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INTRODUCTION by Emin Mammadov Artistic Advisor to the Heydar Aliyev Foundation, and Director of Q Gallery, Baku

Azerbaijan has the unique destiny to become a bridge between East and West in a number of ways – economically, politically and, of course, culturally – and now Azerbaijan, which has gained and consolidated its independence, has a unique style in the arts. In the 1960s and 1970s, during which time the western world was being introduced to the professional world of modern art, Azerbaijan, like all other Soviet republics, was behind the Iron Curtain. Nevertheless, even during those years, an echo of these new trends in contemporary art materialized in Azerbaijan in the form of dissident art. Its core was the so-called Absheron School, which is now considered by experts to have been a cultural phenomenon of global importance. The artists of this school – including Kamal Ahmed, Tofiq Javadov, Javad Mirjavadov, Ashraf Muradov, Rasim Babayev, Gennadiy Brijatyuk and others – criticized the system and protested against the existing regime. A notable feature of this dissident Azerbaijani art was that the lion’s share of its followers were painters (including some graphic artists and sculptors), whereas in Europe, artists, moving away from classical techniques, were exploiting the latest technology. The period of the 1980s and 1990s became a starting point for the development of modern conceptual art in Azerbaijan. The most recent period of contemporary art in Azerbaijan, from around the year 2000, marks the emergence and development of conceptual art and it is the past decade which has given the country a fundamentally new direction of visual art. Conceptual art in this context is the art of new technologies and serious intellectual ideas which are far in advance of contemporary perception. Its best-known exponents around the world are for the most part members of the middle and older generations of artists now. However, the current conceptual art of Azerbaijan which developed over the past ten years, has been created mainly by younger artists. Since 2007, Azerbaijan has presented its contemporary art in its national pavilion at the Venice Biennale, and it has been from that foundational base that the contemporary art of Azerbaijan has emerged. Participating in the Venice Biennale for the third time in 2011, Azerbaijan exhibited works of mature, well-known Azerbaijani artists whose creative activity has achieved international renown, such as Altai Sadiqzadeh, Mikail Abdurrahmanov, Aydan Salakhova, Zeygam Azizov, Khanlar Gasimov and Aga Ousseinov. Despite the fact that the last four live abroad (in Russia, the United Kingdom and the United States of America), they all share an unbreakable connection with Baku, which has contributed significantly to the personalities of these artists and has made a very particular imprint on their work. Participation in the Biennale presents a new and valuable experience for curators and artists and creates new contacts that can take our contemporary art to new levels.

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Fly to Baku - Contemporary Art from Azerbaijan  
Fly to Baku - Contemporary Art from Azerbaijan  

Exhibition January 17-29, 2012 Location Phillips de Pury & Company Howick Place, London SW1P 1BB