Cover of Alternative Iran by Pamela Karimi
Alternative Iran
Contemporary Art and Critical Spatial Practice
Pamela Karimi


August 2022
432 pages.
from $35.00

Hardcover ISBN: 9781503630017
Paperback ISBN: 9781503631809



Alternative Iran offers a unique contribution to the field of contemporary art, investigating how Iranian artists engage with space and site amid the pressures of the art market and the state's regulatory regimes. Since the 1980s, political, economic, and intellectual forces have driven Iran's creative class toward increasingly original forms of artmaking not meant for official venues. Instead, these art forms appear in private homes with "trusted" audiences, derelict buildings, leftover urban zones, and remote natural sites. While many of these venues operate independently, others are fully sanctioned by the state. These unusual cultural scenes are not only sites of artistic encounters, but also part of the collective experience of Iran's citizens.

Drawing on interviews with over a hundred artists, gallerists, theater experts, musicians, and designers, Pamela Karimi throws into sharp relief extraordinary art and performance activities that have received little attention outside Iran. Attending to nonconforming curatorial projects, independent guerrilla installations, escapist practices, and tacitly subversive performances, Karimi also discloses the push-and-pull games between the art community and the authorities, and discusses myriad instances of tentative coalition as opposed to outright partnership or uncompromising resistance. Illustrated with more than 120 full-color images, this book provides entry into Iran's unique artistic experiences without catering to voyeuristic curiosity around Iran's often-perceived "underground" culture.

About the author

Pamela Karimi is Associate Professor of Art History at the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth. She is the author of Domesticity and Consumer Culture in Iran (2013).