Taher Asad-Bakhtiari - JANUARY 2016

By Kate Hazell

Iranian artist Taher Asad-Bakhtiari has become a name to know in Middle Eastern art and design, marrying the traditional craft of carpet weaving set for modern day life. Showing at Dubai Design Days, as part of the Wasl exhibition, the Dubai-based 33-year-old is the ancestral son of an influential Iranian nomadic tribe leader and his art, making traditional kilims is heavily inspired by his roots. Cherrypick talks to the artist about how the city's blend of tradition and modernity makes Dubai the perfect place for his work to thrive.

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What made you become an artist?

So I can express myself through what I create and have a voice in the most free of ways. I think once you reach a point and have a certain audience then you can have a stronger voice. I think my biggest ambition is to be able to voice myself as much as I can.

How did growing up in Tehran impact your life?

Tehran is a big city, the population is eight million and life is hard. There is a lot of construction, traffic and pollution, so growing up in a city like Tehran makes you tough. It made me hungry to seek and find beauty.

What artists inspire you now?

I'm inspired by Iranian artists. I look to Monir Shahroudy Farmanfarmaian, Farhad Moshiri and Shirin Neshat among many others.

How does your family heritage influence your work?

I was born in Tehran and I grew up in quite a crazy family. My dad comes from a known tribal family (led by Ali-Qoli Khan Bakhtiari) and my mom's great aunt is Monir Shahroudy Farmanfarmaian, who is a famous artist— she worked with mirror ceramics. Ever since I was little, I've been surrounded with tribal and artistic impressions. I grew up with my mom wearing a lot of tribal clothes and jewellery. She'd mix them with contemporary clothes and it always inspired me. My dad was always very humble about his tribal roots. For me, recreating tribal weaves somehow connects me to my roots and the tribal people.

How do you create your art?

I believe the art behind the tribal weaves is even more than the finished product. I use naturally-dyed wools and sometimes I interweave polyurethane threads that I find in the markets in Iran. Turkish-speaking Azerbaijan people, based in Iran, make my kilims, which are woven on a loom. I use semi-nomads, the weavers and encourage them to make things that they have never created. I use a process called layering which results in a different texture. It gives my carpets more intensity and structure. We go through sampling together until I see something that I love, then go about curating a collection around it.

How would you describe your contribution to the industry?

My work consists of marrying tradition with modern life today, which is the life we live in. However some traditions don't have much of a demand since the lifestyle doesn't really exist anymore, i.e the art of traditional carpet weaving. To focus on this and try to make it relevant is important and it's what I do with my art.

Does being in this region affect your work?

I come from this side of the world, I'm Iranian, so the region is within me and what I do is rooted in this region so it's not too far from who I am. What I do is known here and people understand it (they know the craft, they know the nomadic lifestyle and they know the traditions) so that really helps my work— the understanding.

How does Dubai inspire your work?

The city is a great platform for art, design, fashion and hospitality— you see a lot of modern buildings, amazing restaurants, impressive hotels, it's hard not be inspired here. You see modern life married with tradition everywhere, which is the core of my work and the people from the UAE are traditional yet they are very modernised. That’s inspiring in itself.

Where do you shop?

I love Yamanote Atelier, the Japanese bakery. It serves authentic Japanese cakes and deserts and it's impossible to walk-in and not stuff your face. For clothes I usually head to Tom Ford in The Dubai Mall, the new Saint Laurent in Mall of the Emirates, which is really impressive, you have to check it out. And I buy Rick Owens in Saks Fifth Ave Burjuman.

Tell us three hidden secrets/places in the city we might not know?

You have to try sushi from Atisuto and Japanese pastries from Yamanote Atelier. Bianca Mozzarella in Box Park has the best mozzarella in town. For burgers, it has to be Meat Me There in Al Souq Mall. For some peace and quiet I love the Bastakiya Café and Baker & Spice in Al Manzel too, as they're always really nice and quiet.

What's on your agenda for 2016?

I've got a solo show at the re-opening of Carwan Gallery in Beirut in March so I'm just preparing for that...

Taher's pieces are sold through Carwan Gallery.