In the Spring of 2012 we were invited to meet with the founders of YARAT, a not-for-profit organisation dedicated to nurturing an understanding of contemporary art and creating a hub for artistic practice, research and thinking in the Caucasus, Central Asia and surrounding region. Based in Baku, Azerbaijan, YARAT (meaning Create in Azerbaijani) was founded by Aida Mahmudova in 2011. YARAT realises its mission through an on-going program of exhibitions, education events and festivals. The organisation facilitates exchange between local and international artistic networks including foundations, galleries and museums.
We were commissioned to write, produce and direct a documentary following the founding artists that formed the collective. Effectively a ‘day in the life’ of these six key figures, the filming took place in and around the streets, landmarks and studios of Azerbaijan’s capital city, Baku. Our crew spent a week living with the artists and their families, seeking to gain a unique understanding of their culture, political influences, struggles and ambitions.
Shortly after the film was released, one of the world’s leading art auctioneers, Simon de Pury investigated the emerging art scene in Azerbaijan. Mr de Pury, 61, owner of international auction house Phillips de Pury & Company, said: “I had the chance to visit a number of studios in Baku and was amazed by the richness of the local artistic scene. They have an expression which is very different from what you might find in other countries.”
In 2013, government support and local investment enabled the opening of a dedicated museum and art centre in Baku. The organisations importance to the community is beyond anything that could have been imagined by the founders. Yarat’s education, exhibitions and public programs continue to nurture and support emerging artists in the region, giving a voice to those that wish to be heard on the international stage.