Sara Makari is a North East-based collector and curator who is currently exhibiting her incredible collection of Turkish and Persian pop-culture memorabilia at Vane Gallery.
The show ‘Vinyl Icons: Persian Pop and Turkish Psychedelia’ is open until June 4.
Sheena: What will a visitor to your show see at Vane?
Sara: A visitor can expect to see rare 1960s-’70s music covers, memorabilia in the form of: 1960s-’70s vintage magazines and postcards, textiles, shoes and hats.
Specially made for the show is beautiful handmade, hand-painted silk and lurex nostalgia inspired ‘Persian Pop’ gown with matching hat dripping in glass beads. The same artist Hushi has also painted a 1971 Whiting and Davis gold mesh purse with the popular singer Googoosh’s face and the words in Persian Bavar Kon (Believe), one of her songs.
There is also a lot of collage artwork, photography, a drawing, paintings, miniature painting on shoes and a 3-D super kitsch box work! You just have to go see for yourself!
Taravat Talepasand, ‘Go-Go Chakmeh’, 2016, Lacquer on Gold Fabric, 46 x 23 x 9cm
You’ve worked with both artists and collectors on your show. How did you go about choosing collaborators?
Most of the artists are friends and we have become closer through working together.
The art world of the contemporary Middle East and North Africa is small and everyone knows each other or is connected in some way. I simply pick artists that I feel are doing something unique, passionate, visually stimulating. They have something to say and are personable people.
I am so proud of the artists in my show. They have worked really hard for me and luckily things have worked out for the best with the project. I have only one work from a collector, the ‘Googoosh’ box by Khosrow Hassanzadeh, which I felt was the most suitable work of Khosrow’s for the project bearing in mind it is a high impact piece and it was already in the UK, as it is for sale.
We are very grateful to the kindness of the collector (who shall remain anonymous) for sharing his work with the public.
Afsoon, ‘Mahasti’ (from the ‘4 Corners’ series), 2010, mixed media, 16.5 in; Width 23.2 in / Height 42 cm; Width 59 cm
Tell us about your own Persian heritage? Was there a sense that Persian pop culture was important when you were growing up?
I grew up with my Dad’s tape collection from Pre-Revolutionary Iran. These were tapes of songs he liked recorded from the radio. He couldn’t afford to buy records.
I used to ask him what the lyrics meant and was astounded at how deep the meanings were of the songs and to what lengths Persian people go to express their feelings and to tell their stories.
Where did you even begin to start collecting the items in your exhibition?
Most of the items such as records, magazines, postcards, clothes and non-painted shoes belong to me. The majority of these things I collected when I was lucky enough to go to Istanbul on a research trip funded by The Art Fund through the Jonather Ruffer curatorial grant.
Istanbul is an amazing place full of relatively cheap and unusual vintage items. I’m also an Etsy addict! I think if you have a good eye for antiques and fashion you can go into a junk shop and come out with some unimaginable treasures.
Afsoon, one of the artists also shares my love of digging for treasures around the world.
Malekeh Nayiny, ‘My Mother and Her Sister Homa’, 2000, Digital Chromogenic Print, 90 x 65 cm
The Persian singer Googoosh features heavily in your exhibition. Why is she such a major cultural figure amongst the Persian diaspora?
People just love her: her style. She had many looks. The haircuts she had including her rebellious pixie cut, her many happy and sad songs and her distinct voice, the fact she danced when she sang in quite a traditional style, her politics (she’s well known as a gay icon now) and also that she was very real to the Iranian people.
Googoosh was actually from a working class Azeri family from the North of Iran. Her father used to make her perform as a child and everyone saw her grow up quite publicly in the Pre-Revolution times.
Turkish culture in the seventies seemed to be very liberal indeed. There are a lot of images that are almost ‘soft porn’. What happened? Turkey is currently going through something of a counter-revolution and is becoming increasingly conservative.
I can’t really comment on the politics of Turkey right now as I am not experiencing it. Most of the material I collected from the 1960s-’70s is what I found in vintage and records shops or from collectors’ stashes.
Some of the graphics from Iran Pre-Revolution was also quite racy and it seems censorship rules were a lot slacker than what is to be expected now.
If you were to recommend just one Turkish or Persian pop record for the beginner, what would that be?
A really epic Turkish song for you is Zehra Sabah’s Ikimiz Bir Fidaniz
And a really epic Persian Pop song for you is Googoosh singing Talagh.
I recommend any records with these women as a starting point.