Encounter with Joobin Bekhrad, Founder of Reorient
Artclvb is a family initiative that made your father and yourself recognized as key actors of the Mena contemporary art scene. Could you tell us about its concept and how it operates within the field?
artclvb was established in 2011 to help promote the works of contemporary artists, predominantly from the Middle East and the surrounding region. Through our website, email marketing, and social media, we expose the artists we work with and their artworks to collectors, art enthusiasts, gallery owners, curators, and other influential individuals around the world. That is not to say that we’ve limited ourselves to the Internet, though; from time to time, we also host high-profile events in Toronto and elsewhere, where we exhibit the works of our represented artists and provide a venue where those interested in, and wishing to learn more about the contemporary art of the Middle East can come together.
How did you come to the project of founding Reorient Magazine?
We used to send out a weekly newsletter comprised of press releases we’d post on the artclvb website, which became very popular. After a while, I decided to take things further, and established Reorient as an online magazine about not only the visual art of the Middle East, but also other aspects of its culture, such as film, music, and literature. I’ve always been fond of reading and writing, and had always wanted to run a publication of some sort, so setting up Reorient just seemed natural at the time.
How does Reorient complete the artclvb platform and extend its expertise?
Reorient ‘completes’ artclvb by giving back to the art community and showing our clients and followers that we’re about much more than simply selling and promoting art. Reorient’s sole aim is to promote the arts and culture of the Middle East, and as such, nicely complements artclvb’s mandate of increasing the exposure of Middle Eastern artists among wider audiences.
Could you define the community of art collectors and connoisseurs that Reorient Media built so far?
Our followers are based all around the world, primarily in the States, Canada, Western Europe, and of course, the Middle East itself. We currently have over 40,000 subscribers on our social media accounts, and are being followed by some significant individuals and cultural institutions. At the end of the day, every one of our followers is in some way interested in and enthusiastic about the contemporary arts and culture of the Middle East.
You present yourself as an ambassador of the Mena creativity scene, connecting artists and collectors from everywhere through an online platform and social media while you are based in Toronto, Canada. To what extend the model of traditional galleries is still relevant according to your experience?
Many are saying that traditional galleries and print magazines are ‘dying’, but I’d argue that they’ll always be important and have a role to play. Though many galleries are moving online, as are magazines, it’s ideal for online and offline elements to complement one another. There are things you can’t replicate online than you can physically, and the same is true vice versa. I think, especially when we’re dealing with lesser-known artists and works, allowing clients to see them up close in a proper environment is still very important. Therefore, I think traditional galleries will still be around for many years to come.
How do you envision the booming Mena art market in both the mid- and long term?
That’s a very broad and difficult question! I do think there has been a bit of inflation and hype in markets such as Tehran, for instance, and that such markets will slowly ‘normalise’ in the future. I also hope to see contemporary Middle Eastern art become less of a novelty, and more familiar in international galleries and auctions. As well, over time, I think we’ll witness the establishment of more robust and sustainable secondary markets for Middle Eastern art, which are vital to any thriving art market.
How would you analyse the place of Iranian production within this market?
Iran has always been a leader in the contemporary Middle Eastern art market, both in terms of numbers of artists and works, as well as the quality of such works being produced by Iranian artists and their ‘performance’ at home and abroad. Many Iranian artists (e.g. Parviz Tanavoli, Shirin Neshat, Farhad Moshiri, etc.) are household names in the art world, even among those with scant knowledge of Iranian art, and the domestic Iranian art market is, of course, a world unto itself. I’ve written a bit about what’s happening locally in a number of articles e.g. “Tehran Bazaar” recently published in the Cairo Review or “A Wealth of Talent: Domestic or International Markets for Iranian Art” in Bourse and Bazaar.
At a personal level, who are the top 5 Iranian visual artists that are of most importance for you?
As you know, this is very subjective; I can only list those artists I personally deem ‘important’ or that I’m interested in in some way. My personal favourites, at the moment, are Parviz Tanavoli, Ahmad Aali, Khosrow Hassanzadeh, Hesam Rahmanian or Farhad Moshiri. Others to look out for, in my opinion, are Sara Niroobakhsh, Melodie Hojabr Sadat, Mehrdad Mohebali, Siamak Filizadeh, Ahmad Morshedloo, and Ali Ettehad, in no particular order.