Three Iranian artists create a high-brow wonderland in their Dubai home.
On a quiet, residential street in the Al Barsha neighborhood of Dubai, an unassuming house conceals an eccentric and magical interior, where creativity is freely unleashed and there are no evident distinctions between art and life. The villa is a residence, workspace, and living canvas for three Iranian artists: Hesam Rahmanian and brothers Ramin and Rokni Haerizadeh.
Walls are packed with pieces they’ve created, collaborated on, or collected. No space is left unadorned – even the floors reveal intricate paintings. “This is a constantly changing landscape. We use it as a sketchbook of our different projects. We create something and then we observe it, we live in it, before we take it to our different shows and exhibition spaces,” explains Ramin of their atypical residence.
The trio, who have lived and worked together for 11 years, often collaborate as a collective. Over time, the home has taken on a character of its own. “This house has been a joint project for the three of us. It has woven together over the years, which makes it difficult to distinguish which thread of this giant tapestry has been done by whom,” explains Hesam.
The interior is a veritable art extravaganza – a riot of bold colors and wildly mixed mediums, where it is difficult to see where one piece ends and another begins. Furniture, if there is any at all, is pushed to the edges of the room, to make more space for fantastical objects, such as a working fountain composed of porcelain romaine lettuce bulbs and douches, or a Grecian goddess figure with an elephant head. While much of the artists’ works are thoughtful and subversive in nature, there are some pieces fueled by humor. Ramin holds up a ceramic vase, procured from a bazaar where it was sold as an “antique” and which has been painted to look like a matryoshka doll. “Sometimes, we give these back to the tourists,” he says with a laugh.
Surprisingly, despite the sheer density of objects, the space is immaculately clean, which the artists credit to diligent art assistant Edward, who also resides in the home, along with a cocker spaniel, two budgies, a goldfish, and a fluffy Scottish Fold cat, who strolled into the home one morning and claimed it as her own.
The brothers met Rahmanian in Iran in the early 1990s while participating in underground drawing and painting classes. This was a legacy of Iran’s “cultural revolution” when, after being banned from universities, some secular and Western-influenced artists and intellectuals could only continue their practices by holding covert classes, a practice which continues today. As Rahmanian and the Haerizadehs built their respective careers in the art world, they also maintained an “off-space” – an artist-run gallery where they provided free studio space to artists who couldn’t afford it. Collaborations with these creatives soon became integral to their art. Over time, though, continually subverting the government became unsustainable. “For our careers, we wanted to be in a place where our work was appreciated. In Iran, with the censorship, sometimes the things you have to control, to not say to actually say… those limitations can make you creative, but sometimes you can become rotten,” explains Ramin of the motivation behind their move to Dubai in 2009.
Their practice has since flourished, with their home open to fellow artists and an external guesthouse in the garden housing visiting collaborators. Huge film buffs, they host independent screenings and an entire wall of DVDs sits among their art. Piles of culinary books indicate their love of cooking and an Iranian sofreh is always set with snacks. Mentorship is just as much a part of their lifestyle now as it was when they were based in Iran. “Our home is like a proto-museum. It’s not for parties, it’s for people who love art,” shares Rokni.
Originally published in the November 2020 issue of Vogue Arabia Living