‘A Utopian Stage’ curated by Vali Mahlouji at Meem Gallery

Mantra, for two Pianos, Karlheinz Stockhausen (composer), Alfons Kontarsky, Aloys Kontarsky (pianists) – Saray-e Moshir, 1972, Courtesy of Stockhausen-Stiftung für Musik / Vali Mahlouji / Archaeology of the Final Decade

Meem Gallery presents the exhibition “A Utopian Stage,” curated by Vali Mahlouji. This comprehensive project comprises two parts: “A Utopian Stage” and “A Cultural Atlas,” with the latter set to be showcased at Meem Gallery in May 2024, also curated by Vali Mahlouji.

“A Utopian Stage” made its debut at Musée d’Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris in 2015, followed by exhibitions at MAXXI Museo Nazionale Delle Arti del XXI Secolo in Rome in 2014-2015, The Whitechapel Gallery in 2015, Bergen Assembly in 2016, The Dhaka Art Summit in 2018, SAVVY Contemporary: The Laboratory of Form/Ideas in 2019, and Asia Culture Centre Gwangju in 2020.

“A Cultural Atlas” was first presented at The Dhaka Art Summit in 2018, followed by exhibitions at the Garage Museum of Contemporary Art in Moscow in 2019 and SAVVY Contemporary: The Laboratory of Form/Ideas in 2019, with a presentation in Gwangju in 2020.

“A Utopian Stage” is a multifaceted and ongoing project that revisits the intersection of modernism, art, and revolution by examining the radical aspirations of hyper-modernist networks of artists and experimentalists from the 1960s and 1970s. It delves into the “third worldist” sensibilities of the immediate post-colonial era, tracing a Cultural Atlas where knowledge was exchanged across alternative, often non-European, plateaus. This global “reorientation” challenges the traditional West-to-East perspective, engaging in cyclical models of cultural, philosophical, and political negotiations among various regions.

The project explores how, after the decline of European hegemony and the rise of the Global South, a fluid artistic exchange became possible across geographies, histories, and forms on an unprecedented scale. It examines the ideals and complexities of 20th-century modernist universalisms from the viewpoint of the emerging Global South and their collaborations with the international avant-garde.

“A Utopian Stage” focuses on the decade-long Festival of Arts, Shiraz-Persepolis (1967-1977) as a pivotal case study. This festival, whose archives have been restricted in Iran since 1979, is considered a profoundly transformative intercultural experience and one of the most radical multidisciplinary crucibles in the history of commissioning festivals.

Poster of 4th Festival of Arts, Shiraz-Persepolis, 1970
Designed by Ghobad Shiva
Courtesy Archaeology of the Final Decade / Ghobad Shiva

Archaeology of the Final Decade (AOTFD) embarks on a remarkable mission, delving into the archives of the Festival of Arts, Shiraz-Persepolis (1967-1977), a radical and often-overlooked decade-long event. AOTFD’s “A Utopian Stage” exhibition, occurring over half a century later, seeks to unravel the festival’s historical significance and its resonance in the context of modernism’s progressive journey.

This festival, with its fervent drive to envision a world of open universal exchange, celebrated the dawn of the post-colonial era. It aspired to cultivate new solidarities and connections, emblematic of the emergence of a potential new global order.

“A Utopian Stage” places the festival within the broader landscape of concurrent political events, including the Non-Aligned Movement and Pan-Africanism. It was a dynamic arena where diverse solidarities and visions of an interconnected world converged and clashed. Importantly, the festival served as a meeting ground for international and local avant-gardes.

What distinguishes the festival is its rejection of a superficial fusion of cultures, emphasising instead the principles of particularism, cultural diversity, and alterity. These qualities remain relevant today, highlighting the festival’s enduring significance as a historical artifact and a testament to the utopian impulses that shaped cross-cultural art and anti-colonial movements in the 1960s and 1970s.

The festival faced opposition, moral accusations, and attacks in 1977, leading to its ban in Iran in 1979. Many artists involved were barred from their craft, and the festival’s archives suffered destruction and censorship. AOTFD’s meticulous recovery of these archives aims to challenge those accusations, revealing a seminal modernist event aligned with ideals of progress, openness, emancipation, inclusivity, and the overarching concept of unity within diversity.

Caligula, Albert Camus (playwright), Arby Ovanessian (director), Kargah-e Namayesh – Persepolis, 1974
Archaeology of the Final Decade / Photo Mehdi Khonsari

About Vali Mahlouji

Vali Mahlouji is a prominent art curator and founder of the non-profit initiative Archaeology of the Final Decade (AOTFD). He also serves as an advisor to the British Museum and oversees the Kaveh Golestan Estate. Mahlouji’s involvement extends to being a member of the Art Dubai Modern Advisory Committee and a board member of the Bahman Mohassess Estate.

Established in 2010, AOTFD is a non-profit curatorial platform dedicated to resurrecting obscured histories. It diligently unearths and reintroduces artists, artworks, and cultural narratives that have faced obscurity, censorship, loss, bans, threats, or deliberate destruction.

Through AOTFD, Mahlouji collaborates with renowned international and public art institutions, including Tate Modern, The British Museum, Musée d’Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris, Smithsonian Institute, and the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA).

Dates: 04 October – 04 November 2023

Location: Meem Gallery, Dubai



SELECTIONS is a platform for the arts, focusing on the Arab World.

Selections editorial presents a quarterly print magazine and weekly online publication with high quality content on all subjects related to Art and Culture. Full of world-leading artworks, exquisite brand imagery, original creative illustrations and insightful written articles.
Selections Viewing Rooms presents carefully curated online art shows aiming not only to shed light on contemporary art executed by living artists, but also for viewers to buy contemporary fine art, prints & multiples, photography, street art and collectibles.
Discover the previous and current shows here.
Cultural Narratives foundation is an extensive collection that is travelling the world by leading established and emerging talents aiming to reflect the culture of the region in their works.


Abu Dhabi Art 2023: Galleries

This fair is the culmination of a year-long visual arts programme, playing a pivotal role in the burgeoning art scene in the WANASA region. Welcoming 37 new and 55 returning galleries, this year’s edition spotlights diverse geographies, curated exhibitions, and…

‘Tethys’ by Nabil Nahas at Lawrie Shabibi Gallery Dubai

Lawrie Shabibi unveils the “Tethys” exhibition by Lebanese-American artist, Nabil Nahas, coinciding with the reopening of their gallery space. This exhibition, which runs from October 30 to January 5, 2024, offers viewers an immersive journey into a world of limitless…

‘Duality’ by Nima Nabavi and Jason Seife at The Third Line

The Third Line is delighted to present “Duality,” a collaborative exhibition featuring the innovative works of artists Nima Nabavi and Jason Seife. Born out of a longstanding “art friendship,” Duality encapsulates the synergy between two creators who share a unique…

‘Elsewhere’ by Al Markhiya Gallery at Doha Fire Station

The Al Markhiya Gallery at Doha Fire Station presents “Elsewhere,” a group exhibition featuring works by a collective of contemporary Syrian artists who have embarked on an artistic journey after becoming immigrants in foreign lands. The exhibition invites viewers to…


DR. BASEL DALLOUL The Dalloul family has had a relationship with Christie’s for several decades. I often heard my parents talking about going to Christie’s, Sotheby’s or Bonhams, to bid on a work or two, while we lived in London,…

Tabari Art Space presents Maitha Abdalla at Asia Now Paris

Emirati visual artist Maitha Abdalla is showcasing a new body of work at the Asia Now art fair in Paris from October 20 to 22, 2023. Abdalla is an interdisciplinary artist known for her exploration of cultural narratives, often delving…

december 2023

27may(may 27)09:0014jan(jan 14)09:00THE CASABLANCA ART SCHOOL

06jul(jul 6)18:0008dec(dec 8)21:00Untitled Abstractions

24aug(aug 24)09:0007jan(jan 7)09:00Arabesque