A billion pound collection of modern masterpieces which has languished in a storeroom bunker under Tehran’s Museum of Contemporary Art in Iran may finally see the light of day, under changes in the new government’s policy. Paintings by Picasso, Miro, Calder, Bacon, Pollock, Warhol, Lichtenstein, Van Gogh and Monet have languished in a storeroom beneath the Tehran Museum of Contemporary Art since the Islamic Revolution in 1979.
The collection was put together in the 1960s and 1970s by Queen Farah Pahlavi, the wife of the last shah of Iran. Fearing that they would be destroyed by the religious turmoil that gripped the the country, the works were carefully packed up, crated and removed from public view.
Over the last 30 years, paintings, including some by the American Abstract Expressionist, Willem de Kooning, were deemed pornographic and sold at auction in the west. Francis Bacon’s iconic painting, ‘Two Figures Lying on a Bed with Attendants’ was deemed explicit, because of its ‘Gay’ content. It was removed. The work is now valued at £80m -100m if it were to go under the hammer today.
President Rouhani now plans to put the valuable collection back on exhibit as a softening of attitudes which will encourage tourism and stimulate the ecconomy. An expansion programme for the museum is also under discussion. Mehdi Hosseini, the museum’s chief curator, said “Mr Rouhani’s election has raised hopes for a more progressive period. His government wants our cultural values to be updated and he wants to bring international exhibitions back to Tehran.”
“We have it in mind to expand the museum but the economic situation prevents it. The collection should be on permanent display,” Majid Molanorouzi, the museum director, told the Times. “We would like to put the Western art on display and we are willing to loan it to international museums.” He added “If the sanctions were lifted we could bring in more sponsorship, contributions from the government and private donors and show much more of what we have.”