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The Boom of Art Market in Iran

Source: Iran Times 

The art industry in Tehran has taken off as prices have jumped 20-fold over the past two years, leading some to mull if the spike is just a speculative bubble.

Iranian art galleries are packed with prospective buyers as Iranian artists are seeing a huge increase in demand for their work.

The rise in interest appears at least in part to reflect a concern about soaring inflation and a desire to find a new place to park wealth safely.

Parviz Tanavoli, 72, Iran's best-known sculptor, told Agence France Presse, "For 30 years no one was interested in us. Today everyone wants to buy. People have money. They used to invest it in property. Today they see there are other places to put it."

Tanavoli's 1975 sculpture entitled, "The Wall (Oh Persepolis)," sold in April for $2.84 million at a Christie's auction in Dubai-the highest figure ever reached for a contemporary Iranian art piece.  The 1.8-meter-high (6-foot) bronze block is typical of Tanavoli's style, partly inspired by the ancient art of the Achaemenid empire, and praised by experts as being more than worth its price.

Tanavoli's The Wall (Oh Persepolis)

Farhad Moshiri, an artist known for his bright, three-dimensional paintings of jars emblazoned in Persian script, has seen his works bring in as much as $750,000.

Even lesser-known artists are reaping benefits from the art boom and have seen their work sell at the numerous galleries in upmarket northern Tehran for between $20,000 and $30,000; just two years ago, the asking price would have been closer to $2,000.  But despite the high prices, the buyers are eager.

"Despite the rise in prices, there are more buyers than before. Many people want to make investments," said Shahnaz Kansari, who heads the Moon art gallery in Tehran.

Art in Iran covers many styles including painting, sculpture and photography.  Abstract tendencies have long appeared the most popular in modern Iranian art.

Iranian visual art also crosses genres in unusual ways: Abbas Kiarostami-the Cannes prize-winning Iranian film director-is also a renowned photographer whose work is a major attraction at Tehran galleries.

One of the fathers of Iranian modern art was the poet Sohrab Sepheri, considered one of the greatest of all Iranian modern writers, whose abstract landscape paintings are now collector's items.

Farideh Lashaie, an Iranian painter, said, "We are at the beginning of the road. More and more, there are individual exhibitions by Iranian artists abroad.

"Iranian culture used to be known abroad from the names of ancient poets like Hafez, Ferdowsi and Rumi. But painting and contemporary sculpture also have something to say.  As with cinema, people did not expect to see paintings and sculptures like this coming from Iran. Perhaps this explains their success," Lashaie said.

An artwork of Farideh Lashaie

The recent surge in interest in art has also translated to an increase in art students at Iran's universities.  "This year around 150 young sculptors and 600 young painters will graduate from the faculties of art. Some of them are very promising," said Tanavoli, who also teaches in Tehran.

Golnaz Afrouz, 27, is an up-and-coming female artist whose work-which now sells for between $500 and $900 compared to $200 previously-draws inspiration from Parisian cafe scenes; the recent art boom has given her hope she will one day be able to make a living off of her passion.  Others, like Amir Hossein Etemad of the Negarkhaneh Etemad gallery, fear there may be an end to the boom.  "I'm worried that this will prove to be nothing more than a speculative bubble that will explode.  But it's true that the prices were too low before."

Despise hopes the art industry will continue to rise, Afrouz shared concerns with Etemad, saying, "There's a real art fever, but there's also no guarantee it will continue."


About Iran Times: The Iran Times is an independent newspaper with no affiliation with any political party or faction The Iran Times corporation was founded in Washington D.C. in 1970, in accordance with U.S. federal and local regulations:

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