“It shows a shift,” he says, “Not just a generational shift, but also a shift within the society.”
Each of these shows, says Mahmudova, will also be accompanied by in-depth research into the country’s culture—from art to literature to music—that will be published online, in English.
“We try to translate a lot of works we have developed and put it on the internet so people have access to this information,” she explains. “Because if you go online, you can’t find any information in English about Azerbaijan or Kazakhstan or Uzbekistan art—not contemporary art, but 20th-century art. There’s nothing there.”
In fact, much of YARAT’s work is about building awareness. “Before, people didn’t even know there were artists in Azerbaijan,” Mahmudova says. “People would think there’s no contemporary art, but art is everywhere.”
Even locally, she says, people have become increasingly conscious of Baku’s artistic community. “Five years ago it was different,” she notes. “Only artists and people who had previous interest in art were part of the artistic scene. Now we have other types of people from different career paths that are interested.”
Mahmudova tells the story of two women, both bankers, who attended several art courses at YARAT. “They wanted to become curators, so they came to our academy. One of them left to London after she applied to a curatorial course,” she says. “It changes people’s lives.”