The 8th edition of the Tehran Auction of Contemporary Iranian Art took place on 12 January 2018, breaking auction records.
The auction sold out 120 lots of emerging and established artists’ work, signalling a flourishing market in the country’s capital.
Of the 120 lots presented, the 2018 instalment of the Tehran Auction of Contemporary Art saw 24 first-time participants, creating a buzz around their recent work and massive first success. While the event’s “A-listers” including Mohammad Ehsai, Sohrab Sepehri and Abbas Kiarostami, whose proceeds exceeded 12 billion rial last year. While these artist sought wide-spread recognition once again this year, the true stars of the proceedings in 2018 were those with incipient careers. And for an auction of its stature, the biddings were astonishing, considering Iran’s ongoing struggle with international sanctions.
Hosted at the Parsian Hotel and chaired by Alireza Sami Azar, the former head of Tehran’s Museum of Contemporary Art, the January sale built heavily upon its success of last Spring totalling IRR14.952 billion, or USD3.4 million, in sales. Some 35 works hammered in well above 100 million rial, the highest of which was executed by female artist Monir Shahroudy Farmanfarmaian.
Known to many as the “nonagenarian doyenne of Iranian Art”, Farmanfarmaian has received widespread international attention during decades of exile, many of her works being confiscated or destroyed after the 1979 Islamic Revolution. An untitled triptych made of mirrored mosaic and plaster brought in this year’s largest Iranian auction sum of IRR1.3 billion. The 95-year-old artist has a rich collection of works that reference both the “patterns seen in the Iranian traditional architecture”, and her formative years working in New York alongside Milton Avery, Willem de Kooning, Joan Mitchell, Barnett Newman, Andy Warhol and others.
The second highest bid at the auction was shared by two works: White Dome III by Kamran Yousefzadeh also known as Y.Z. Kami, and Only You, a painting by Farhad Moshiri at IRR10 billion (USD230,000). Only You by Moshiri is a diptych-style oil painting from his “Jars” collection in which he toys with the aesthetics of ancient Persian ceramics and contemporary Pop art. In doing so, Moshiri comments on cultural appropriation and maps the progression of visual culture and the infiltration of Western influences in Iran.
White Dome III is from Kami’s painting series of the same name. Telling the story of the landscape in which he grew up, the artist portrays religion and its effects on what he calls the “catharsis of the human soul”.
The first of its kind in Iran, the Tehran Auction was founded in 2012 as “an independent and private initiative to support the domestic art market as a key basis for the international market”. What makes it truly unique, both aesthetically and operationally, are the participants and its spectators, the auction not only allowing but encouraging the work and involvement of emerging artists and collectors. This is highlighted by the 700+ attendants at the 2018 auction, which brought together artists, collectors, journalists and art-lovers alike.
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