January 17, 2012

Opening of the exhibition “Fly to Baku: Contemporary Art from Azerbaijan” in London

“Fly to Baku: Contemporary Art from Azerbaijan” exhibition, organized and supported by Heydar Aliyev Foundation and the English edition of “Baku” magazine, was opened in London, January 17. First Lady of Azerbaijan, President of the Heydar Aliyev Foundation Mehriban Aliyeva and Vice-President of the Foundation Leyla Aliyeva attended the event.

Leyla Aliyeva delivered a speech at the ceremony.

Speech by Leyla Aliyeva:

Ladies and gentlemen!

Thank you for attending the exhibition "Fly to Baku" tonight. As you can see, we are surrounded by really admirable and inspiring works of art. Dynamism and creativity demonstrated here reflect much of what is happening in my country - Azerbaijan. My country is experiencing an unprecedented period of development, and this is more evident in the field of contemporary art.

Independent Azerbaijan is a relatively young country. Last year we celebrated the 20th anniversary of the restoration of our independence. Despite the fact that our country is so young, we have an ancient history. Azerbaijan is the first country in the Muslim East, where women gained the right to vote in 1918, where the first school for Muslim girls was built in 1901. Azerbaijan is also the first country in the East to stage opera and ballet.

Thus, we have a country of many undertakings, and we are committed to this philosophy today. Last year we became first in Eurovision Song Contest. We are looking forward to hosting Europe in Baku, where the contest is due this year.

However, contemporary Baku promotes popular culture not only through music. By walking around Baku, you can see the signs of rapid development everywhere around you- from a masterpiece by Zaha Hadid to prospectuses, to new shops, restaurants and hotels, the boulevard on the shore of the Caspian Sea! It is a city that is changing before your eyes. Architecture of Baku combines antiquity, as reflected in the Maiden's Tower of the 9th century, and novelty, and also embodies the East and the West, temples of Zoroastrianism, and modern buildings, the French urban planning culture since the oil boom of the early 20th century.

As you know, art is the sphere which I favor. For all my life I have been enjoying modern art, both while being at the Tate Museum in London and analyzing the works demonstrated at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Baku. I also love painting and I bow before the artists who put their heart and soul into their works.

Therefore, I am so anxious that I also contributed to the demonstration of these wonderful works for the international audience by the end of January in London and then throughout Europe. Most of the works which you see here are the works of the young but famous artists, a greater part of them was created for this very exhibition which is why they are demonstrated for the first time.

I have a great feeling of pride that hundreds of the works by 21 artists from all parts of Azerbaijan are demonstrated here. I suppose that you will agree that Baku has a bright world of contemporary art.

I am very happy to have organized this event under such wonderful conditions. Michaela and Simon provided a great support to the implementation of this project. Their gallery here in Howick Place is a phenomenal area. When half a year ago I visited the exhibition organized here, I decided for myself that this will become the venue for the current exhibition. I think that the space and art are undoubtedly supplementary to each other.

Herve Mikaeloff, Emin Mammadov and their teams gathered these different artists to arrange an inspiring exhibition which combines all forms of contemporary art from paintings to installations, videos, photos and performances.

Dear guests, I am grateful to you for participation in the exhibition ‘Fly to Baku’ tonight. This event is of great importance for me. I am happy that today this exhibition opens in such a wonderful city as London. I would like to express my special thanks to all of our organizers who spent their time and efforts and of course to the talented Azerbaijani artists. I hope that you will have a nice evening. 

Thank you so much.

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