artnet Asks: Art Book Publisher and Editor Hossein Amirsadeghi
TransGlobe Publishing explores lesser-known corners of the art world.
Contemporary Art Mexico and Nordic Contemporary are the two newest volumes in a book series about global contemporary art in what are known as “periphery” cultures. Hossein Amirsadeghi, the London-based editor of the books, is the publisher of TransGlobe Publishing Ltd., as well as a writer and former documentary filmmaker with a background in economics and international relations. He is also founder and director of the Art & Patronage Summit, which was begun in 2012 as an event focused on the visual arts and creativity in the greater Middle East, including North Africa, Turkey, and Iran.
artnet News asked the editor a few questions about the challenges and surprises of editing the book series.
What niche do you see this book series filling? Why did you think it necessary to bring out this series at this point in time?
The primary purpose of my country and regional contemporary art series is to go where no others have been before, to explore the dominions of art both on the periphery (so-called Third World) and center (Europe, America, Asia) as a focus on society and culture of those countries, and to be surprised that the globalization of art has pretty much preceded economic globalization, or at least has helped complement and cement views, visions, and socio-politico dialogue. The series (Iran, Arab world, Turkey, Middle East, Russia, Korea, Brazil, Mexico, Nordic) bring together, in one volume, not only country-specific artistic production, but platforms of a region’s entire art-apparat. Makes for easy, accessible reading without pretentious art-speak, delivering blocks of information for all levels of readers, both lay and expert. As for timing of their release, it’s really when and where I can garner my resources and energies to tackle improbable and often impossible challenges.
What inspired you to embark on this project?
My journey into the world of contemporary art began about seven years ago, starting with Different Sames: New Perspectives in Contemporary Iranian Art, published jointly with Thames & Hudson in July 2009. My fascination is not so much with art itself, but with what contemporary art can do for today’s global and social cultures. The success of the series had pushed me to ever newer territories, tilling culture and soil to seek out cause and effect between art, culture, economics, social mobility and civil society. Being unique and one-of-a- kind books, the series has helped platform areas of global culture hitherto left untilled, allowing both scholars, artists, and lay folk to find common ground amongst the wastelands of culture-conflict.
What are the challenges of attempting to capture a region’s cultural landscape?
Mexico and Nordic are the seventh and eight books in the series, and I’m often asked why it is I, who have no association, interest or direct or indirect benefit to the art world per se, invest time, resources and much aggro in opening up these country’s art scenes to world publics?
I’ve yet to find a ready answer for myself, let alone others. Suffice it to say that the books have had a tremendous impact and serve as great resource tools for all classes of people. As to the question of attempting entry into unknown territories, into countries which themselves should have the resources and capabilities to do what I have done, takes a great deal of managing layered interests, often having to work against entrenched forces not keen on outsiders coming in and doing their job for them! Ultimately, it’s a question of passion, commitment, and editorial and political skills combined with aesthetic composure under fire.
What differences did you discover between the art scenes in Mexico and the Nordic countries?
They’re a world apart, Mexico being known for its turmoiled history, more than its art, overshadowed at all times by the presence of the USA as its overpowering northern neighbor. Whilst the Scandinavian countries have been exemplars of the most advanced social, economic, and political models of the last half-century, the former are still led by their historical sentiments as much as by their national priorities. The Nordic countries have settled into an almost rarefied state of social progress quite unique to themselves.
Did you come across anything especially surprising while editing these two volumes?
Surprised to see that Nordic contemporary art has much more color and flair and range than one would expect of homogenized societies, whilst the Mexican scene is developing in all directions, much more so in the conceptual frame.
Do you have any comment about the markets for Nordic or Contemporary Mexican art?
Not really, as I’m not interested in buying or selling art, merely extrapolating from the general medium of creativity in the arts, linking it to the very foundations of civil society, economics, politics, and the consequences of engineered cultural wars (by nuanced influences or direct/indirect propaganda). In my making both books I’ve naturally seen the regional markets in play, with Mexico having a vibrant and growing internal core of buyers, big and small, with influences further afield in the States and Europe—it’s now become fashionable, say, with Abraham Cruzvillegas presently commissioned to do the Tate Modern’s Turbine Hall, a singular honor for Mexican art in general. The Nordic primary, secondary, and auction markets have seen a dramatic increase in activity for Scandinavian art principally with the growth of the local galleries, but Nordic collectors are discreet and hold rather larger collections than is often recognized. Yet there’s no real “Scandinavian” art auctions, say, in London or New York—more’s the pity.
What are you working on at the moment?
The present series has in mind Africa and Japan, and there have been Sanctuary and Art Studio America, two of the most comprehensive forays into the private world of the artist’s studio; with Europe being planned for next year. But I’m presently working on my creative city series, with London Burning being the third and most important, being readied for publication this fall.
If you could own any contemporary art piece from Mexico or the Nordic countries, what would it be?
I don’t collect, buy, or sell art, so my collective memories of the experiences of these books are forever representative of their art, as no singular artist or works of art figure in my “big vision” ideas in art. It is the collective purpose that counts in my perspectives on art and society.
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