The cultural heritage that intertwines Azerbaijan with its neighbours Iran, Russia, Turkey and Georgia draws from generations of literary, artistic and economic exchange.

From the great poet Nizami, to the Sufi cleric Molla Nasreddin, through to carpet-weaving traditions and the Silk Road routes of central Asia; spheres of cultural influence have persisted throughout the centuries, despite changing power structures and geographical borders.

Perhaps little understood in the wider world, the vibrant culture in this region produces compelling contemporary art. Our key concept was to produce an exhibition that not only brings to light aspects of the past but engages with contemporary ideas. The name Love Me, Love Me Not relates to the vacillating relationships of Azerbaijan and its neighbours over time, in a way that has informed artists today. It is their interaction with each other, within their borders and between the past and present that fuels much of the work you will see in this exhibition.

We at YARAT are delighted such respected artists from diverse cultures have come together to present Love Me, Love Me Not. As a not-for-profit organisation run by artists we work a great deal in our local community, and so for us, Venice will prove an exceptional opportunity for the global public to see what YARAT and its wider team have to offer.

This exhibition could not have taken place without the generous support, hard work and immense creativity of those involved. I would like to thank the artists, our curator-par-excellence Dina Nasser-Khadivi , our team here at YARAT, the catalogue contributors, the invigilators, the press team; everyone’s contribution is invaluable to the exhibition and your hard work has been incredible. Of course, all this is possible thanks our supporters, the Azerbaijani companies Gilan and Jala, who kindly sponsored our exhibition funding costs from home soil. As an artist-led organisation, YARAT lives by the creativity and energy artists bring to our projects. We are a dynamic organisation and we hope this life-force of YARAT’s programme is reflected in this ambitious exhibition.