Located in the Museum Collections Gallery, Cultured Pallets: Aga Khan Museum by Canadian-Iranian artist Soheila Esfahani is comprised of more than 100 shipping pallets. Esfahani transforms these everyday objects, often used as platforms to transport goods and materials, to capture the feeling of in-betweenness — a space where those experiencing migration often find themselves negotiating identities and cultures.
Inspired by a 15th-century wooden door from the Aga Khan Museum Collections, Esfahani uses the geometric pattern as a metaphor for the ongoing dialogue between cultures. Each pallet is laser-etched in a process that takes approximately 700 hours to complete across the entire installation, then hand-painted, bringing the intricate pattern to life.
Double Door, Iran, 1487–1488/AH 892, AKM707.©Aga Khan Museum
Make sure to interact with the installation by shifting your perspective. Look down from the second-floor Temporary Exhibitions Gallery to uncover another layer of design painted on the top of the pallets.
Following the exhibition, the ornate pallets will return to circulation, resuming their roles in a permanent state of transition between people and places — metaphorically representing the process by which cultures can be transferred and transformed.
Image credit ©Soheila Esfahani
Soheila Esfahani grew up in Tehran, Iran, and moved to Canada in 1992. She received her Master of Fine Arts from Western University and her BA in Fine Arts from the University of Waterloo. She is an award-winning visual artist and the recipient of numerous grants from the Canada Council for the Arts, the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada, the Ontario Arts Council, and the Region of Waterloo Arts Fund. She is a recipient of the Waterloo Region Arts Awards 2016 and was nominated for the Jameel Prize at the Victoria and Albert Museum in London, UK, in 2015. Her work has recently been exhibited at the Canadian Cultural Centre, Paris, the Doris McCarthy Gallery, and Cambridge Art Galleries, as well as collected by various public and private institutions, including the Canada Council Art Bank. She is an Assistant Professor at Western University and is a member of the Red Head Gallery in Toronto.
Curator: Bita Pourvash