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Monday, October 3, 2022

Tehran uncovers decades of hidden Western art

TEHRAN, Iran ( Associated Press) — Some of the most treasured works of contemporary Western art are on public display in Tehran for the first time in decades.

The country’s president, Ibrahim Raisi, a conservative cleric, falls under Western influence. The authorities have criticized the “distracted” artists for “attacking Iran’s revolutionary culture”. And the Islamic Republic has plunged further into its confrontation with the United States and Europe as it increasingly ramps up its nuclear program in the face of stalled diplomatic efforts.

But contrasts abound in the Iranian capital, where thousands of affluent men and women – all wearing hijabs – marvel at masterpieces of 19th- and 20th-century American and European minimalist and conceptual art. Summer at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Tehran for the first time this year.

On a recent afternoon in August, critics and art students interpreted Marcel Duchamp’s 1915 transparent mural painting, “The Large Glass,” as an exploration of longstanding sensual despair.

He saw a rare, untitled 13-foot (4-meter) sculpture by Donald Judd, a pioneer of American minimalism, and one of Sol Levitt’s most famous serial pieces, “Open Cube,” among other important works. The Jude statue, made of a horizontal array of lacquered brass and aluminum panels, can cost millions of dollars.

Babak Bahari, 62, who is visiting the 130-work show for the fourth time since opening at the end of June, said, “Putting together an exhibition with such a theme and works is a brave move that requires a lot of courage.” it occurs.” “Even in the West, these works are at the center of discussion and dialogue.”

The Western-backed government of Shah Mohammed Reza Pahlavi and his wife, the former emperor Farah Pahlavi, built the museum and collected multimillion-dollar collections in the late 1970s, when oil was booming and economies were booming. Westerners stagnated. After its opening, sensational works by Pablo Picasso, Mark Rothko, Claude Monet, Jackson Pollock and other big names were displayed on its walls, cementing Iran’s cultural position on the world stage.

But just two years later, in 1979, Shia clerics overthrew the Shah and stopped work in the museum vault. Some – Cubists, Surrealists, Impressionists and even Pop Art – remained untouched for decades so as not to offend Islamic values ​​and promote Western sensibilities.

But during a thaw in conservative Iranian politics, art began to make a comeback. Although Andy Warhol’s works made up of images of Pahlavi and some nudes are still hidden in the basement, much of the museum’s collection has been displayed with great fanfare as cultural restrictions are lifted.

The current show on minimalism, featuring 34 western artists, has garnered particular interest. More than 17,000 people have visited the museum since its opening. This is almost double the attendance in previous shows.

Curator Behrang Samadzadegan attributed this to a renewed interest in conceptual art, which had already surprised the population in the 1960s by addressing political issues and taking art from traditional museums to the rest of the world.

Hassan Noferesti, a spokesman for the museum, said the influx for the exhibition, which will be kicked off in mid-September, reflects the excitement of being able to see modern masterpieces long hidden.

Also, it is an example of the artistic interest of the younger generation of Iranians. More than 50% of the country’s approximately 85 million residents are under the age of 30.

Despite the country’s growing global isolation and fears that their already limited social and cultural freedoms will be further curtailed by the conservative government elected a year ago, young Iranians are exploring the international art world on social media. Galleries are in full swing. The schools of art and architecture are full of activity.

“These are fine works of art, you don’t want to copy them,” said 20-year-old architecture student Mohamed Shahsavari, standing in front of Levitt’s piece. “Rather, you draw inspiration from them.”

World Nation News Desk
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