Ghasemi, Amir Ali (1980–)

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Ghasemi, Amir Ali

Amir Ali Ghasemi is a Tehran-based Iranian graphic artist and founder of the Parkingallery artist collective. Ghasemi's artwork is central to a larger movement within Iran that blends traditional Islamic and Persian themes with that of a younger generation reconciling modern technologies and social conditions. In addition to solo exhibits in Iran, Ghasemi's artwork has been displayed in numerous countries including France, Japan, Taiwan, Turkey, and the United States.


Ghasemi was born in Tehran, Iran, on 20 August 1980, to parents involved in journalism and social communications. His grandparents were heavily involved with the publication of the Farsi-language Arash magazine. As a youth in Iran, Ghasemi was deeply influenced by western film and print literature brought from the United States by an aunt. Ghasemi came of age in a period in which censorship of foreign products and internal cultural expressions were eased. Amir Ali continues to live and work in Tehran, where, along with freelance photography and magazine work, he teaches graphic design in addition to overseeing the Parkingallery.


American popular culture, most notably film and literature, has greatly influenced Ghasemi, as his work demonstrates both a transculturation and Americanization of Iranian society. The increased sociocultural and political liberalization within the Islamic Republic has not only enabled young artists such as Ghasemi to take inspiration from international influences, but has also allowed a cultural openness that enables free artistic expression. Within Iran, Nikki R. Keddie writes, "There has been a new stress on freedom of thought, including of religion, which earlier thinkers had tended to subordinate to anti-imperialism or other values, and also on the importance of democracy, greater gender equality, and new and fair laws" (2003, p. 305). In addition to this general trend of transculturation and relative social openness is the introduction of the Internet which, according to Keddie, keeps Iranians "aware of international developments, especially those that concern Iran, and the Internet is also used for internal dissident communication" (p. 311). The influence of the Internet has been of signal importance in the artistic development and expression of Ghasemi's artwork.


The bulk of Ghasemi's artwork is largely grounded in his training as a graphic illustrator, attested to by the prevalence of photography and the cut-and-paste aesthetic of computer-based art throughout his work. Ghasemi's art represents a nexus between modern technology and traditional Persian culture. A common theme in the works of Ghasemi and other Parkingallery artists is the fluid manner in which traditional Farsi script is presented. An example of this is seen in Ghasemi's poster "Bouf-e-kour" in which the phrase "stray dog needs caring" is presented in Farsi, in an upside-down manner. Additionally, artwork on the Parkingallery Web site depicts a pair of scissors cutting Farsi script—perhaps symbolic of a desire to deconstruct and reconstruct Farsi script. These themes are most evident in the 2005 exhibition "Transition," where Ghasemi photographed patrons standing in front of pictures featuring Farsi language neon advertisements. Such sentiments depict a desire to redefine elements of Iranian society to better suit the expressions of a generation influenced by the transcultural nature of the Internet.


Ghasemi founded the Parkingallery—so named because the exhibitions took place in a parking garage—in 1998 as a collective workspace for emerging artists. Besides the recruitment of artists to display their work, the gallery afforded the opportunity for graphic illustrators and photographers to display their art through the variety of advertisements used to promote the gallery's exhibitions. In 2002 Parkingallery launched a Web site in the hopes of "moving forward to expand the borders of this platform for Iranian contemporary art, as [they have] shaped many micro/mega projects in a more global scale & [are] currently aiming to organize exchange workshops/exhibitions/talks between Tehran & rest of capable art cities through finding project spaces which are actively growing out of the main stream big intuitional art market & by archiving/documenting visual records of Tehran art scene & by gathering Iranian contemporary art database," according to


Name: Amir Ali Ghasemi

Birth: 1980, Tehran, Iran

Nationality: Iranian

Education: B.A. (graphic design), Azad University, Tehran, 2004


  • 1998: Founds the art collective and gallery Parkingallery
  • 2003: Presents "Fotos under Lite" exhibition of solo work at the Salis Art Gallery in Tehran
  • 2004: Curator of "Deep Depression," an exhibition at the Atbin & Azad Art Galleries in Tehran
  • 2005: Artwork featured prominently in the Imagine.Art.After online exhibition project as hosted by the Guardian; presents "Transition" exhibition at Parkingallery, Tehran; earns the Judges' Special Award at the Taiwan International Design Exhibition for his short film Group Video Installation


The Parkingallery collective features a number of talented young artists working with a variety of media. Behrang Samadzadegan (1979–), notable for his overtly politically-themed oil paintings, is one of the standout artists among the Parkingallery collective. In addition to his own work, Samadzadegan is the visual editor of the online magazine titled Tehran Avenue. One such notable work by Samadzadegan, titled "Still Life," features a portrait of U.S. president George W. Bush shadowed by the image of a screaming woman from Pablo Picasso's Guernica. An interesting facet of the Parkingallery is the inclusion and promotion of female artists. One of the many female artists is the graphic designer Parisa Tashakori (1973–). Tashakori's artwork incorporates a number of transcultural themes, uniquely incorporating an eastern Asian aesthetic.

In 2004 Ghasemi served as curator of Parkingallery's multimedia and international exhibit titled "Deep Depression." The exhibition's concept was to present international contributions inspired by a so-called deepness of thought brought about by depression. A follow-up exhibition was titled "Deeper Depression," and continued to build on the theme of its predecessor. Also in 2004, the British newspaper the Guardian presented an online exhibition of Ghasemi's works titled "Coffeeshop Ladies," a depiction of patrons in a café that, according to Ghasemi on the Guardian's Web site, is "a symbol of social freedom in Iran." Ghasemi uses female patrons as the focus of his photographs, covering the images of their faces with white stickers so as to "prevent the media from misusing and/or manipulating the images on a mass scale."


As of 2007, little has been written within mainstream media regarding the artwork of Ghasemi, yet within underground artistic circles his works have attained a growing amount of attention both for his ingenuity and expressions of Iranian youth. Much of the press regarding Ghasemi and Parkingallery is found in contemporary art and design periodicals. Greater attention has been given to the democratic and pro-Western tendencies of Iran's younger generations, and many look to Ghasemi and his contemporaries as harbingers of the nation's future. In this sense, Ghasemi is seen almost as a novelty, both him and his generation viewed in terms of their political thrusts, which may or may not be reflected in their art. As a result, the artistry and social critiques are lost as his works are extrapolated to reveal a greater meaning. Lost in this translation is the work of an artist seeking to reconcile traditional and modernist themes as reflections of increased artistic freedom within Iran.


Because of Ghasemi's youth, artistic potential, and role as an emergent voice within Iran's art scene, it is difficult to ascertain his legacy at this point. However, based on what he has accomplished as of 2007, Ghasemi will no doubt be remembered for forging a new artistic aesthetic that reflects the changes in Iran's cultural landscape where tradition and modernity are becoming increasingly reconciled. Moreover, the establishment of the Parkingallery and the digitizing of its works have resulted in growing international attention to modern Iranian artwork. Much attention has been paid to Ghasemi's exhibitions, making his stated aim to make Tehran Iran's representative to a global artistic movement all the more realistic.


Amir Ali Ghasemi's official Web site. Available from

Deep Depression Exhibition. Available from

Ghasemi, Amir Ali. Deeper Depression. Tehran, Iran: Shervin Books, 2006.

Ghissari, Ali, and Vali Nasr. Democracy in Iran, History and the Quest for Liberty. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2006.

Guardian Unlimited. "Amirali Ghasemi: Work." Available from

Keddie, Nikki R. Modern Iran, Roots and Results of Revolution. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2003. A Brand New Generation of Contemporary Artists in Iran and the Middle East. Available from

                                                Kenneth Shonk