Mohammed Afkhami’s family fled Iran after the revolution but that hasn’t stopped him from becoming interested in collecting Contemporary art from Iran. Those works are added to his family’s own holdings of Islamic art and his other collecting interests like vintage advertising posters:Continue Reading
The Tehran Auction, which debuted in 2012 with a white glove sale, returned last month though only now is a report from the AP getting wide circulation and attention. One problem with the sale is the lack of reliable information. The video from PressTV above says there were 92 works in the sale; the AP says 80 (The Tehran Times says 82) and that it was the second consecutive white glove sale. Everyone agrees that about $2m was spent with the top lot coming from Sohrab Sepeheri and selling to Pasargad Bank which has already bought 140 works for a planned museum:
For one glimmering moment late last month, the Iranian capital was the talk of the world’s art market after 80 works sold for $2 million, astonishing a country whose economy is battered by Western sanctions but still has pockets of wealth looking for investment havens for their money. […]
A photo by Jamshid Bayrami on the hajj, or Islamic pilgrimage to Saudi Arabia, was sold for about $6,000. Bayrami’s works have been sold previously at Sotheby’s auctions in London and Qatar.
“Many know that investment cannot be limited to real estate, gold and carpets,” the photographer said. “It also shows the strength of Iranian art lovers and artists.”
The manager of the auction, Ali Reza Samei Azar, said he had hoped to top last year’s auction that brought in $1.3 million, but the sinking economy initially made him think they “were dreaming.”
“We rarely see the sale of 100 percent of artworks in international auctions,” Samei Azar gushed after the 3 1/2-hour event on June 28. “Iranian society has shown that art can be an investment.”
He described many of the buyers as “young and Western educated.”
“It was exciting,” Samei Azar said. “One-third of buyers were new buyers. It shows the growth potential for Iran’s art market.”
Kashya Hildebrand is a former trader and now a gallerist specializing in artists from the Gulf where there was a boom in the midst of the last decade. Now the market savvy dealer is moving to London and in her interview with Bloomberg she explains why prices for Iranian artists peaked in 2008 and have faded since. That’s because art became an asset that Iranians could sell to avoid sanctions and raise money. The reporter doesn’t say whether Hildebrand thinks supply outstripped demand or the quality of works diminished as more collectors used their art as a piggybank:
Mirroring the region’s politics, the market for Middle Eastern art is volatile, Hildebrand says. She gives the example of United Nations sanctions against Iran in force since 2006.
“There have been some exogenous pressures creating price volatility,” she says. “Some of the bigger names people are starting to focus on are artists from Iran. Just as their auction prices were making new highs, the sanctions started kicking in, so suddenly a lot of affluent people from the Persian community who were hit by these sanctions started selling some of their personal assets to get liquidity.”