Sonia Balassanian: Five Decades in the Making: Curated by Dr. Omar Kholeif

11 - 16 October 2022
Sonia Balassanian: Five Decades in the Making, a landmark survey exhibition of the iconic Iranian Armenian American artist’s art at the Pavilion Gallery, Cromwell Place, curated in close dialogue with Dr. Omar Kholeif (EG/SU/UK), author, curator, and broadcaster. The exhibition marks the artist’s first solo exhibition in the United Kingdom.
The exhibition coincides with Ab-Anbar’s solo presentation of Hostages: A Diary(1980)exhibited in Great Britain for the first time as part of Frieze Masters in Regent’s Park, London.
The project launches Imagine Otherwise—Volume 1: Sonia Balassanian, a new book series, which focuses on the life and work of Sonia Balassanian, authored by Dr. Omar Kholeif, and published by Sternberg Press.
On October 11, 2022, from 5-6 PM at the Pavilion Gallery, Cromwell Place, London, Sonia Balassanian, the artist, and Hans Ulrich Obrist, Artistic Director, Serpentine Galleries will be in a live conversation, moderated by Dr. Omar Kholeif, Director of Collections and Senior Curator, Sharjah Art Foundation, UAE. The talk will be followed by a book-signing by the artist of Imagine Otherwise: Sonia Balassanian, the first in a major new book series from Sternberg Press focusing on the lives of queer, non-binary, and female artists, who do not currently have a book in print.
Sonia Balassanian: Five Decades in the Making is a momentous celebration of the life and art of Sonia Balassanian, one of the most significant artists to emerge from the region that we have come to know as the “Middle East”, actively working and exhibiting since the 1970s. Born near Isfahan in Iran in 1942, Balassanian began her artistic pursuits as a poet. Academic training in the United States—in Philadelphia and New York, would set a new course for the artist whose poems morphed into palimpsest like canvasses in the 1970s, where she was referred to by American critics including Martin Zimmer, as a pioneering figure in Lyrical Abstraction.
Balassanian’s artistic tone changed radically, however, after the events of the Iranian Revolution, which began in 1978. Her work instead intertwined with the political, as she became engaged in numerous forms of social and political activism, serving as a proponent for women’s’ rights. It was at this juncture in the 1980s that the artist produced some of her most recognisable work, installations, which would come to be exhibited in significant presentations at SculptureCenter, New York and the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA), New York. Art magazines in the U.S. referred to Balassanian as “one of the most significant political artists of her generation”.

Balassanian’s multivalent practice—presents work across all media, from painting to sculpture, video, and installation. Curator of the exhibition, Dr. Omar Kholeif, author of a new biography and survey of the artist’s work, Imagine Otherwise: Sonia Balassanian, has developed the exhibition in close dialogue with Ab-Anbar and the artist, selecting key works, rarely seen, which mark a significant trajectory in the artist’s oeuvre.