After thirty years in the dark, one of the most important collections of 20th century art, compiled outside of the US or Europe has gone on display to the public. The Tehran Museum of Contemporary Art has reopened, for the first time since the Shah was ousted by Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini in 1979.
The collection valued at over £1.5 Billion GBP was compiled by Queen Farah Pahlavi who spent many years traveling to New York, Paris and Monaco, attending openings, exhibitions and top auctions. Pahlavi an enthusiastic champion of the Avant Garde personally selected the artworks, along with a number of advisers and consultants.
The Museum has some remarkable examples of Impressionist and Post Impressionist works including, Monet, Pissarro, Renoir, Gauguin, Van Gogh,Toulouse-Lautrec, Degas and Munch. Early Modernist paintings by, Picasso, Marcel Duchamp, Chagall and the British sculptor Henry Moore. Important Abstract Expressionist works by Jackson Pollack, Willem de Kooning and Mark Rothko. It also posesses one of the most important collections of Pop Art, covering both sides of the pond, with David Hockney, Richard Hamilton and RB Kitaj representing the UK and Jasper Johns, Andy Warhol, Roy Lichtenstein, James Rosenquist, Jim Dine and Larry Rivers from the US.
For many years the works were thought too radical and Un-Islamic for public exhibition and some examples like Francis Bacon’s Two Figures Lying on a Bed with Attendants was deemed pornographic because of its gay content. The powerful Guardian Council also traded the important de Kooning painting Woman III for the ‘Houghton Shahnameh’ (Kings Book Of Kings) an illuminated manuscript. The abstract expressionist masterpiece was labeled immodest by the council. The painting was later sold to the music mogul David Geffen for $20 million dollars. The art investor turned dealer, Geffen, later sold the work for a staggering $110 million dollars. Not a bad ten minutes work!!!