Memphis Brooks Museum of Art / 1934 Poplar Ave. February 14, 2022 - August 9, 2022

Faig Ahmed

Faig Ahmed, the internationally celebrated artist from Azerbaijan, is known for transforming the visual language of traditional eastern carpets into contemporary, sculptural works of art. This is the first time his work Secret Garden has been exhibited in the United States, and as a new acquisition of the Memphis Brooks Museum of Art, it is the first time Ahmed’s work has entered the permanent collection of a museum in the American South.

Ahmed’s practice demonstrates how art can connect us across both time and geographies. His work relies on digital design to disrupt and destabilize expectations of the repeat pattern, creating designs that appear toglitch and skew reality. Ahmed’s design is then woven on traditional looms by professional weavers, and parts of some artworks, like the shadows in SecretGarden, are then hand-painted by the artist using the same mineral dyes used to color the woven fibers. This process, which honors traditional patternsand cultures, creates thoroughly contemporary works that dissolve the boundaries between textiles, sculpture, and painting. It is work that questions our reality and perceptions, while grounding us in cultural heritage— work that looks to the past, and the future, while altering our present.

Secret Garden follows a classical Persian* carpet pattern, called “Charbagh” or “Chahar-Bagh,” inspired by the mystical geometryof the eastern garden. The Charbagh garden design is divided into four unique and abundant areas by clear, flowing waters, or sometimes walkways, and is ripe for sustaining life. The pattern evokes the sweet smell of orange blossoms and the swaying of date palms in a gentle breeze. This layout is mentioned in the Qur’an as the landscape of the four gardens of Paradise, and in the Bible and the Torah when describing the Garden of Eden, as well as more ancient texts. The garden, and the carpet pattern, become visual metaphors for heaven on earth.

*Persia: a historic region,and present-day ethnic group, that roughly corresponds to modern day Iran,neighboring country to Azerbaijan. Iran and Azerbaijan share deep and complex historic,cultural, religious, and political ties.

Faig Ahmed (b. 1982, Sumqayit, Azerbaijan) lives andworks in Baku, Azerbaijan. Ahmed graduated from the sculpture department of Azerbaijan State Academy of Fine Art in 2004, and in 2007 he represented Azerbaijan at the country’s first pavilion at the Venice Biennale. In 2013, Ahmed was nominated for the Jameel Prize, an international award for contemporary art and design inspired by the Islamic tradition, awarded by the Victoria & Albert Museum, London, in partnership with Art Jameel. Ahmed’s work has been exhibited internationally and is held in public and private collections around the world, including the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, LA; Seattle Art Museum; MOCAK Museum of Contemporary Art in Krakow, Poland; The National Gallery of Victoria, Australia; and now the Memphis Brooks Museum of Art.

This acquisition was made possible thanks to the Decorative Arts Trust, Memphis. The Decorative Arts Trust (DAT), founded in 1985, is a support group of the Memphis Brooks Museum of Art dedicated to the decorative arts. The DAT generously funds the acquisitions of works of art, as well as lectures, tours, and special events that further the knowledge and enjoyment of decorative arts. Membership is open to the public.