Akbar Behkalam

Akbar Behkalam, painter
The painter Akbar Behkalam during an interview in Berlin, 7 August 2013
© Iglhaut + von Grote, Berlin, with the kind permission of Akbar Behkalam

Akbar Behkalam

Man kann nicht einfach so sagen, wo ich geboren bin, ist meine Heimat. Meine Heimat ist auch die Türkei. Ich war oftmals in Brasilien, also interessiert mich auch Brasilien.

[You can’t just say that where I was born is where I am at home. Turkey is also my home. I was often in Brazil, and so I am also interested in Brazil. (ed. trans.)]

Akbar Behkalam on 7 August 2013 in an interview with Gerd Weiberg

Bornon 16. September 1944 in Täbris, Iran
ExileFederal Republic of Germany

Akbar Behkalam achieved his school qualifications at an art school in the Iranian town of Tabriz and also completed his degree in art there from 1961 to 1964. After doing his military service in the Iranian part of Kurdistan, he studied art at the Institute of Fine Arts in Istanbul between 1967 and 1972.

His early expressive, large-format works often dealt with current political topics and events in Iranian society. They criticise the state violence in Iran under the reign of the Shah and also later under the repressive rule of Ruhollah Chomeini.

After some periods of stay in several European cities including Paris, Frankfurt, Rome and Berlin, the painter returned to Iran in 1974, because we wanted to teach art there. He took on a teaching job at the art school in Tabriz. However, the attempt of the artist who was critical of the regime to settle once again in his homeland failed. He was not the victim of political persecution, but he keenly felt the intellectual and artistic constrictions in Iran and therefore returned to Germany in 1976 in order to work as an artist there. After marrying a German woman and the birth of his children, he remained permanently in Germany.

Based in Germany, the artist continues to produce works that deal with the political problems in Iran. As such, in 1984, he was moved by the murder of his nephew to paint a series of pictures titled Justice in Allah’s Name.

However, his art also deals with his environment in Germany, and in 1981 he painted several pictures which dealt with squatting in the Berlin district of Kreuzberg.

Behkalam has travelled regularly with successful solo and group exhibitions to Brazil and the USA. In 1994 he completed a large mural opposite Berlin’s Ministry of the Interior.

Selection of important works:
Persepolis (series of paintings, 1977-1979)
Berlin Kreuzberg (series of paintings, 1981)
Justice in Allah’s Name (series of paintings, 1984)
Pictures of Demonstrations and Large Crowds (series of paintings, 1982-1985)

Further reading:
Kunstamt Kreuzberg (Hg.): Akbar Behkalam. Berlin: Fröhlich & Kaufmann 1981
Behkalam, Akbat: Bewegung und Veränderung. Bilder und Zeichnungen 1976 – 1987. Katalog zur Ausstellung in der Berliner Kunsthalle 1987
Behkalam, Akbar: Grenzen überschreiten. Berlin: E.A. Seemann-Verlag 2004