Shirin Neshat’s Unveiling (1993) explored the politics of women living behind “the veil” in Islamic countries. This multimedia exhibition featured photographs, sculptures, and films that expressed the different affective experiences of wearing the veil. Neshat integrated text into her artworks from Forough Farrokhzad (1935–1967)—an influential modern Iranian poet whose writing concerned women’s liberation and independence. As the exhibition text noted, “the artist [was] well aware of the profound complexities behind the significance of the veil within Islamic cultures and [did] not intend to deny its traditional values to many contemporary women.” Rather, Neshat was interested in exploring the question of what shapes the female experience: the veil or the body? The artist also brought into focus “the problems of transposing Western presumptions of feminist artistic expression to another culture.” Ultimately, Neshat created new understandings of the veil, while challenging stereotypes about female identity in Islam.
SHIRIN NESHAT is an Iranian-born visual artist based in New York City. Neshat’s photograph series Unveiling (1993) and Women of Allah (1993–1997) examine femininity in relation to Islamic fundamentalism and militancy in Iran. Her video installation trilogy comprising Turbulent (1998), Rapture (1999), and Fervor (2000) portray abstract oppositions based around gender and society. Neshat’s video works Soliloquy (1999), Possessed (2001), Pulse (2001), and Tooba (2002) explore female identity in the context of Islamic culture, law, and religion. Since her first solo exhibition at Franklin Furnace in 1993, Neshat has presented exhibitions at the Serpentine Galleries (2000), Walker Art Center (2002), Hamburger Bahnhof (2005), Stedelijk Museum (2006), Detroit Institute of Arts Museum (2013), and Musée d’art contemporain de Montréal (2014). A major solo exhibition of the artist’s work, Shirin Neshat: Facing History (2015), was presented at the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden. She is the recipient of the First International Prize at the 48th Venice Biennial (1999), Grand Prix of the Gwangju Biennale (2000), Hiroshima Freedom Prize (2005), Dorothy and Lillian Gish Prize (2006), and the Silver Lion Award (2009). Neshat is represented by Gladstone Gallery, New York and Brussels.