New Emissary

Iran Art Curve

Is Iran poised to become a key player in global art? Some signs point to yes.

There continues to be ample talk of China’s rise not just in world politics and economy but in other arenas such as the global art and wine markets. In the past year I’ve found myself mentioning China's growing prowess here on more than one occasion, as a topic that is impossible to ignore and always enlightening to explore.

However, despite this, it can be just as exciting to hear of another country in the region making a mark with its arts and culture. Such is the case with Iran, which according to some recent news is a country now poised to become a major player in the international art market.

Especially with the recent Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty conference, which our correspondent Richard Weitz has reported on in his feature piece today (‘Grappling with Nuclear Asia’), many may be surprised to hear about a flourishing art scene in a country currently so embroiled in political controversy. But as art writer Daniel Grant explains in his recent article for Barron’s, while ‘much of the world looks at Iran and sees a nuclear threat,’ in fact ‘a growing number of collectors see something else: a profusion of exciting new art that's likely to command higher and higher prices.’

Grant also points out that contemporary Iranian art, which can be inspired by ‘protest, taking on war, environmental destruction and societal hypocrisy,’ is really taking off and cites the example of the April auction held by Christie's in Dubai, where works by top Iranian artists were sold for several times their originally estimated prices, as well as last year’s cotemporary art exhibit at the Chelsea Art Museum in New York that showed the work of 56 Iranian artists.

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Meanwhile, in Business Standard last week was an article which makes a similar point; that there is definitely a rise in the Iranian art market. It asserts that the Iran’s contemporary art scene is ‘more exciting than in Egypt or any of the other West Asian countries, whether Lebanon, Syria, Iraq, Tunisia, Morocco or Saudi Arabia.’

Finally, last week The Art Newspaper in a piece on the same subject put added a unique perspective on Iran’s rise in the art world. Writer Marisa Mazria Katz errs a little on the conservative side by noting that over in the US, despite housing ‘the world’s largest Iranian expatriate community,’ that a market for contemporary Iranian art is still in its ‘infancy,’—at least judging from the results of a pioneer Iranian art sale held in New York last month. However, the piece then goes out on a limb when suggesting that this lukewarm reception may well have underlying political reasons. Quoting a local gallery owner, it suggests that perhaps a reason for Iranian art not faring so well in America now is because during eight years of George Bush’s presidency, the American people were too busy ‘listening to how Iran was part of the ‘axis of evil’ instead of hearing about the great art produced in a country with a great culture.’

I am looking to forward to seeing more developments on this news of Iran as a rising global art power.