Tehran is to host its first International Sculpture Symposium in February and March 2007—despite the religious sensitivities that surround the art form.
The event is organised by the Tehran Municipality’s Cultural Art Organisation, with the support of the city’s mayor, Mohammad Bagher Ghalibaf. It is the first stage in a commissioning programme to support and showcase local artists and promote Tehran as “an art-appreciating city”.
Artists are invited to create sculptures on three central themes: science, art and spirituality, and must submit their designs to a panel by 21 November. The panel includes Iranian artists of international repute, such as sculptor Parviz Tanavoli and film director Abbas Kiarostami, as well as professors from the city’s art schools. Five Iranian and 15 foreign artists will be chosen, and each will receive $3,000.
Eight more prizes ranging from $4,000 to $70,000 will be awarded in March 2007 following the symposium. Any works created will be owned by the Tehran municipality, which will pay for production costs.
For centuries, sculpture has been banned in Iran due to religious prohibitions on the representation of figures. At the last Sculpture Biennale organised by the Tehran Museum of Contemporary Art 12 years ago, the euphemism “volume-work” was used and sculptures were vetted before display. “The issue is very sensitive and controversial,” admits Solmaz Laraghi, secretary for the proposed symposium and an artist. “We are forced to work within the guidelines set down by an ideological government, but I hope the event will be successful nonetheless.”
“My feeling is that this project has political backing from the moderately conservative mayor’s office,” says Dr Alireza Sami Azar, former director of the city’s Museum of Contemporary Art and now an art history professor at Tehran’s University of the Arts. “Mr Ghalibaf was head of the Tehran police under the government of former President Khatami and faces local council elections in a few months time, so it’s possible that by not putting any obstacles in the way of this project, he is seeking the support of the art community,” he said.
Originally appeared in The Art Newspaper as 'Tehran to commission sculptures'