Arts & Entertainment

Western art masterpieces capture attention in Iran

By Jaime Leon

Tehran, Sep 1 (EFE).- From sculptures by Donald Judd and neon structures by Dan Flavin to artworks by Marcel Duchamp, Western minimalist masterpieces unveiled for the first time in decades have drawn thousands of visitors to the Museum of Contemporary Art in Tehran.

Since the end of June, some 25,000 aesthetes have headed to the museum to see the displayed 130 works of art by 34 minimalist and conceptual artists.

Thirty-eight of the works are being exhibited for the first time since the museum was established by Farah Diba, the wife of Iran’s last shah, Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, in 1977.

Two years later, the Islamic Revolution triumphed, ending the country’s monarchy and leaving the museum’s 4,000 artworks in the darkness for decades due to the former supreme leader Ruhollah Khomeini’s rejection of Western art.

But the museum started organizing temporary exhibitions in recent times to showcase its treasures, including the current Minimalism and Conceptual Art exhibition.


“The reception has been incredible. I thought it would be a hard exhibition for the public, but it has been exactly the opposite,” Samadzadegan Behrang, the curator of the exhibition, tells Efe.

“People come to see something new, something they didn’t expect. It is the shock of the new”, explains Behrang, who is also a painter and a teacher.

Behrang stresses that one of the goals behind the project is to get the public “engaged in the space” of the exhibition, which is why he has designed areas so that visitors can take selfies with the artworks.


Visitors flock into the spacious rooms of the capital’s museum to take photos of themselves with some of the masterpieces, but they also stop to appreciate pieces such as Duchamp’s The Large Glass and Flavin’s blue neon lights

“This is my second time coming to the exhibition. There are unique works,” Negar Shams, a graphic design university professor, tells Efe.

“I found Flavin’s works very interesting,” Shams says.

Shams’ friend Irandokht Ghafari, 42, also a graphic designer, says she visits the museum regularly, especially when works by Western artists are on display.


Hassan Nofersti, the museum’s public relations director, points out the museum sees a significant uptick in visitors when works by international artists are on display.

“Normally when we showcase works by international artists, 20% or 30% more visitors come,” he says.

Artworks by Andy Warhol, Jackson Pollock, Pablo Picasso, Mark Rothko, Wassily Kandinsky, Agnus Martin, Man Ray, Sol Lewitta nd Paul Gauguin are among those exhibited in the museum.

The Iranians’ taste in modern art comes in contrast with that of the Persian country’s authorities, as president Ebrahim Raisi once described modern Western art as “vulgar.”EFE

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