Art And Culture

Sotheby’s Zand Explores Tehran’s Thriving Art Scene

Sotheby’s Zand Explores Tehran’s Thriving Art Scene
Sotheby’s Zand Explores Tehran’s Thriving Art Scene

To say that the Tehran art scene is booming would be an understatement. A veritable ‘renaissance’ of arts, crafts, design, and culture is sweeping the capital, with the city’s walls increasingly carrying artistic murals and decorative elements, says Iranian-origin Roxane Zand, Sotheby’s deputy chairman for the Middle East.

For the second year running, an extraordinary project has taken over Tehran’s main thoroughfares: the municipal equivalent of a city-wide gallery where large-scale reproductions of hundreds of well-known artworks – both western and Iranian – hang randomly along the city’s main arteries.

Young Tehrani artists have a longing for knowledge, education, exposure, and of course, sales. Everyone is invoking their inner artist. The exceptional growth in numbers of galleries (250 registered, at the last count), art graduates, and auction success is heralding a new age of creativity. And creativity is possessed by Iranians in spadefuls, she said, the reported.

“A brief stay in Tehran afforded me a special opportunity to engage with various art happenings.”

Zand participated in a panel at Niavaran Cultural Center on ‘Collecting Iranian Art in Context’, alongside Dr Khalil Arjmandi, advisor to the Ministry of Culture and Islamic Guidance, and independent curator Rose Issa.

Arjmandi applauded the growth of the art sector in Iran, and referred to the government strategy for increasing infrastructure and support, expressing optimism for the future of the Iranian art industry – a few obstacles notwithstanding.

The Sotheby’s presentation focused on contextualizing Iranian art within the framework of a $6.26 billion global industry which has seen a correction in 2015. The history of the auction trade in dealing with Islamic and Iranian art was outlined, and the primary/secondary market dynamic explained.

 Extraordinary Educational Work

Zand also visited the ‘Karnameh’ exhibition at the Tehran Museum of Contemporary Art, which focused on children’s publications from the 1920’s till the 1980’s, revealing “an extraordinary scope of educational work in this area and with it, a coverage of socio-historical issues that was essentially a corollary of the literary output.”

Curators Ali Bakhtiari, alongside Yashar Samimi Mofakham, and Peyman Pourhossein started a collective in 2013 under the name of Karnameh which has two main objectives: one, to engage in the historical-archival style of exhibition as opposed to the purely visual arts one; and two, to bring attention to the country’s growing need for documentation and research.

Highlighting ‘Kanoon’s’ role (the Institute for the Intellectual Development of Children and Young Adults) – an organization which nurtured such legendary talents as Abbas Kiarostami was a major achievement of this show, with the great book ‘The Little Black Fish’ by Farshid Mesghali – complete with the original printing block – stealing the show. Who does not remember this timeless Persian classic, she asks.

“The show ends with a survey of religious books for children, and also a section on war and revolution where children are portrayed as an active part of society,” Zand said.

“Last but not least, on May 27, Tehran auction brewed up a storm of record prices ($7 million) with its near-complete sales of Iranian artworks focused mainly on modern masters. The top lot was a trophy Sepehri work from the Tree series, followed closely by works by Yektai, Ardeshir Mohasses, and the recently deceased Parviz Kalantari. A standing ovation for Kalantari drove home the emotionality of Iranians as an art-loving nation.”

Harvard and Oxford educated Roxane Zand began a career in museum and arts administration after three years in UNESCO. She is one of the founding members of the Harvard Club of London.

She joined Sotheby’s in 2006 and currently she sits on the Advisory Council of the Pictet Art Prize, the Development Board of the University of the Arts London, and has been appointed deputy lieutenant for Greater London for her services to Middle Eastern art and culture. She is also arts editor for the Encyclopedia Islamica.

At Sotheby’s she has been instrumental in developing and contributing to sales of Arab and Iranian art.