The Islamic Revolution of 1979 enabled fruit seller Khosrow Hassanzadeh (1953) to become an artist: the chaos created new opportunities. His compelling work, created since the 1980s, contains elements from the art of Japanese prints, the French Nabis artists, art nouveau and Andy Warhol. Hassanzadeh’s use of colour and black-and-white is exactly the opposite of what is commonly seen in Iran. War scenes are customarily colourful; chadors are black. Hassanzadeh makes his own choices in terms of content, often meaning that his work can only be seen outside of Iran.
With its Inside Iran exposition, the Tropenmuseum displays series with harsh titles, such as War, Prostitutes and Terrorist. Hassanzadeh made the sixteen enormous portraits of prostitutes in response to a series of murders by a religious fanatic. Because the media devoted so little attention to the murders, he decided to make a tribute to the victims. The title Terrorist appears to be randomly attached to a series of colourful family portraits in which each subject is profiled as if s/he were a terrorist.
Is he a political messenger? “No. My work is a response to the world, to life and to man. I have only one idea about art and artistry: first be honest with yourself. Only then can I try to make people happier by allowing them to see the world through new eyes."
Hassanzadeh connects the West and the Orient. He has surprised his home country with Western shapes, techniques and concepts. His work is included in prestigious Western collections. Six years after his first European exposition (1999, London), he wrote Modern Orientalism. “My article was intended to warn Western intellectuals of a lazy type of modern Orientalism.” Khosrow Hassanzadeh bounces the ball right back, giving readers a chance to determine what type of Orientalist they are.
The exhibition Inside Iran by Khosrow Hassanzadeh is on display from 22 September through 7 January 2007 in the Tropenmuseum in Amsterdam.