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Shirin Aliabadi (1973–2018)

The Dubai-based gallery the Third Line announced that the Iranian artist Shirin Aliabadi died yesterday in Tehran. Born in Tehran in 1973, Aliabadi studied art and archaeology in Paris before beginning her multidisciplinary practice, through which she investigated the ways in which traditional Iranian laws and culture intersect with urban lifestyles, youth, consumerist culture, and globalization in her home country. In her “Miss Hybrid” series, young women in hijabs are shown proudly wearing bandaged noses, a mark of a recent nose job; chewing bubblegum; talking on the phone; leaning over motorcycles; and toting puppies and Goyard bags. 

“Banal as the symbols of consumer society may seem: Starbucks, bags by Goyard, or iPods, in Iran they become a subliminal instrument of the so-called cultural invasion from the West, which the Iranian authorities equate with the ‘great Satan,’” Aliabadi explained. “For the young generation, in particular for the women, such fashion accessories become—in a beguiling manner—a kind of passive rebellion. This is the moment when fashion is not only fashion—in this context the message is not superficial. . . . I don’t believe that you automatically become a rebel with a Hermès scarf around your neck, but in the context of the society in which we grew up, within an educational system that has different values to those in the West, the phenomenon of fashion turns into an interesting paradox. But ultimately, these young women’s concern is not to overthrow the government but to have fun.”

The artist also collaborated with her husband, Farhad Moshiri; for the series “Operation Supermarket,” 2006, they rebranded typical supermarket products and packaging with phrases like “Ask Why,” “Tolerating Intolerance,” and “We Are All Americans.” Aliabadi was represented by the Third Line for over a decade. Her work was included in group exhibitions at the Gallery of Modern Art, Glasgow; the Bristol Museum of Art, the UK; and Kunstverein Munich. It is held in international public and private collections, including the Bristol Museum and the Art Gallery, the UK; the Deutsche Bank AG, Germany; and the Farjam Foundation, Dubai, UAE. She is survived by Moshiri.

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