- Farhad Moshiri
- Kennedy's Salt and Pepper Shaker
- each: signed, titled and dated 2005 on the reverse
- oil and acrylic on canvas mounted on board, in two parts
- each: 210 by 160cm.; 82 3/4 by 63in.
- overall: 210 by 320cm.; 82 3/4 by 126in.
One of the most talented of a new generation of Iranian artists, Farhad Moshiri follows in the footsteps of Jeff Koons and Mike Kelley in enlisting kitsch imagery as a form of visual satire, manipulating tensions between conventional notions of beauty and issues of presentation and communication in a world dominated by homogenising mass-media and popular culture. For Moshiri, this conceptual dynamism is the ideal metaphor for deeper cultural anomalies which arise when western culture is 'translated' for consumption in the Middle East. The present work comprises a monumental exhibition of mythical celebrity in the forms of President John F. Kennedy and his wife Jackie, who are both literally and metaphorically enthroned, and is the greatest achievement of Moshiri's project to date.
Moshiri's choice of subject matter is both powerful and subtle. For a newly liberated, media-friendly 1960s America, John and Jackie Kennedy were truly iconic, providing the vehicle for the hopes and dreams of an invigorated post-war nation. Seen in a modern Iranian context, however, these figures represent the glorification of western culture, known as Gharbzadegi, or 'western fetishism' that characterised the reign of the last Shah and Empress and involved a cult of personality modelled on the great leaders of the West. By pitching these competing interpretations of these infamous figures against each other, Moshiri's work creates a terrific tension between competing socio-cultural frames of reference.
The vastness of the JFK couple, themselves constituting a type of quasi-monarchy, broadcasts an unavoidable omnipresence, generating with scale what Andy Warhol achieved via replication in his celebrated 'Jackie' series of the early 1960s. The forms themselves are in fact modelled on salt and pepper shakers, thus casting the glamour of youthful political idealism with a strongly self-referential and post-modern inanity. This absurdity is compounded further by the irrelevance of JFK's high-minded domestic and foreign policies to the issues of a modern-day Iran in the twenty-first century. Thus Moshiri intelligently exploits this marriage between different socio-cultural priorities, wickedly contrasting conflicting expectations and enticing us to re-evaluate our presumptions.