The Sunday Times: A collection of art including works by Picasso, Toulouse-Lautrec and Andy Warhol has gone on show in Tehran, more than a quarter of a century after Irans religious leaders banished it to a museum basement as immoral and anti-Islamic. The Sunday Times
A COLLECTION of art including works by Picasso, Toulouse-Lautrec and Andy Warhol has gone on show in Tehran, more than a quarter of a century after Irans religious leaders banished it to a museum basement as immoral and anti-Islamic.
The 190 paintings, prints and drawings among them a sexually charged triptych by Francis Bacon showing two men lying on a bed with attendants are among 400 collected by Farah Pahlavi, the late Shahs art-loving wife.
They have been put on display in the Museum of Contemporary Art in a parting shot by Ali-Reza Samiazar, its director, who has been forced to resign by the hardline new regime of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.
If it was difficult to promote art under the reformist government of Mr Khatami (the former president), there was no chance it would work under the conservatives, Samiazar said in an interview in the October edition of The Art Newspaper.
Weve had 2,000 visitors a day and its been the most successful show weve ever had. Although the show promotes western art, the authorities cant close it because its just too popular.
A local artist put it more directly: This is Samiazars two-fingered salute to the authorities who gave him such a hard time.
Samiazar, who plans to teach at Tehrans Art University, fears the recent appointment of Hossein Saffar-Harandi, an ultra-conservative, as Ahmadinejads culture minister will snuff out what remains of cultural freedom in Iran. He predicted a shift to Iranian artists whose works embodied revolutionary values.
In the meantime, the exhibition has transformed the museum into one of Tehrans most fashionable venues. This is the best art exhibition Tehran has had, said Sahar, a student. I cant believe weve been denied these paintings for so long.
Most visitors are students or members of the wealthy north Tehran set in tight trousers and bright headscarves, but there is the occasional woman in a chador.
Just because Im wearing a chador doesnt mean I cant appreciate Picasso, said one woman, who gave her name as Zahra. Hes my favourite.
There are limits to what Samiazar could get away with, however. Three works, including a Renoir portrait of a semi-nude girl, never made it out of the basement.
The Bacon made only a brief appearance. Visitors on the first day of the exhibition were startled to see two black-clad members of the Basij militia stride up to the triptych, take down the central panel depicting the sleeping men and walk off with it. Its fate is not known.