IRANIAN ART MARKET The prices have soared by a factor of 20 within two years, the galleries are packed with prospective buyers and the works are both modern and daring, but this is not a description of the art scene in New York, Paris or London, but Tehran. Far removed from the increasingly tense standoff over the country’s nuclear programme and domestic frustration because of rising inflation, Iran’s best known artists are enjoying a huge rise in demand for their work.
Interest in buying art increased in last 2 years
“For 30 years no one was interested in us. Today everyone wants to buy,” Parviz Tanavoli, 72, Iran’s best known sculptor, told AFP. “People have money. They used to invest it in property. Today they see there are other places to put it.”
A 1975 sculpture by Tanavoli, “The Wall (Oh Persepolis),” sold in late April for 2.84 million dollars at a Christie’s auction in Dubai — the highest figure ever reached for a contemporary Iranian work.The 1.8-metre-high (6-feet) bronze block was typical of Tanavoli’s intricate style, partly inspired by the ancient art of the Achaemenian empire, and praised by experts as being more than worth its stratospheric price.
The younger artist Farhad Moshiri, known for his bright three-dimensional paintings of jars emblazoned in calligraphic Persian script, has seen his canvases sell for up to 750,000 dollars.Lesser known artists have seen their work sell at the numerous galleries in upmarket northern Tehran for between 20,000 and 30,000 dollars. Just two years ago the asking price would have been more like 2,000.
More buyers for investment
The boom is another example of the striking gulf between wealth and poverty in Tehran, where the rich can afford imported cars and luxury apartments while the worst off struggle to make ends meet. Despite the rise in prices there are more buyers than before. Many people want to make investments,” said Shahnaz Kansari, who heads the Moon art gallery in Tehran.
Amir Hossein Etemad, of the Negarkhaneh Etemad gallery, warned: “I’m worried that this will prove to be nothing more than a speculative bubble that will explode. “But it’s true that the prices were very low before.”
Abstract tendencies have long appeared the most popular in modern Iranian art, possibly because of the strict rules governing the portrayal of the human form in an Islamic state. Iranian visual art also crosses genres in unusual ways: Cannes prize-winning Iranian film director Abbas Kiarostami is also a renowned artist whose stark photography is a major draw at Tehran galleries.
Iranian art crosses genre boundaries
One of the fathers of Iranian modernist painting was the poet Sohrab Sepheri, considered one of the greatest of all Iranian modern writers, whose abstract landscapes are true collector’s items.”We are at the beginning of the road. More and more there are individual exhibitions by Iranian artists abroad,” said the painter Farideh Lashaie.”Iranian culture used to be known abroad from the names of ancient poets like Hafez, Ferdowsi and Rumi. But painting and contemporary sculpture also have something to say.”As with cinema, people did not expect to see paintings and sculptures like this coming from Iran. Perhaps this explains their success.”
© 2008 Agence France-Presse
Image details: Iranians visit an exhibition by female artist Golnaz Afruz at the Mah Gallery in Tehran AFP
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