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Symposium: The Shiraz Arts Festival: A Global Vision Revisited

1977 Shiraz Arts Festival poster
1977 Shiraz Arts Festival poster.

From 1967 to 1977, the Shiraz Arts Festival in Iran was an important international festival, hosting a dizzying array of artists, from the avant-garde to the traditional. The eclectic mix included Western artists from theater including Jerzy Grotowski, Peter Brook, and Robert Wilson; music including John Cage, Olivier Messiaen, Iannis Xenakis, Max Roach and Karlheinz Stockhausen; and dance including Merce Cunningham. Asian and African performances included Ravi Shankar, Indian Kathakali, the Senegalese National Ballet, Balinese Music and Dance, and Noh Theater among others. The festival also hosted Iranian contemporary theater as well as traditional Persian arts including the Ta’zieh (Persian passion play) and renowned master such as Ostad Ali Asghar Bahari and singers Mohammad-Reza Shajarian and Parissa, to name but a few. Film was also an important component, with many of Iran’s best-known film directors having their early films first included in the festival. The Shiraz Arts Festival was famed for cross-pollinating Iran and the rest of the world through a program that created an artistic canvas for work that ranged from the most contemporary to the most traditional. It positioned Iran as a global leader in the arts during that time period.

This symposium will provide a forum to explore the festival in greater depth. Speakers will include artists, academics and scholars such as Arby Ovanessian, Andrei Serban, Farhad Mechkat, Valda Setterfield, Vali Mahlouji, Mahasti Afshar, Mohammad Ghaffari, William Beeman and Peter Chelkowski, among others. The day-long program will feature lectures, panel discussions and film footage from the festival. It will offer a much-needed reconsideration of the legacy of the festival.


Welcome by Rachel Cooper, Director, Global Performing Arts and Special Cultural Initiatives

Melissa Chiu, Senior Vice President for Arts and Culture introduces H.M. Farah Pahlavi

Keynote Address: Her Majesty Farah Pahlavi — A View from the Beginning

Talk: Arby Ovanessian — The Shiraz Festival Artist’s Perspective

Coffee Break

Panel 1: Iranian Artists Look Back — Mahasti Afshar, Mohammad Ghaffari, Arby Ovanessian and Khosro Shayesteh, moderated by Rachel Cooper


Panel 2: The West Goes to Iran — Andrei Serban, Valda Setterfield, Angela Pietropinto and Margaret Croyden

Screening: excerpts from "The Troupe"

Panel 3: Face of Traditional Iran — William Beeman, Peter Chelkowski and Mohammad Ghaffari

Coffee break

Conversation: Iranian Artists, Another Look — Farhad Mechkat and Hamid Dabashi

Panel 4: The Legacy for a New Generation — presentation by Vali Mahlouji, followed by panel discussion with Mohammad Aghebati, Negar Azimi

Closing: Rachel Cooper

Reception and gallery viewing

This program is part of Asia Society's ongoing initiative Creative Voices of Muslim Asia, made possible by support from the Doris Duke Foundation for Islamic Art. Additional support for Iran Modern programming is provided by the Robert Sterling Clark Foundation, WLS Spencer Foundation and the American Institute of Iranian Studies.

In conjunction with the exhibition Iran Modern, on view September 6, 2013 through January 5, 2014.

View all Iran Modern-related events


Event Details

5 October 2013
10:00am - 5:00pm

725 Park Avenue, New York, NY

$20 members; $22 students/seniors; $25 nonmembers