SUNS AND NEONS ABOVE KAZAKHSTAN. YARAT Contemporary Art Centre, Baku, Azerbaijan June 7– October 29, 2017

YARATContemporaryArtSpacepresentsSuns and Neons above Kazakhstan –a group exhibition of16 artists, including 5 emerging Kazakhstani artists.

Suns and Neons above Kazakhstan brings together seminal works of the 1990s and the early 2000s, from the artists Erbossyn Meldibekov, Bakhyt Bubicanova, Galim Madanov and Zauresh Terekbay, Almagul Menlibayeva, Yelena Vorobyeva and Viktor Vorobyev, Rustam Khalfin, Said Atabekov, Maria Vilkovisky and Ruthie Jenrbekova (Creolex centr) as well as new commissions by emerging artists: Asel Kadyrkhanova, Nurakhmet Nurbol, Suinbike Suleimanova, Alexander Ugay and Gaisha Madanova.

The exhibition aims to deconstruct a romanticized image of Kazakhstan as a vast and largely unpopulated geography thatfor decadesplayed upon the collective imagination. It addressesvarious narratives of national history, from a post-colonial to a critical perspective, while discovering, mapping and voicing changing attitudes and concerns across generations. The exhibition exploresthe shifts and breaks within the construct of Kazakh nationalandcultural identityduring a short timespan of its independence. It is an exhibition of Suns and Neons, of landscape and cityscape. Of artists dealing with history and nation building and an emerging generation concerned with private life and the emancipation of the individual withinthe isolated reality of city life.

Visual arts were introduced in Kazakhstan with Soviet art schools, established in the 1930s as a form of nation building. Through the 1940s, many practitioners of the avant-garde (then fallen out of favor) were deported to Kazakhstan, resulting in a surprising and mostly undocumented emergence of a non-conformist art scene. This continued through the 50s till the early 90s with strong connections to the Moscow and Leningrad non-conformist and conceptualist circles.

With the break of the Soviet Union, a radical shift took place in the Kazakh art scene. Some practices continued the conceptualist line looking at their own position as part of a Central Asian narrative, while a younger generation searched for a new language. These artists raised questions on postcolonial Central Asia, which found itself in between the revival of national and ethnic imagery and forced processes of identity construction. Playing with provocation, humor, irony and romanticism artists explored the contradictory moments within the rhetoric of authenticity, addressing national independence, recent history and social identity.

Since 1991, like other CIS countries, Kazakhstan went through various socio-economic shifts radically changing its cultural fabric. An emerging generation of artists, growing up during the booming 2000s, did not experience the nationalistic euphoria of the 1990s and do not romanticize their country’s past or heritage. They are the new “city kids”, aware of global networks and social media, resisting confinement and societal designations around them. Their concerns are much more individual and their works draw both from illusions and disillusionments, hope and disappointments of life entrapped within the city.


This exhibition is curated by Björn Geldhof.

Assistant curator Anna Fech

Research Anna Fech, Suad Garayeva, Björn Geldhof

With the support of:

Eurasian Cultural Alliance


Notes to editors:

ExhibitionSuns and Neons above Kazakhstan

Location:YARATContemporarArtCentreNationaFlag SquareBayil, AZ1003

Dates:June7October29, 2017

Exhibition opens:Tuesday through Sunday, fro11:00 until 20:00.

Admissionis free



YARAT is an artist-founded, not-for-profit art organisation based in Baku, Azerbaijan, established by AidaMahmudova in 2011. YARAT (which means ‘create’ in Azerbaijani) is dedicated to contemporary art with a long-term commitment to creating a hub for artistic practice, research, thinking and education in the Caucasus, Central Asia and surrounding region.

YARAT comprises the YARAT Art Centre, ARTIM Project Space, YARAT Studios, YAY Gallery and an extended educational programme. YARAT Art Centre, a 2000m² converted Soviet-era naval building, opened in March 2015 and is the organisation’s main exhibition space. The exhibition programme features new commissions by artists responding to the region.  It supports and provides access to artists from the Caucasus, Central Asia and surrounding region, while engaging and introducing established, international artists. The Centre is also home to YARAT’s collection, which is exhibited in the space once a year.

In October 2015, YARAT opened ARTIM, a central, accessible and dynamic space in Baku’s Old City. ARTIM (meaning ‘progress’ in Azerbaijani) shows experimental practices and new work by emerging Azeri art professionals (selected through open call) and the international artists from the residency programme. It features 12 small-scale projects each year.

YAY Gallery is a commercial gallery that opened in 2012 in order to further support arts infrastructure in Azerbaijan. The gallery shows mid-career and established Azerbaijani artists both locally and abroad. YAY (meaning “share” in Azerbaijani) shares all proceeds from sales of work between the artists and YARAT.

In 2016 YARAT launched a renewed residency programme. Aimed at developing young Azerbaijani voices and emerging international artists, the focus is on new, innovative practices and artists with an interest in the region. The residency programme is based at YARAT Studios, which has 11 spaces for artists.

Education has been at the heart of YARAT’s activities since its creation. With a dedicated public programme, including workshops, lectures, screenings and a specific programme for artist residencies, YARAT aims to give access to broad audiences of all ages. The public programme invests proactively in building communities and nurturing a wider understanding of, and participation in, contemporary art.


For media and image enquiries please contact:

Hokuma Karimova


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SUNS AND NEONS ABOVE KAZAKHSTAN. YARAT Contemporary Art Centre, Baku, Azerbaijan June 7– October 29, 2017

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