A Portal to Tehran in a Golden Shipping Container

This is the first in a series of posts (300–500 words) reflecting on my experiences as an art historian, writer, educator, and Curator at Large at Artsy. Via these posts I’ll try to provide a window into the various (often fast-moving) parts of the “art world” — both in New York and beyond — and recommend readings, as well as offer insight into my process/practice/thinking/etc. All of this is towards attempting to teach art history and contemporary art via the Internet.

Sun Xun at Sean Kelly Gallery, New York, December 11, 2014

Yesterday I heard Chinese artist Sun Xun talk about his new paintings in his show “The Time Vivarium,” which opens tonight at Sean Kelly Gallery in New York. The paintings in the show — which recall artists like Raymond Pettibon, Jean-Michel Basquiat, William Kentridge, and George Grosz — juxtapose narratives from Chinese history with Sun’s own personal history and will form the basis of a film to be exhibited in the show’s second installment in January. The artist will be present in the gallery throughout December, working on the film and engaging with visitors.

One of the paintings in Sun Xun’s exhibition, “The Time Vivarium,” at Sean Kelly Gallery in New York. Image courtesy Sean Kelly Gallery.

This morning I had the opportunity to attend a discussion between critic Robert Storr — my PhD advisor at the Institute of Fine Arts, NYU — and artist Amar Bakshi. They spoke about the first public installation of Bakshi’s “Shared_Studio Project: A Portal Between Tehran & NYC: Open for Conversation”, which opened December 5th at Lu Magnus.

Robert Storr and Amar Bakshi in conversation at Lu Magnus this morning.

The portal is a gold shipping container — which you can see in the background of the above image. It allows a private setting for individuals — anyone coming into the gallery — to video conference with another person or group in Iran. This installation is the beginning of a larger effort to install the portals in other locations (such as high schools or public parks) to catalyze conversations between groups separated by technology, language or cultural stereotypes.

Bakshi’s fascinating background makes me want to continue to pay attention to this project. He graduated from Harvard and is currently completing his law degree at Yale. In between Harvard and Yale, he edited an international affairs blog moderated by David Ignatius and Fareed Zakaria at the Washington Post; received funding to travel around the world for a year to explore how the world sees America; worked for the U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Susan Rice on development policy, Muslim outreach and integrating new media into diplomatic efforts; and went back to media to work with Fareed Zakaria, at CNN.com to build the organization’s primary international analysis site and launch his own live online show.

More soon…

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