YARAT CONTEMPORARY ART SPACE
YARAT is a not-for-profit organisation dedicated to nurturing an understanding of contemporary art in Azerbaijan and to creating a platform for Azerbaijani art, both nationally and internationally. Based in Baku, YARAT (meaning CREATE in Azerbaijani) was founded by Aida Mahmudova in 2011. YARAT realises its mission through an on-going program of exhibitions, education events and festivals. YARAT facilitates exchange between local and international artistic networks including foundations, galleries and museums. A series of reciprocal residencies further fosters opportunities for global cultural dialogue and partnership. Educational initiatives include lectures, seminars, master classes, and the Young Artist Project ARTIM (meaning PROGRESS in Azerbaijani).
ARTIM aims to encourage the next generation of Azerbaijani creative talent to seek a career in the arts, and gives young practitioners the opportunity to exhibit their works in a professional context. Founded as part of YARAT’s on-going commitment to growing local art infrastructure in 2012, Yay Gallery (meaning SHARE in Azerbaijani) supports both national and international artists. Yay is a social enterprise, so all proceeds from sales are shared between the artist and YARAT. Since its inception in 2011, YARAT has produced over 140 events, both in Azerbaijan and abroad. These include participation in biennales; three public art festivals; education courses for artists, art students and children; lectures, screenings and film festivals for the general public; and exhibitions of both Azerbaijani and international artists.
An exhibition at the 55th Venice Biennale of Art in 2013 was a milestone project for YARAT, bringing together 17 artists from Azerbaijan, Iran, Russia, Turkey and Georgia, to consider the present and historical cultural dialogues shared by these neighbours. The exhibition went on to Baku where it was shown at the award-winning Heydar Aliyev Center, designed by Zaha Hadid. Exhibiting artists included Slavs and Tatars, Taus Makhacheva, and Azerbaijani artist Faig Ahmed, who went on to receive a nomination for the Jameel Prize and exhibited at London’s Victoria and Albert Museum in early 2014. Other milestone projects for YARAT include the exhibition Merging Bridges at the Baku Museum of Modern Art in 2012, which featured artists James Turrell, Idris Khan and Sarah Lucas amongst others, shown in dialogue with Azerbaijani artists. In 2013 YARAT produced the second public art festival Participate, involving five international and five Azerbaijani artists whose works focused on community and participation. That year YARAT also brought previously unseen work by artist Lalla Essaydi to the Baku Museum of Modern Art for the exhibition Beyond Time and Beauty. Through their ARTIM program to support young artists, YARAT produced an exhibition of 29 emerging Azerbaijani artists called Zavod. Curated by artist Faig Ahmed, this exhibition took place in an abandoned ex-Soviet air-conditioning factory.
In 2014 YARAT increased its reach through international projects. At Art Dubai Marker, the institutions and not-for-profit section of the fair, YARAT brought work by eight artists. Curated by Slavs and Tatars, Marker focused on the Caucasus and Central Asia for 2014. Later in the year, Yay Gallery brought two emerging YARAT artists to the Saatchi Gallery in London to take part in the inaugural START art fair, dedicated to young galleries internationally. In autumn 2014 YARAT produced one of two not-for-profit projects at Moscow’s contemporary art fair COSMOSCOW, with a solo exhibition by Rashad Alakbarov. In September YARAT exhibited three artists to VIENNAFAIR The New Contemporary for VIENNA Focus exhibition for 2014.
YARAT’s education program is wide-reaching; to date YARAT has led masterclasses and short courses with professors from institutions in Russia and the Caucasus region, as well as from the University of Arts London and Royal College of Art. YARAT has produced workshops for children from under-privileged parts of the city, as well as screenings and lectures for art students. In 2014 YARAT held a Photography Summer School in partnership with Magnum Photography in Baku, while in London, several artists undertook residencies at Delfina Foundation supported by YARAT. YARAT continues to expand its programs and facilities. In autumn 2014 YARAT opened a building with 11 artists’ studios and living spaces for artist(s)-in-residence. In spring 2015 YARAT opened YARAT Contemporary Art Centre a new 2,000m2 centre for contemporary art in Baku, housing exhibition galleries, a collection, an auditorium and an education centre.