Thirty-two years have passed since the Islamic Revolution – 32 years of religious repression and withdrawal from western culture. But in the last couple of years something is happening below the surface. President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad senses the people's hunger for greater openness to the world, and even the ayatollahs can’t stop the internet flood that breaks through the cultural firewall.
What's that?! A work by sculptor Giacometti (Photo: Reuters)
It seems someone in the regime has understood that some steam needs to be released – via art, among other things. The country's museums, including the Tehran Museum of Contemporary Art, have displayed only Islamic art which supports the spirit of the regime and doesn't expose too much of the West's creative riches.
But this week, for the first time since 1978, Tehran is offering an exhibition of some of the greatest artists of the last century.
An Ernst from the Iranian museum's collection (Photo: Reuters)
Works by Pablo Picasso, Henri Matisse, Max Ernst, Paul Gauguin, Camille Pissarro, Henry Moore, Alberto Giacometti, Fernand Leger, Edouard Manet, Jackson Pollock, Dan Flavin, Alan Shields, Morris Louis and many others were displayed in an exhibition of world contemporary art, including 24 photo portraits of Picasso, Salvador Dali and others.
Gauguin, but no women from Tahiti (Photo: Reuters)
The works belong to the museum but have not been displayed for over 30 years. Most of the works were purchased during the Shah's reign during the 70s.
Since the revolution they have been kept in the basement and public access has been denied. The curators are proud of the preservation of the works and of the museum's contribution to nurturing local artists.
"Iran is proud to have one of the world's greatest art museums," said Hamid Shahabdi, Iran's deputy cultural minister, who opened the exhibition.
"Thanks to our artists who worked so hard during all those years and made it what it is, and now it is up to us to continue their work. What is exhibited here is just a small part of our heritage which demands further attention."