ALEXEI RUMYANTSEV, Kara-Bolo (Circle of Time), 2007, single-channel video with sound (Find Your Star by Firuz Khakim), 3 min 26 sec. Courtesy the artist.


Also available in:  Chinese  Arabic
With a small economy based primarily on agriculture, Tajikistan is still recovering from a civil war (1992–97)  following the collapse of the Soviet Union. There is little funding for the arts and a negligible art market. Traditional Tajik culture, with its Persian roots, was overlooked during Soviet times, and remains under-researched by scholars and historians.

Local contemporary art infrastructure is limited to a few independent institutions supported by international NGOs in the capital Dushanbe. The national art collection is housed in the Bekhzod National Museum, which exhibits a selection of archaeological and natural history artifacts, but does not show contemporary art.

The Bactria Cultural Center, established in 2001 in Dushanbe, is Tajikistan’s most significant arts organization. Under the leadership of artist and curator Jashmed Kholikov, its diverse program encompasses music, theater and cultural heritage and visual arts research. Kholikov also organizes exhibitions and seminars, working with local art schools to attract young audiences. Sponsored by the US Embassy in Tajikistan, “City-Art” is an ongoing project that aims to expose young artists and the general public to contemporary art. As part of the initiative, a master class in street art (9/6–17) was taught by guest artists from the both the United States and neighboring Kyrgyzstan.

In 2010, Bactria launched a two-year program, titled “Artist and/in Community,” organized by Tajik research-curator Georgy Mamedov. Beginning in 2010, the “artist-in-residence program in small provincial towns of Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan” facilitated monthlong projects in Nurek, Khorog and Taboshar, where artists and curators ran workshops and held exhibitions. Among them, artist Suleiman Sharifi and photographer Farkhod Arabov spent the month of May working on “Time Has Stopped,” comprised of seminars and a photography exhibition at the local Palace of Culture. The project’s participants met in Bishkek in November for the conference “Art for Social Change.”

Other projects based in Dushanbe include the Tajik Art Gallery, a web-based gallery created by Fabiola Agudelo Henao with help from the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC). The SDC also supports the public organization Didor, which together with the Union of Cinematographers of Tajikistan, organized the international film festival “Echo of Didor” (10/28–30), held in the northwestern area of Khujand, with screenings of full-length and short films from Central Asian and European countries.

The commercial Rai Gallery, also situated in Dushanbe, holds exhibitions of both contemporary art and works of craft.

Abroad, Mamedov was one of the co-curators of the Central Asia Pavilion, “Lingua Franca” (6/4–11/27), at the Venice Biennale, together with Boris Chukhovich and Oksana Shatalova. Tajikistan’s Aleksei Rumyantsev and Alla Rumiantseva presented their video-installation RGB (2011), in which the image on screen changes depending on the lens color of the sunglasses worn by viewers. Rumyantsev was also featured in London-based Calvert 22’s Central Asian survey “Between Heaven and Earth: Contemporary Art from the Centre of Asia” (9/13–11/14).

Looking ahead, “Artist and/in Community” continues, although the next components have yet to be decided.