Bita Ghezelayagh's transporting exhibition at Leighton House is worth an hour of your timeby Sameer Rahim / November 28, 2018 / Leave a comment
In a quiet corner of west London lies a jewel of a museum. Leighton House is the former home of the Victorian artist and collector Frederic, Lord Leighton. He was an orientalist of the old school, picking up treasures from the East on his travels to decorate his house. The remarkable Arab Hall, still intact, is a glorious mishmash of Damascene tiles, Safavid-era painted figures and Pakistani calligraphy—among much more. Elsewhere Leighton’s own paintings—though not his most famous, Flaming June—are displayed.
The house still retains the feel of a working studio—a space for artists to explore and test their reactions. Last Friday I had the privilege of getting a private tour of the ongoing exhibition by Iranian artist Bita Ghezelayagh entitled Lovers of Apadana. Ghezelayagh’s work draws on the textile heritage of her native country, and each object she displays here replies to its surroundings in some way. In the Arab Hall, for example, she has created a jacket made out of old Persian carpets rescued from her friends’ attics.
In the salon reception room, where Leighton once hosted Queen Victoria, a coal-black felt coat hangs on the wall, as though waiting to be picked up by a guest. This heavy-looking item is the kind of waterproof covering that Iranian shepherds used, Ghezelayagh told us, until it became cheaper to buy plastic macs. The traditional crafts she seeks to hon…