When I arrived in Iran more than 4 years ago, I had no idea about the Art scene, how it was or even if artists were able to express themselves fully.
What I quickly found out was as surprising as it was wonderful. The art scene was one of the most prolific and exciting I had ever seen.
Soon I discovered that every Friday there were openings all over the city. Painting, illustration, sculpture, pottery, photography, modern, contemporary, you name it, they had it.
I couldn’t wait for every Friday to hop from gallery to gallery and explore. I got to know some of the galleries owners and some of the artists too.
I was interested to know, how they could survive buried in a mountain of sanctions. These limited to extremes how they could do business. In particular abroad where just the name Iran would result in a serious amount of obstacles, many times impossible to overcome.
The owners I met were doing it for the love of Art. National collectors brought most of the income but sometimes it wasn’t enough to break even. One of the owners I met told me, he had been doing it for 11 years. There wasn’t much return or profit but he loved every bit of it.
He loved the opening nights, the excitement of presenting a new collection from an artist he admired and the buzz that generated. The exhibitions with well established artists made much of the profit. He could then invest that money on younger or new artists that he wanted to help launch. Knowing that there was almost no return there, never stopped him. The satisfaction of presenting something new that people hadn’t seen yet, was enough.
Another gallery owner had been doing it for longer. It was a family business which she was sharing now with her son. Art was everything for this family, being collectors themselves. They always represented big names but they had opened a second gallery where they introduced new names all the time.
Unfortunately due to the corona crisis, they were forced to close the second gallery.
This family had also bought an old Qajar period house in Isfahan where they were thinking of opening a new Art gallery. At the same time they wanted to host as well an artist in residence program with foreign artists. In view of the present situation and the fact that it is very hard for Iranian artists to get visas to travel abroad, it is a dream that for now is not possible to implement.
Then there is the new young gallery owner who has an innovative vision and wants to invest mostly on young artists. The one I met has become successful in a very short time. She has travelled to every International Art fair whenever it is possible, has studied the market and surrounded herself with people who advise her well on which artists to invest in. Some are gradually increasing their exposure and having success thanks also to her efforts. Without her gallery, I wouldn’t have been exposed to great new artists that I knew nothing about.
A word now about the artists who often struggle to make a living and even to find the materials they need to make their Art. You can find everything in Iran, I was often told. It is true, you can. The problem is the limitation in the stock of certain materials due to sanctions and the impossibility to make payments through Iranian banks.
This also makes it very difficult for an artist to conduct business abroad, to get paid if he manages to sell his work. Often this has to be done through intermediaries or complicated schemes. Usually it involves payments in cash or through exchange offices that charge a high commission.
Only the Iranian artists that live abroad or those that are well established and are allowed to travel abroad, have an easier life in this regard.
So during the 4 years I lived in Iran, my eyes opened to an Art world, I had never known much about. The always crowded openings showed me how much Iranians appreciate Art.
I had, of course, to bring some art works with me that will always remind me of those wonderful days I spent rushing from gallery to gallery, meeting people and exchanging ideas. I was inspired many times in my work by what I had seen and experienced.
That is why I have decided to do an artist series in this journal based on the pieces I own. I want to introduce you to the artists that created them. Hoping sincerely you will enjoy meeting some of them and that one day soon, their Art will be able to be shown abroad without any restrictions.
Art and artists should be able to circulate freely, so that their art becomes accessible to everyone.
Here are some of the Art galleries I recommend based on some of the examples I gave. Visit their websites and explore. Some have even online exhibitions at the moment in view of the Covid-19 restrictions.