a Jonathan Ruffer curatorial grant to undertake a research trip to Istanbul for the recent Vinyl Icons exhibition. Here, she talks about her experiences and the project itself.

Our exhibition Vinyl Icons: Persian Pop and Turkish Psychedelia included three Iranian artists who lived through the 1979 Iranian Revolution: Afsoon, who lives in London; Khosrow Hassanzadeh, who lives in Iran; and Malekeh Nayiny, who lives in Paris. It also included two artists from the younger generation of the Iranian diaspora living: Hushidar Mortezaie, who lives in Los Angeles, and Taravat Talepasand, who lives in San Francisco. In addition to the artists’ work in the exhibition, there was a display of record covers and related memorabilia, including 1960s and 1970s vintage fashion and magazines.

Thanks to my Jonathan Ruffer curatorial grant I was able to go to Istanbul and Izmir for the first time for eight days in October 2015. I used this trip to collect and find out about rare Turkish record covers from the 1960s and 1970s by establishing record dealer connections and purchasing related memorabilia, including 1960s and 1970s vintage postcards and magazines. These original items have greatly enhanced the aesthetic of the exhibition display, with visitors to Vane writing in my comments book how authentic and varied the visuals of the record collection were.

While in Istanbul I also found a really beautiful Ottoman silk brocade jacket and a traditional velvet beaded hat, which I used in my selection of items for the Localism exhibition that was on at mima – the Middlesbrough Museum of Modern Art – in 2015 and in Vinyl Icons, styled with other 1960s and 70s pieces. In 1960s and 1970s Iran and Turkey people would mix traditional fashions with the modern.

My mentor at mima – senior curator, Miguel Amado – is hoping to acquire five works from Vinyl Icons, so that they can be enjoyed by Teesside communities.

The exhibition is now closed – find out more.

Jonathan Ruffer curatorial grants provide funding for travel and other costs aiming to help curators undertake research projects. Applications are always open.

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