Of Iranian origin, Shirin Neshat currently lives and works in New York. In 1974, at the age of 17, she left her native country and moved to the United States, where she studied Fine Arts at the University of California, Berkeley. In 1990, Neshat returned to Iran to find a country totally transformed by the Islamic Revolution, something which had a profound effect on her not only on a personal level, but also as an artist. Through her work she deals with universal questions like memory or loss, and at the same time reflects on the position of women in Islamic society and the control of the political power to which today’s society is subjected.
Firstly photography, and shortly afterwards video and film, are the media through which she analyses the duality of the past and the present, of East and West, of man and woman, from an atemporal, universal viewpoint. Her photographs, taken in black and white, capture specific fragments of the female body, such as the face, hands or feet, the only ones that can be shown in public under Islamic law. On them she places references by Iranian writers and poets and religious quotations in Farsi, alongside elements alien to women such as weapons, turning them into metaphors for the search for freedom and rebellion in the face of the oppression of the female gender. Her incursion into cinema took place from the year 1997 on, when she made her first film; thanks to the resources the film media places at her disposal, Neshat strengthens the narrative factor even more and deals in-depth with the divergences between genders and differences between cultures, as is reflected in her videoinstallation Fervor (2000).
Neshat has exhibited in the Tate (London, 1998), the Whitney Museum of American Art (New York,1998), the Serpentine Gallery (London, 2000), the Irish Museum of Modern Art (Dublin, 2001), the Museo de Arte Moderno (Mexico City, 2003), the Museo de Arte Contemporáneo de Castilla y León (Leon, 2005), the Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam (2006) and Fundació Telefónica (Madrid, 2013), among others. Also remarkable was her participation in the Documenta XI (2002), the 48th Venice Biennial (1999) and the Whitney Biennial in New York (2000).
Her work is present in the collections of centres and institutions such as the Tate (London), the Musée national d’art moderne, Centre Pompidou (Paris), the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum (New York), the Museo de Arte Contemporáneo de Castilla y León (Leon), the Fundación Telefónica (Madrid) and the Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía (Madrid). She won the Premio Internazionale of La Biennale di Venezia (Leone d’Oro) in 1999, the Hiroshima Museum of Contemporary Art Peace Award (2004), the Lilian Gish Prize (2006) and the Leone d’Argento for best direction at the 2009 Mostra di Venezia for her film Women without men.