Iranian galleries seek to enter the international art market

A steel man frowns, choked by a bright orange lifebuoy around his neck. It’s a work by Mohammed Hossein Gholamzadeh, located at the booth of Dastan’s Basement at Art Dubai, which completed on March 19. “The lifebuoy may save him from drowning, but it won’t save him from suffocation,” said the gallery’s Hormoz Hematian. Sold […]

A steel man frowns, choked by a bright orange lifebuoy around his neck. It’s a work by Mohammed Hossein Gholamzadeh, located at the booth of Dastan’s Basement at Art Dubai, which completed on March 19. “The lifebuoy may save him from drowning, but it won’t save him from suffocation,” said the gallery’s Hormoz Hematian.

Sold for US$6000 (Dh22,035) the Iranian artist’s work sat among others as part of the theme “the sun rises from the West”, a curatorial title Hematian chose in response to the economic situation in Iran, which took a major turn after the recent lifting of international sanctions.

“Gholamzadeh is just moving the [economic] problem from the waist to the neck,” added Hematian, who said he felt no change since the sanctions were lifted.

For the dealer, transactions are often challenging, given Iran’s banking system. As a result, he co-operated with a Dubai gallery to facilitate deals. “Transacting is a hassle,” said Hematian, who cites other financial challenges such as shipment and fair participation for the young gallery. “Art Dubai is where everyone goes to learn more about the region’s art and I consider this as a long-term investment in our artists’ future.”

Dastan’s Basement, one of Tehran’s young, progressive galleries, is among four Iranian spaces that participated in Art Dubai’s 10th edition. Three were situated in the fair’s Contemporary section, while Shirin Art Gallery (with branches in Tehran and New York) exhibited in the Modern Hall and hosted the work of one of Iran’s renowned modernists, Ali Akbar Sadeghi.

Fellow Iranian gallery, Khak (branches in Dubai and Tehran), made its fair debut with a vibrant selection of works by a younger crop of Iranian artists, among them Nargess Hashimi.

“Yes, transfers from Europe to Iran are problematic and I have faced a lot of problems,” said the gallery’s Mandana Farahman Pooya. “I don’t sense any change yet as far as the sanctions are concerned but definitely a greater sense of motivation among people.”

Crowds thronged her gallery at the fair’s preview and Pooya reported sales to Iranian, American, German and French collectors. “That’s always been my wish, for my artists’ work to be in international collections,” she said. “And this is why Art Dubai is important for us to exhibit in an international platform.”

It is this sense of universality that Hashemi hopes for with the lifting of sanctions. She presented a meditative, colourful drawing, which emulated a Persian carpet and which took 60 hours to produce.

Pooya, who is based in Tehran, said the change has yet to come but hopes for “dialogue with the international scene, collectors and media coverage”.

Art Dubai has played a pivotal role in making this happen; the recently concluded 2016 edition of the annual art fair presented the works of over 500 artists from 40 countries.

While the participating Iranian galleries amounted to just four this year, a smattering of works from the country were scattered around the fair other spaces.

“I have always believed that Art Dubai is playing such an important role in bringing audiences from all over the world,” said Pooya. “Iran is a very important part of this equation.”

artslife@thenational.ae

artslife@thenational.ae

Source: art & life

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