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Monday, October 3, 2022

Tehran unveils decades of hidden Western art masterpieces

TEHRAN, Iran ( Associated Press) — Some of the world’s most prized works of contemporary Western art have been unveiled in Tehran for the first time in decades.

Iranian President Ibrahim Raisi, a staunch cleric, is against the influence of the West. Authorities have reprimanded the “distracted” artists for “attacking Iran’s revolutionary culture”. And the Islamic Republic has plunged further into confrontation with the United States and Europe as it increasingly ramps up its nuclear program and diplomatic efforts.

But contrasts abound in the Iranian capital, where thousands of fine men and hijab-clad women exhibited 19th and 20th century American and European minimalist and conceptual masterpieces for the first time at the Tehran Museum of Contemporary Art. ,

On a recent August afternoon, art critics and students rejoiced at Marcel Duchamp’s 1915 mural, “The Large Glass,” which had long been interpreted as an exploration of erotic despair.

He saw a rare 4-metre (13-foot) untitled sculpture by American minimalist pioneer Donald Judd and one of Sol Levitt’s most famous serial pieces, the “Open Cube”, among other important works. The Jude sculpture, which consists of a horizontal array of lacquered brass and aluminum panels, is worth millions of dollars.

“Setting up a show with such a theme and such works is a bold move that takes a lot of courage,” said Babak Bahari, 62, who is seeing 130 works showcased for the fourth time since opening at the end of June. was. “Even in the West these works are at the center of discussion and dialogue.”

The government of Iran’s Western-backed Shah, Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, and his wife, former Empress Farah Pahlavi, built the museum and acquired the multibillion-dollar collection in the late 1970s, when the oil boom and Western economies stabilized . Upon opening, it featured sensational works by Pablo Picasso, Mark Rothko, Claude Monet, Jackson Pollock and other stalwarts, raising Iran’s cultural status on the world stage.

But just two years later, in 1979, Shia clerics removed Shah and placed the art in the museum’s vault. Some paintings – Cubist, Surrealist, Impressionist, even Pop Art – remained untouched for decades to avoid offending Islamic values ​​and catering to Western sensibilities.

But during a thaw in Iran’s harsh politics, art began to re-emerge. While Andy Warhol’s Pahlavi paintings and some of his favorite socks are still hidden in the basement, much of Warhol’s collection has been brought to great fanfare. As Iran’s cultural sanctions are eased.

The ongoing exhibit on minimalism featuring 34 Western artists has attracted particular attention. More than 17,000 people have visited since the museum opened – almost double the number of previous shows.

Curator Behrang Samadzadegan credits the recently renewed interest in conceptual art, which first stunned audiences in the 1960s by drawing on political subjects and taking art from traditional galleries to the wider world.

Museum spokesman Hassan Noferesti said the size of the crowd visiting the exhibition, which runs until mid-September, shows the thrill of experiencing long-hidden modern masterpieces.

It also testifies to the enduring appetite for the arts among Iran’s younger generation. More than 50% of the country’s 85 million people are under the age of 30.

Despite their country’s deep global isolation, and fears that their already limited social and cultural freedoms might be further curtailed under a hard-line government elected a year ago, young Iranians continue to enjoy international art on social media. Exploring the world. The new galleries are buzzing. Art and architecture schools are thriving.

“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 cubic structure. “Rather, you get inspiration from them.”


Associated Press writer Isabel Debre in Dubai, United Arab Emirates contributed.

World Nation News Desk
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