Kelly Crow discusses how the US deal with Iran to lift some sanctions may unleash pent-up demand for Iranian art. This comes after several years of successful auctions held within Iran and the Gulf:
Collectors in the U.S. and beyond have been eyeing, and buying, Iranian art for years, thanks to a little-known exception to Iran’s economic sanctions that allows visitors to buy art there because it’s considered a cultural asset (unlike, say, carpets).
Now, Michael Jeha, managing director for Christie’s Middle East, said that he expects global art lovers to throng to Tehran’s studios and galleries if it becomes easier to travel and shop there. The diplomatic deal still faces many challenges before it can be fully implemented. “Iran has such a long history and tradition of making strong art,” he said, “and collectors around the world, especially in the U.S., will feel more comfortable buying it once there’s less stigma and hassle.”
For decades following Iran’s 1979 Islamic revolution, U.S. collectors wishing to visit Iran needed a travel license from the U.S. Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control, which gave out a handful of licenses a year to those seeking to visit Iran and bring home “informational materials.” Yet once they arrive, Americans still aren’t allowed to pay for art with a U.S. bank check or credit card, compelling some collectors to carry cash or transfer funds using local intermediaries.
[…] Iranian modern and contemporary art is also enjoying a revival among museums. FromQatar to Washington, D.C., institutions say that they are starting to rank Tehran higheron their wish lists of places to scout for new art. The Los Angeles County Museum of Art takes collectors on a trip to Iran every year now, and New York’s Metropolitan Museumof Art is taking collectors on a 17-day “Splendors of Iran from North to South” trip thisNovember; tickets cost nearly $10,000 apiece.