Asia Society Museum Announces 26 Artists to Participate in First Major Exhibition of Modern Art from Iran

Contact: Elaine Merguerian 212.327.9271,



New York (July 29, 2013) – Asia Society Museum presents Iran Modern, the first major international loan exhibition of Iranian modern art created from the 1950s to 1970s. It will be on view in New York from September 6, 2013 to January 5, 2014.

Showcasing more than 100 works by 26 artists, the exhibition illuminates Iran’s little known pre-Islamic Revolution era when Tehran was a cosmopolitan art center, artists were engaged with the world through their participation in the Venice Biennale and other international art festivals, and their work was collected by institutions inside and outside of Iran. The paintings, sculpture, works on paper and photography included in the exhibition are organized thematically to map the genesis of Iranian modernism and argues that the development of modernist art is inherently more globally interconnected than has been previously acknowledged.

The exhibition comprises loans from public and private collections from the United States and eight countries in Europe and the Middle East. These rich holdings illustrate the extent to which collectors outside of Iran were engaged with the work of Iranian artists during this period. Lending institutions include The Grey Art Gallery, New York University Art Collection, JPMorgan Chase Art Collection, The Museum of Modern Art, New York, and Tate, London.

“To understand contemporary Iranian art, one must understand this period when artists laid the foundations for modernism,” says Asia Society Museum Director, Melissa Chiu. “Against the backdrop of the current global political climate, exhibitions like Iran Modern are essential to fostering a better understanding of Iran’s history."

The exhibition comprises works by the following artists: Ahmad Aali, Abbas, Massoud Arabshahi, Siah Armajani, Mohammad Ehsai, Monir Shahroudy Farmanfarmaian, Mansour Ghandriz, Marcos Grigorian, Ghasem Hajizadeh, Nahid Hagigat, Bahman Jalali, Rana Javadi, Reza Mafi, Leyly Matine-Daftary, Ardeshir Mohassess, Bahman Mohassess, Nicky Nodjoumi, Houshang Pezeshknia, Faramarz Pilaram, Behjat Sadr, Abolghassem Saidi, Sohrab Sepehri, Parviz Tanavoli, Mohsen Vaziri-Moqaddam, Manoucher Yektai, and Charles Hossein Zenderoudi.

Iran Modern is curated by independent scholars Fereshteh Daftari and Layla S. Diba. Daftari was a curator with The Museum of Modern Art (MoMA), New York from 1988 to 2009 and curated Without Boundary: Seventeen Ways of Looking (2006) at MoMA, among others. She was a curator of Between Word and Image (Modern Iranian Visual Culture) (2002) at the Grey Art Gallery, which was an important first effort to document the period. Diba was Hagop Kevorkian Curator of Islamic Art at the Brooklyn Museum of Art at which time she curated The Qajar Epoch: Royal Persian Paintings 1785¬1925. She also served as the director and chief curator of the Negarestan Museum in Tehran from 1975 to 1979. Asia Society Curator of Modern and Contemporary Art Michelle Yun is the in-house curator for the exhibition.

The exhibition is organized thematically into the following sections: Saqqakhaneh—looking at the neotraditional style inspired by Iranian folk art and culture—abstraction, and calligraphy, with a monographic focus on selected artists within each section. An archive room will provide background on the history, politics and culture of the period, including primary source documents, posters, ephemera and a timeline of key political and cultural events.

A richly illustrated catalogue accompanies the exhibition with essays by leading scholars of Iranian art, modern art and cultural criticism. The 256-page book is published by Asia Society Museum and distributed by Yale University Press, New Haven and London.

Related programs
In conjunction with Iran Modern, Asia Society is presenting a series of programs providing additional background on the exhibition and Iran’s modern period including art talks, performances, films, symposia and discussions.

Planned programs to date follow:
• PERFORMANCE: Mohsen Namjoo, artist, songwriter, singer and setar player, on Saturday, September 7 at 8:00 p.m.
• ART TALK: Fereshteh Daftari, cocurator of Iran Modern, on Tuesday, September 10 at 6:30 p.m. (Asia Society members only)
• DISCUSSION: Underground Music in Iran with Mohsen Namjoo, on Thursday, September 12 at 6:30 p.m.
• SYMPOSIUM: The Shiraz Arts Festival: A Global Vision Revisited with artists, critics, historians and a number of festival participants, as well as rare archival footage from the festival, on Saturday, October 5.
• ART TALK: Iran’s Art World: 1960s–1970s, gallerists and artists revisit the contemporary art world of Iran in the 1960s and 1970s, on Tuesday, October 22 at 6:30 p.m.
• SYMPOSIUM: Iran: Art and Discourse, a one day symposium on the production and distribution of visual art in Iran and the U.S., with discussions on curating, criticism, and arts organizations, on Saturday, October 26. Co-sponsored by The Center for Global Communication Studies, Annenberg School for Communication, University of Pennsylvania.
• MEET THE AUTHOR: Goli Taraghi discusses her new collection of short stories, The Pomegranate Lady and Her Sons, followed by a book sale and signing, on Monday, October 28 at 6:30 p.m.
• PERFORMANCE: Kayhan Kalhor, composer and master of classical Kurdish and Persian music, on kamancheh (spiked fiddle) with Ali Bahrami Fard on santour (hammered dulcimer), on Saturday, November 16, at 8:00 p.m.
• FILM SERIES: Iran on Screen: 1960s–1970s. November 2013.
• PERFORMANCE: New Music from Iran and Syria with Saeid Shanbehzadeh; Najhib Shanbehzadeh; Kinan Azmeh; Basel Rajoub; and Jasser Haj Youssef. Presented in conjunction with the Aga Khan Music Initiative. Saturday, December 7 at 8:00 p.m. For program updates and ticketing information, please visit

Exhibition support
Critical support for Iran Modern comes from The Julis Family Contemporary Art Initiative. Major support has been provided by National Endowment for the Arts; Rockefeller Fellows for Arts, Culture, and Policy; American Institute of Iranian Studies; The Soudavar Memorial Foundation; and Dedalus Foundation, Inc.

Additional support has been provided by a leadership committee for the exhibition, co-chaired by Simin N. and Herb Allison and Minoo and Faraj Saghri, and including: Mahshid and Jamshid Ehsani; Maryam Eisler; Hart and Nancy Fessenden; Roya and Massoud Heidari; Mahshid and Vahid Noshirvani; and Kambiz and Nazgol Shahbazi.

Support for Asia Society Museum is provided by Asia Society Contemporary Art Council, Asia Society Friends of Asian Arts, Arthur Ross Foundation, Sheryl and Charles R. Kaye Endowment for Contemporary Art Exhibitions, Blanchette Hooker Rockefeller Fund, National Endowment for the Humanities, Hazen Polsky Foundation, New York State Council on the Arts, and New York City Department of Cultural Affairs.

About Asia Society Museum
Asia Society Museum presents groundbreaking exhibitions of Asian and Asian American art and artists. The Museum is proud to be one of the few U.S. institutions whose mission includes a focus on Persian arts and culture. Asia Society Museum has held discussions with artists such as Parviz Tanavoli and Monir Shahroudy Farmanfarmaian, and convened a panel of experts for a discussion of Iran’s modern period. The Museum has also organized major exhibitions such as Hunt for Paradise: Court Arts of Iran, 1501–1576 and Glass, Gilding, and Grand Design: Art of Sasanian Iran (224–642), as well as solo shows of work by artists Ardeshir Mohassess and Shirin Neshat.

The Asia Society Museum presents a wide range of traditional and contemporary exhibitions of Asian and Asian American art, taking new approaches to familiar masterpieces and introducing under-recognized arts and artists. The Asia Society Museum Collection comprises a traditional art collection, composed of the initial bequests of Mr. and Mrs. John D. Rockefeller 3rd, and a contemporary art collection.

Founded in 1956, Asia Society is a nonprofit nonpartisan educational institution headquartered in New York with new state-of-the-art cultural centers and gallery spaces in Hong Kong and Houston, and offices in Los Angeles, Manila, Mumbai, San Francisco, Seoul, Shanghai, Sydney, and Washington, DC.

Asia Society Museum is located at 725 Park Avenue (at 70th Street), New York City. The Museum is open Tuesday through Sunday from 11:00 A.M. – 6:00 P.M. and Friday from 11:00 A.M. – 9:00 P.M. Closed on Mondays and major holidays. General admission is $12, seniors $10, students $7, and admission is free for members and persons under 16. Free admission Friday evenings, 6:00 P.M. – 9:00 P.M. The Museum is closed Fridays after 6:00 P.M. from July 1 through Labor Day.
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