From New York Museum to Tehran for Modern Iranian Art

Fifty years ago when Abby Weed Grey visited Iran on her first trip around the world she became keenly interested in contemporary Iranian arts that she came back eight more times and collected 200 modern Iranian works. Abby Grey as a patron to the art collected a total of 600 art works from Asia and Middle East in 1960s and early 70s and she found New York University, known as Grey Art Gallery today, an ideal place to exhibit her unique collection of art works.

More than forty years after Abby, on March of 2016 the director of the Grey Art Gallery Ms. Lynn Gumpert accompanied by six professional artists and art collectors from Grey Art Gallery traveled to Iran by IRAN DOOSTAN TOURS (IDT) to visit the art and history of the country. “One reason that I wanted to come was because Iran has a rich history. Pre-Islamic history is amazing. Because your culture is so rich we wanted to come and see for ourselves and because our group was interested in contemporary art we wanted to see and understand the culture from which the artists came and to understand the importance of poetry, literature, and how Shi’a Islam developed.” said Frederieke Taylor the founder of Frederieke Taylor Gallery in NYC.

The group spent seven days in Iran and visited Tehran, Shiraz, Isfahan, and Kashan. They attended the opening of the Belgian artist Wim Delvoye at Tehran Contemporary Art Museum, Carpet museum, Iran National Museum, Golestan Palace a world heritage site and many more museums and palaces in Tehran. They also visited the galleries of younger and less known modern artists and bought art works to take back home.

Shiraz was their next stop where they visited Nasir al-Mulk mosque known as the pink mosque, arg of Karim Khan, Vakil bazaar and mosque, the tomb of the Persian poets Hafez and Sa’adi, Persian lush gardens, Pasargadae the tomb of Cyrus the Great, and Persepolis city another world heritage. Then they headed toward Isfahan and enjoyed the ancient mosques and bridges in this city, its atmospheric bazaar and of course the Emam Square another heritage site registered by UNESCO.

The professional art directors believe Iran has a great potential to be a top destination for art lovers. “I think Iran has an enormous amount to offer both for people who are interested in contemporary art and the people who are interested in history.”

“This was amazing and I don’t want to leave, we had a great time. It was my first time in Iran but not my last. I enjoyed every minute of this trip there was not a moment that I was bored. I collect contemporary Iranian art so I was very thrilled to do that in Tehran but Isfahan and Persepolis were very great too. Iran is magical. When I come back again I would go to the same places I visited at this trip and also other cities especially the Caspian Sea, I’ve heard so much about it.” said Edith one of the group members and a contemporary art collector.

Before traveling to Iran, our guests did not have any perceptions about the country and they did not know what to expect. After spending a week in Iran we asked them about their experience. “It was first time visiting Iran for all of us and it was fantastic. It exceeded our expectations. Everybody would come up to us and wanted to know where do we come from and they would say welcome to Iran, it was just lovely. We understand politics is politics and politicians don’t necessarily represent the view of the people. People were so friendly, so welcoming, and so generous.”

After visiting Kashan, the delightful oasis in Dasht-e Kavir desert, the group headed toward Tehran’s international airport for their flight back home.

The NYU’s museum holds the largest collection of modern Iranian art outside of Iran. Currently the museum has a show called Global/Local 1960-2015, Six Artists from Iran that features the work of great modern Iranian artists such as Parviz Tanavoli a sculptor, painter, scholar, and art collector.