Ala Ebtekar

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Ala Ebtekar
Born1978 (age 41–42)
NationalityAmerican, Iranian
EducationSan Francisco Art Institute,
Stanford University
Known forConceptual Art, Collage, Painting
WebsiteAla Ebtekar

Ala Ebtekar (born 1978) is a contemporary artist who works between his native San Francisco Bay Area and Tehran, Iran.[1] Ebtekar is known primarily for his work in painting, drawing, illumination, and installation that explores the juncture between history and myth, forging a multi-faceted project.[2]

Ebtekar’s recent investigations have created liminal experiences to longer notions of scientific duration beyond human timelines, and explore the phenomenology of light. These projects bring forth sculptural and photographic possibilities of the universe gazing back through endless collapses of time and physical reworking of centuries old processes of image making. Ebtekar’s practice extends how our contemporary moments both live together as minuscule and paramount.[3]

Early life and education[edit]

Ala Ebtekar grew up in Berkeley and Oakland, California in the San Francisco Bay Area[4] to parents who immigrated to the United States from Iran.[5][6] Ebtekar is the great nephew of the renowned Iranian poet Hushang Ebtehaj.[7]

He started drawing at an early age, and by his adolescent years he began to focus his energies on music. In 1992, at age 13, he went through DJ training at KALX 90.7 FM, the radio station of the University of California at Berkeley. This experience with music eventually led Ebtekar to the world of graffiti and ultimately back to an interest in visual art. In 1998 he was chosen to participate in a workshop at Zeum Art and Technology Center (now Children's Creativity Museum) with New York–based artist Tim Rollins and K.O.S. (Kids of Survival) to create work for the center's inaugural exhibition. Ebtekar, along with several other young artists from the San Francisco Bay Area, came to form the core unit for a short lived West Coast chapter of KOS.[4] One year later, Ebtekar traveled to Tehran, Iran to visit extended family which led him to return several months later to study art.[8]

Initially studying with a traditional Persian miniature painter, Ebtekar soon discovered the mid-20th Century style of Qahveh-khanehei painting (Iranian coffeehouse painting), and he went on to study under master Qahveh-khanehei painter Mohammad Farahani.[9] A style defined as much by its popularity amongst regular folk as its distance from court arts. In contradistinction to the official court painters of the time, qahveh khanehei painters brought fine art from the exclusive province of those with money and power to the domain of the common people. A singular characteristic of Qahveh-khanehei painting was its freedom, as artists of this style created their work with neither external themes nor the attention to proper anatomy and perspective as seen in miniature paintings. Iranian Coffeehouse painters worked entirely from their imagination and creative ability. It's entirely fitting that Ebtekar found early artistic inspiration from the worlds of graffiti and the modern tradition of Qahveh-khanehei painting, as his work has encompassed comparable populist sensibilities spanning continents, celebrating the stories and lives of heroic everyday people across time.[10]


Following studying traditional painting in Iran with Mohammad Farahani, Ebtekar went on to pursue a formal education in fine arts. In 2002, he received his B.F.A. degree from the San Francisco Art Institute, followed by an M.F.A from Stanford University in 2006.[11] He served as a Visiting Lecturer in the Department of Art Practice at the University of California at Berkeley from 2007 to 2008, and has served as visiting faculty in the Department of Art and Art History at Stanford University since 2009.



Ebtekar's work has been included in over 70 group exhibitions, 5 two-person exhibitions, and 12 solo exhibitions.[22] Significant solo exhibitions include "Elemental" (2004) at Intersection for the Arts (San Francisco, CA);[23] "Ala Ebtekar" (2007) at Gallery Paule Anglim (San Francisco, CA);[22] "1388" (2009) at The Third Line (Dubai, United Arab Emirates);[24] "Indelible Whispers of the Sun" (2010) at Charlie James Gallery (Los Angeles, CA);[25] "Elsewhen" (2012) at The Third Line (Dubai, United Arab Emirates); and "Absent Arrival" (2012) at Gallery Paule Anglim (San Francisco, CA).[26]

Significant group exhibitions include "The 2006 California Biennial" at the Orange County Museum of Art (Newport Beach, CA);[27] travelling exhibition "One Way or Another: Asian American Art Now” (2006–2008), curated by Melissa Chiu, Director and Curator of Contemporary Asian Art at the Asia Society Museum, Karin Higa, Senior Curator of Art at the Japanese American National Museum, Los Angeles, and Susette S. Min, Assistant Professor of Asian American Studies and Art History at the University of California, Davis and exhibited at Asia Society and Museum (New York, NY), Blaffer Gallery at University of Houston (Houston, TX), Berkeley Art Museum (Berkeley, CA), Japanese American National Museum (Los Angeles, CA), and Honolulu Academy of Arts (Honolulu, HI); "Bay Area Now 5" (2008) at Yerba Buena Center for the Arts (San Francisco, CA), organized by Kate Eilertsen, Acting Director of Visual Arts and Berin Golonu, Associate Visual Arts Curator; and "The Global Contemporary. Art Worlds after 1989" (2011) at Museum of Contemporary Art (Karlsruhe, Germany), curated by Andrea Buddensieg and Peter Weibel.[28] In May 2005, Ebtekar had a two-person exhibition at Lisa Dent Gallery in San Francisco with artist Jeong-Im Yi.

Art, Social Space and Public Discourse[edit]

Envisioned and directed by Ala Ebtekar, "Art, Social Space and Public Discourse" is a three-year[when?] Stanford initiative on art that investigates the multiple contexts that shift and define changing ideas of public space. This ongoing critical framework of conversations, newly issued art projects, and exploration of various cultural productions and intellectual traditions looks at recent transformations of civic life.[29]


He has been awarded residencies at ZKM Center for Art and Media Karlsruhe in Germany, Cité internationale des arts in Paris, Sazmanab in Tehran, Iran, the San Francisco Center for the Book, and 18th Street Art Center in Los Angeles through the VIsions from the New California Award, a project of the Alliance of Artist Communities in partnership with the James Irvine Foundation.[30]

The Huffington Post featured and mentioned Ala Ebtekar as one of the "17 Visual Artists You Should Know in 2016".[31]


  1. ^ "2018 Exploring Public Art Practices Symposium". January 4, 2018.
  2. ^ Sara Raza (May 29, 2012). "Nostalgia for The Future". Ibraaz.
  3. ^ "Safina, the Final Chapter of Ala Ebtekar's Solo Exhibitions Trilogy". Islamic Arts Magazine.
  4. ^ a b Cynthia Houng (December 18, 2007). "Ala Ebtekar Interview". Archived from the original on May 9, 2013.
  5. ^ "Ala Ebtekar - Magic of Persia". Retrieved September 19, 2019.
  6. ^ "Q&A with Bay Area Artist Ala Ebtekar". 7x7 Bay Area. July 12, 2013. Retrieved September 19, 2019.
  7. ^ "Bartalos / Ala Ebtekar: The Art of Stepping Through Time". Retrieved March 16, 2019.
  8. ^ "Elemental - A Solo Exhibition by Ala Ebtekar". Retrieved September 21, 2019.
  9. ^ ArteEast (April 1, 2007). "Under The Indigo Dome: An Exhibition of work by Amir H Fallah and Ala Ebtekar". ArteEast. Archived from the original on June 16, 2013.
  10. ^ Kevin B. Chen (December 18, 2007). "1388 Exhibition Catalogue" (PDF). The Third Line.[permanent dead link]
  11. ^ Jack Fischer (May 1, 2009). "All the Identities He Can Paint". Stanford Magazine.
  12. ^ "Ala Ebtekar". Retrieved September 19, 2019.
  13. ^ "Sazmanab ⧚ The Water Department –". Sazmanab ⧚ The Water Department. Retrieved September 19, 2019.
  14. ^ "Crocker Art Museum Acquires Ala Ebtekar's Absent Arrival". Retrieved September 21, 2019.
  15. ^ "Misappropriations: New Acquisitions". Archived from the original on September 21, 2019.
  16. ^ Retrieved September 21, 2019. Missing or empty |title= (help)
  17. ^ Retrieved September 21, 2019. Missing or empty |title= (help)
  18. ^ Retrieved September 21, 2019. Missing or empty |title= (help)
  19. ^ Retrieved September 21, 2019. Missing or empty |title= (help)
  20. ^ Retrieved September 21, 2019. Missing or empty |title= (help)
  21. ^ Retrieved September 21, 2019. Missing or empty |title= (help)
  22. ^ a b Gallery Paule Anglim (2013). "Artist's Biography" (PDF). Gallery Paule Anglim. Archived from the original (PDF) on September 23, 2013.
  23. ^ Clark Buckner (June 2004). "Elemental". San Francisco Bay Guardian.
  24. ^ "Exhibitions". March 1, 2013. Archived from the original on November 3, 2011.
  25. ^ "Shows @CJG". Charlie James Gallery.
  26. ^ "Absent Arrival". Archived from the original on December 20, 2012.
  27. ^ "2006 California Biennial". Archived from the original on May 18, 2013. Retrieved April 22, 2013.
  28. ^ "The Global Contemporary. Art Worlds after 1989" ZKM Museum of Contemporary Art, Karlsruhe, Germany. Web. September 16, 2011. [1]
  29. ^ "About".
  30. ^ "Visions from a New California". Archived from the original on July 19, 2013.
  31. ^ Frank, Priscilla; Brooks, Katherine (December 22, 2015). "17 Visual Artists You Should Know In 2016". HuffPost.