Iran’s cultural powers have had a strange turn of mind. They’re showing some of the Shah’s art collection, most of which has been languishing in storage for 30 years. The exhibition brings back a moment in Iran’s history—not unlike the current moment in Gulf States—where art was a gateway to status among Western nations:
To prove their liberalism to the west – as that trenchant observer of Tehran’s 1970s art splurge saw it, watching from New York – the autocratic rulers of what is now the Islamic Republic of Iran went overboard for modern art. Clever dealers jumped in at a time when the art market was flat (there was a recession) and Andy Warholeven went to Tehran in person, turning it into a glamorous art scene by his silvery presence.
[…] The modern art treasures this collection boasts are splendid and well-chosen. Works by Mary Cassatt and Degas, by Francis Bacon and Roy Lichtenstein, give it real quality and depth. Tate Modern would be delighted to have some of these works. Jackson Pollock’s Mural on Indian Red Ground was painted in 1950 at a critical moment in his breakthrough from a stumbling imitator of Picasso to a dizzying lassoist of curling colour. Magritte’s Therapist is a bronze version of one of this surrealist metaphysician’s most haunting images. […]
Ali Amini Najafi, an Iranian art critic based in Germany, said: “The works in the collection are not randomly or arbitrarily chosen, it is clear that people involved in selecting them had a consistent plan to pick relevant and significant samples to depict the evolution of modern art and also to make sure that all movements from impressionists to pop art are represented.
“This collection was gathered at a defining moment of our history when Iranians were taking distance from their traditional past and were showing curiosity with modern art.”
Iran Is Sitting on a Modern Art Goldmine (Guardian)