Presents an exhibition by

The exhibition runs from November 11 to December 11, 2008
Preview:  Monday, November 10 at 7:30 PM

An exhibition supported by Pictet and Ruinart

We are very proud to host Khosrow Hassanzadeh’s second solo show in Dubai, presenting two ambitious new bodies of work entitled ‘Ready to Order’ and ‘Ya Ali Madadi’.

‘Ready to Order’ is a collection of three dimensional large-scale boxes; imagine busy window displays with ornate gilded frames.  At the center of the boxes individuals both famous and unknown are immortalized with cardboard likenesses, positioned proudly and  surrounded by their typical universe of objects – statuettes, tools of trade, family photographs, and glittery ornamentation in a play of flashing lights, garlands and plastic foliage. The first word that comes to mind having discovered Khosrow’s seven boxes is most probably kitsch. It is a word often used but what is its full meaning? Turning to the dictionary, we find kitsch is ‘associated with sentimentalism and bad taste’ and describes ‘works of art and other objects (such as furniture) that are meant to look costly but actually are in poor taste’. Whether it tries to appear sentimental, glamorous, theatrical, or creative, kitsch is a gesture emulating the superficial values of art. Why then is it so popular?  Thomas Kulka, in his book ‘Kitsch and Art’, explains it as follows: ‘They play on basic human impulses irrespective of religious beliefs, political convictions, race, or nationality. They exploit universal subjects such as birth, family, love, nostalgia, and so forth.’ And Hundertwasser said ‘The absence of kitsch makes life unbearable’. If kitsch has always been embraced in the popular realm, it is now unmistakably ensconced in the world of fine art. ‘Ready-to-Order’ can be interpreted as a gross parody of Iranian society and its aesthetics but also as an earnest effort to raise the craft of the unrefined artisan to the high street.

One can see ‘Ready-to-Order’ slogans all over the city of Tehran, on banners at the entrance of restaurants and hospitality halls, in daily newspapers and advertisements.  The phrase is aimed at the typical Iranian habit to ‘commission and order’ on the occasion of all sorts of celebrations.  Whether for a wedding, a birthday, a memorial for lost loved ones and religious martyrs or a funeral, what matters is that the host has ‘ordered’ a lavish banquet, a socially meaningful token of affluence.

Initially inspired by the small boxes found in the holy birthplaces of Imams and the tombs of martyrs, Hassanzadeh likes to think of these custom boxes as shrines, his bespoke homage to unrecognized or otherwise uncelebrated subjects. His choice of subjects for portraiture began with ordinary people like his mother, his friend, or himself and eventually evolved towards popular icons. In one remarkable example, the famous diva Googoosh appears from behind a beaded curtain, wearing her myriad glamorous accessories: a diamond tiara, a shiny costume with heavily jeweled belt, and a white boa. The background complements this opulence with fake flowers and blue lights. Another box is consecrated to the popular singer Javad, whose name has become an adjective which means ‘kitsch’ in Farsi.  Wearing his best orange suit and tie, his edified figure adorned by lavish lily pads and sun flowers, he smiles amidst a background of mirror work and wall-paper depicting swans quietly swimming.  The Pahlavan: beloved wrestler, paragon of physical and moral strength for the local population, carries serenely his championship medals and traditional costume while his instruments, photos and lucky charms crowd his box.

Fired by passion, Hassanzadeh has explored every stable of the downtown bazaars to find the right objects to properly pay tribute to the diva, the pop singer or the pahlavan. Yet, a democratic artist, he is known to be inspired by the ordinary people of his daily entourage, and even more by the disadvantaged and abused, whom he is always ready to defend (see his Prostitute and  Ashura series). That being said, Khosrow is willing to extend his services to anyone who would like to see themselves ‘Ready to Order.’  [Don’t hesitate to inquire at B21!]


In the series ‘Ya Ali Madadi’, whose title is taken from the prayers of pahlavan wrestlers before a match, the artist expands on his fascination with the Qajar-period heroes, here executed with highly-charged acrylic colors and silkscreen on canvas.  The script ‘Ya Ali Madadi’ whirls around Pahlavans holding each other’s hands and posing in the center of the scene while surrounded by a Dervish, a court intellectual, a General and a Mullah. By extension it has become a popular ‘good luck message’, recalling the values carried by Ali, the patriarch of the Shi’a tradition known for his strength, humility and generosity towards the poor.

Works from both ‘Ready-to-Order’ and ‘Ya Ali Madadi’, are intended to be at once sentimental, patriotic, quaint, spiritual, and inspirational. Representing many aspects of Iranian culture, the result is optically intoxicating as Hassanzadeh proves himself to be the hero of Iranian pop and kitsch!



Khosrow Hassanzadeh is a well-known contemporary artist from Iran, with a fascinating life story that has been the subject of various documentaries by BBC and Arte. His work featured in many exhibitions in Europe and the Middle East. Hassanzadeh’s paintings often deal with issues that are considered sensitive in Iranian society and therefore he is frequently referred to as a ‘political’ artist. Hassanzadeh first gained international recognition with War (1998), a grim and trenchant diary of his own experiences as a volunteer soldier during the Iran-Iraq war (1980-1988). In Ashura (2000) a ‘women-friendly’ interpretation of the most revered Shiite religious ceremony, he depicted chador-clad women engulfed by religious iconography. Chador (2001) and Prostitutes (2002) continued his exploration of sociological themes particular to Iran’s hyper-gendered urban landscape. The latter paintings used police mug shots to pay tribute to sixteen prostitutes killed by a serial killer in Mashhad, a religious capital of Iran. For an exhibition titled ‘West by East’ in Barcelona, he was invited to give his views of the West. He answered by looking at himself in a Western mirror, and seeing the way he was looked at. He presented a self-portrait alongside portraits of his family members; each one identified by name, nationality, age and profession and all under the heading ‘Terrorist’, as they might be described on a ‘Wanted’ poster. His project Occidentalist, consisting of portraits of 24 Dutch men and women, mirrors the Terrorist project by looking at Western individuals from the viewpoint of an Easterner.

For general enquiries, hi-res images, artist CV or an interview please contact Tessa on 050 5025778/

About B21 Gallery

B21 Gallery opened its doors in November 2005 and is located in a warehouse in Al Quoz, an industrial area near the centre of Dubai. Since then, the gallery has showcased more than 25 exhibitions, all emphasizing the importance of risk-taking in contemporary art and challenging its visitors and collectors to unfamiliar terrain. Focusing on the emergent and innovative artists of the Middle Eastern region, B21’s primary goal is to discover the future rising talent. As a nexus of such artistic development, B21 Gallery continues to provide unique opportunities for collectors.

Al Quoz 1, near The Courtyard, opposite Spinneys warehouse. Sat-Thu 10am-7pm; Fri closed.


B21 Gallery

Tel: 00 971 4 340 3965