PREFACE by Hervé Mikaeloff Curator of ‘Fly to Baku’
“Fly to Baku: a trip to the heart of Azerbaijani contemporary art.” Advised by Michaela and Simon de Pury and invited by Leyla Aliyeva and the Heydar Aliyev Foundation, I went to Baku during the second half of 2011 for an exploration of the art being made in the capital of Azerbaijan. Used to emerging artistic scenes, I was surprised by the dynamism of the people and the energy in the arts. Azerbaijan is a Caucasian country located on the dividing line between Europe and Asia. Independent since 1991, Azerbaijan has been able to establish itself as one of the most innovative countries in the region. Central Baku is composed of an old fortified town, registered on UNESCO’s World Heritage list with the Maiden Tower (Qiz Qalasi) and the Palace of the Shirvanshahs, since 2000. Opened in March 2009, Baku Museum of Modern Art presents more than 800 works by Azerbaijani painters and sculptors. The museum was designed as a total art work by the artist Altai Sadiqzadeh. The Heydar Aliyev Cultural Centre, created by Zaha Hadid, should soon host an international conference centre, and be home to a library and spaces for art exhibitions. Its audacious architecture will complete a cultural centre that will turn Baku into a major destination. Rooted in a thousand-year-old past, the contemporary art of Azerbaijan reflects clearly the country’s cultural character – one that is full of life, colour and contrasts. The combination of abstraction and figurative art also reveals the deep influence of the international and Soviet avant-gardes of the beginning of the twentieth century. Thanks to the help of Emin Mammadov, artistic advisor of the Heydar Aliyev Foundation and founder of Q Gallery, I had the opportunity during my visits to Baku to meet or to see works of more than a hundred artists. For the exhibition in London, we have decided to show a hundred works, most of which have been specially made for the exhibition by the twenty-one artists. Paintings, installations, videos, photographs, performances – the exhibition is like a snapshot of the contemporary art scene, with its wealth, its abundance, its contradictions and its authenticity. It will lift the veil off this new emerging and highly promising artistic scene so all visitors can fully appreciate the diversity of Azerbaijani contemporary art. I want to sincerely thank all the artists who agreed to participate in this exhibition and who have made this unveiling possible.