Art And Culture

Criminals Portrayed at Azad Art Gallery

Criminals Portrayed at Azad Art GalleryCriminals Portrayed at Azad Art Gallery

Criminals, thugs, frauds and charlatans are portrayed in a solo drawing exhibition in Tehran set up by Iranian sketch artist Sahand Heshmati Afshar.

His exhibition is titled ‘Sahand Bijeh Zanjani’ referring to himself, serial killer Mohammad Bijeh (1975-2005) and businessman Babak Zanjani, 43, who is arrested and accused of embezzlement and withholding $2.7 billion of government money owned by the Ministry of Oil.

Opened August 4, the exhibit will conclude on August 9. It is hosted by Azad Art Gallery located at No. 5, Salmas Square, Golha Square, Fatemi Street. Visiting hours are from 4-8 pm, according to

“I don’t think they are apart from our society,” Heshmati Afshar said about the portrayed individuals. “On the contrary, they are the uncovered part of the community, reflecting some aspects of social culture.”

In a note to the exhibit, Heshmati Afshar said: “I started the project with drawing the society’s most-hated characters. Their pictures are often presented on news and social media; but not quite often in visual art events and communities.

Some of the portrayed characters are so repulsive that one cannot establish connection with. But some others are more sympathetic and even described as smart, genius, bold or strong among other positive attributions.”

Sympathetic or not, the artist argues that the subject group of the exhibit is often considered a detached organ of the society or, at the most, a small occasional group.

“I believe, grew up in their families and was exposed to what they saw, I would commit the same acts they did.

If I were in their shoes, not billions but perhaps I would embezzle one or two billion tomans. Maybe I raise a riot if I’m paid enough. That’s why I don’t see them apart from the society. They are not ‘others’ or ‘sundries.’ They have lived in the socio-cultural context of the country and found opportunities to become ‘someone’.”

When looking at the displayed portraits and their descriptions, visitors may find some familiar features and experiences, Heshmati Afshar said. “There may be many commonalities between audience and the portrayed figures, because both sides may have similar backgrounds; they wake up in the morning, have breakfast, put on clothes and rest at night.”

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