Artist to Know: Shirin Neshat

Liz Catalano
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Hindman’s Photography Auction Brings Print From ‘Soliloquy’ Series

Iranian artist Shirin Neshat spent the first few years of her adult life in New York City. When she returned to Iran in 1990, Neshat found a culture and political climate that was radically different from what she remembered. Navigating her cultural identity alongside broader social issues became the basis of Neshat’s artistic career. “I have gravitated toward making art that is concerned with tyranny, dictatorship, oppression and political injustice,” Neshat told The Guardian in 2019. “Although I don’t consider myself an activist, I believe my art – regardless of its nature – is an expression of protest, a cry for humanity.” 

A 1999 print by Shirin Neshat will come to auction with Hindman at 11:00 AM EST on January 21st, 2021. Learn more about the artist before placing a bid.

Shirin Neshat. Image from Yael Malka for The New York Times.
Shirin Neshat. Image from Yael Malka for The New York Times.

Shirin Neshat received a robust education while growing up in Iran during the 1960s. She attended Catholic school, interacting with both Eastern and Western philosophies. By the time Neshat entered adulthood, however, Iran’s political landscape had become increasingly unstable. She traveled to the United States in 1975 to study art at the University of California, Berkeley, where she earned an MFA. Neshat settled in New York shortly after the Iranian Revolution transformed her home country. 

Neshat experienced these changes firsthand when she returned to Iran in 1990. She encountered new power structures and cultural perceptions of Muslim women. Within a few years, Neshat took these issues into her art studio. Her visual art explores the tension between suppression and empowerment, often presenting stark imagery without a clear political stance.

Shirin Neshat, Rebellious Silence (from the ‘Women of Allah’ series), 1994. Image from Sotheby’s.
Shirin Neshat, Rebellious Silence (from the ‘Women of Allah’ series), 1994. Image from Sotheby’s.

Women of Allah, a black-and-white photographic series, brought Neshat international attention. Armed, chador-clad women stare at the viewer from these photos. Calligraphic Farsi poetry covers their faces, hands, and chests. Most of the text is from Iranian women poets who reflected on martyrdom and feminism around the Iranian Revolution. Women of Allah sparked discussion throughout the art world and cemented Neshat’s place as a serious artist. Prints from the series regularly sell at auction for USD 50,000 or above. A chromogenic print of Rebellious Silence, one of the best-known photos from the series, achieved $66,614 at Sotheby’s in 2011. 

The upcoming Hindman auction will present a color print from Neshat’s Soliloquy series ($15,000 – $25,000). Produced after Women of Allah in 1999, Soliloquy is a film designed to run on two separate screens. On one, a character played by the artist moves through Albany, New York. The same character is shown on the opposite screen, this time in Mardin, Turkey. The available color print is from a scene in the Mardin half of the film. Neshat sits on the roof of a building and uses a small bowl to splash water over her head. 

“I had an obsession with trying to give a glimpse into the mindset of a person who was simultaneously standing on the threshold of two worlds, West and East, traditional and modern, individualistic versus communal,” Neshat said about the series in an interview with Border Crossings

Shirin Neshat, Water Over Head (from the ‘Soliloquy’ series), 1999. Image from Hindman.
Shirin Neshat, Water Over Head (from the ‘Soliloquy’ series), 1999. Image from Hindman.

An established artist, Neshat has a strong presence in the contemporary art market. According to Widewalls, most of Neshat’s pieces sell for between $10,000 and $50,000. These auction prices have remained steady over the last ten years, especially for recognizable Women of Allah prints. Original prints and proofs from Neshat are harder to find, particularly after Neshat moved away from photography and into film. The earliest prints consistently draw attention. A signed 1997 artist proof of Whispers sold at Christie’s in 2008 for $265,000, more than twice the high estimate. 

Shirin Neshat continues to explore the boundaries of contemporary art. She produced several acclaimed feature-length films with fellow Iranian visual artist Shoja Azari and recently enjoyed a major retrospective at The Broad in Los Angeles. Though her art has never been shown in Iran, Neshat remains hopeful for her future. “I still feel like a young artist even though I’m not young,” she told The New York Times in 2019. “I’m still wanting to reinvent myself, and that basically is what keeps me on my toes and keeps me excited.” 

Shirin Neshat’s Soliloquy print will come to auction with Hindman on January 21st, 2021, at 11:00 AM EST. Find the complete catalog and place a bid on Bidsquare

Interested in other modern and contemporary artists? Auction Daily recently covered the work of Loïs Mailou Jones, an American painter and educator.

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