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Interview with Ardeshir Mohassess, a legendary Iranian illustrator and cartoonist

Report and interview by Ali Moayedian


On the occasion of Ardeshir Mohassess's exhibition at New York's Asia Society and Museum:
Ardeshir Mohassess: Art and Satire in Iran


Note: The works of Ardeshir Mohassess presented here have not been published or exhibited anywhere before. These works are part of the private collection of Dr. Rahim Asgard. They were selected by Mohassess and Dr. Asgard and are being shared here with our readers.





Ardeshir Mohassess: Art and Satire in Iran


May 23rd - August 3rd


11:00 am - 6:00 pm (Friday until 9:00 pm)


Asia Society and Museum, 2nd Floor, Starr Galleries, 725 Park Avenue, New York




This is the first retrospective of Mohassess's work to be presented in the United States. The drawings on display were created between 1976 and 2000 and reveal his focus on the conflicts between the oppressor and the oppressed both before and after the Revolution of 1979. Mohassess's work is informed not only by the complexities of modern history and politics, but also by traditional Persian arts and culture. Throughout his career, Mohassess has remained a resolute social critic, focusing on the cruelty, humor, and vulnerability of human nature.


Acclaimed artists Shirin Neshat and Nicky Nodjoumi are guest curators of the exhibition. Both Neshat and Nodjoumi have exhibited their work internationally and find inspiration in the life and art of Ardeshir Mohassess.



Haji Firooz



Ardeshir Mohassess was born in Iran in 1938 and began drawing early in his childhood. In the 1960s, after receiving a degree in political science from Tehran University, he worked as an illustrator for Iranian journals and newspapers. Soon after, his drawings began to appear in major international newspapers and magazines, including The New York Times. In 1976, Mohassess left Iran for what he planned as a temporary stay in the United States. However, with the outbreak of the Iranian Revolution in 1979-which brought an end to the reign of the Pahlavi Shahs and instated a theocracy led by Ayatollah Khomeini-Mohassess chose to remain in New York, where he lives today.




Vis and Ramin



A short interview with Mohassess


In early 1970s, I used to work at Kayhan newspaper in Tehran. I was a curious young boy at the time. I had seen the works of Mohassess published in the paper. I also used to see Mohassess in the hallways of Kayhan. He had a very interesting personality which stood out. If I remember correctly, he didn't talk much and our eyes never met. He seemed a very shy and private person. To me he also looked like a cartoon character, the ones he used to draw, and a fascinating character I should say. So now years later I appreciated the chance to compile a report about him and to ask him a few questions. Not surprisingly, his answers are brief. Mohassess obviously does his talking through his drawings. That is the language he's chosen.  Unfortunately Mohassess has been suffering from Parkinson's disease for the last 20 plus years, and due his health issues he wasn't able to attend the opening of his exhibition either. So I decided to keep the questions to a minimum and present them to him through email. But afterwards I called him to say hello and thank him. I hope Mohassess will be around for a long time to offer us his perspective of our lives...



Q: Why did you choose to draw?


A: I didn't choose it . It chose me. And because I love it.

Q: What makes your pen move the way it does?


A: I don't know.


Q: Do you feel you've been able to connect with your audience and that your work was/is appreciated?


A: Somewhat. Most of my works are yet unknown.


Q: What is the toughest thing about being a cartoonist?


A: It is not tough for me. It is something like breathing and heartbeat for me.


Q: What about the nicest thing?


A: Pleasure while doing it


Q: Did you always feel you had the freedom to draw everyone and everything the way you see it?  Did you ever do self-censorship?


A: Not in Iran. I self censored my self about extremely sexy stuff.


Q: If you were going to do it all over again, would you still choose to be a cartoonist?  That is are you satisfied with yourself as a cartoonist?


A: Yes. It is the only thing I know how to do.



The Clowns



Against the Wall



The Clowns



Martyrdom in Dance







Ardeshir Mohassess: Art and Satire in Iran: Art and Satire in Iran
by Shirin Neshat (Author)

  • Hardcover: 120 pages

  • Publisher: Antique Collectors' Club, Ltd., Ltd. (May 25, 2008)

  • Language: English

  • ISBN-10: 1851495649

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Life in Iran: The Library of Congress Drawings

  • Paperback: 48 pages

  • Publisher: Mage Publishers; 1st ed edition (December 1993)

  • Language: English

  • ISBN-10: 0934211396

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Closed Circuit History

  • Hardcover: 496 pages

  • Publisher: Mage Publishers; 1st ed edition (June 1989)

  • Language: English

  • ISBN: 0934211183

buy from amazon



And finally, the following video (in Persian) provides a brief history of the life of Mohassess and his current exhibition at the Asia Society and Meuseum.



Note: A special thanks to Dr. Rahim Asgard for facilitating this interview and for sharing the works of Ardeshir Mohassess from his private collection.

... Payvand News - 06/16/08 ... --

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