Skip to content Skip to navigation

Public Art, Public Spaces

“Freshness” by Iranian artist Mehdi Ghadyanloo, image courtesy of the artist.

An unprecedented three-year initiative on Iranian art that investigates the multiple contexts that shift and define changing ideas of Iranian public space.

This ongoing critical framework of conversations, newly issued art projects, and exploration of various cultural productions and intellectual traditions looks at recent transformations of Iranian civic life and asks what may constitute the architecture, images, and people that shape multiple notions of a “public” Iran. This initiative is also supported by various Stanford departments and programs.


First Project: Art, Social Space and Public Discourse in Iran

Street mural painted by Iranian artist GhalamDAR in Oakland, CA as an artist-in-residence for the art symposium. 

This first series in this initiative, Art, Social Space and Public Discourse in Iran was envisioned and directed by artist Ala Ebtekar and presented a three-day symposium in November including talks, panels, newly issued art projects, and lecture performances. The opening ceremony took place at the Asian Art Museum in San Francisco on November 3rd with a live-stream from Tomorrow, a traditional coffeehouse in Tehran, Iran. The symposium site shifted to Stanford University on November 4th and 5th continuing the momentum with a series of talks, panels, and additional performances. Simultaneously during the main symposia,  auxiliary events and commissioned public artworks took place across the Stanford campus and the Bay Area. 

Throughout the symposium, panels generated discussion among local and internationally based scholars, and renowned urban artists GhalamDAR, Mehdi Ghadyanloo, and art collective Slavs and Tatars on the socio-political textures of Iranian public space and the widespread history of public engagement in Iran. In addition, project artists produced new work in direct collaboration with Stanford students across several departments. One such art project is the street mural GhalamDAR painted in Oakland, California through a scholar-in-residence component of the symposium. 

In conjunction with the project, Professor Ala Ebtekar offered the course Public Space in Iran: Murals, Graffiti, Performance in the fall quarter at Stanford. The studio practicum paralleled themes of the symposia to explore the traditions of artistic engagement in Iranian public space. The course offered a detailed survey of Iran’s visual culture and contemporary art practices through the investigation of public art strategies and recent cultural expression, in addition to older traditions of performing arts.

This multi-site framework across the Stanford community, Bay Area locations, remote partners, online allies, and anchored through multidisciplinary presenters on the symposia panels facilitated discussions and questions to hopefully be explored over the next three years.

This first step in the initiative was supported by the following sponsors: 

This initiative is supported by various Stanford departments and programs notably the Hamid & Christina Moghadam Program in Iranian StudiesDepartment of Art & Art HistoryInstitute for Diversity in the ArtsStanford Global StudiesCenter for Comparative Studies in Race and EthnicityStanford Arts Office of the Associate Dean, Associate Dean of Humanities & Sciences, Bita Daryabari Endowment for Persian Letters, and the Asian Art Museum of San Francisco.


Past Events

Thursday, November 3, 2016 (All day)
Monday, April 4, 2016 - 18:30