Works of art by many of the greats of 20th-century art collected just before Iran's revolution are being lent by the Tehran Museum of Contemporary Art along with works by Iranian artists for a show in Berlin next year. The announcement yesterday, 21 October, by the State Museums Berlin and the Prussian Cultural Foundation, follows a deal struck in Tehran assisted by the German foreign minister, Frank Walter Steinmeier, who said in a statement that the exhibition "will help to complete our picture of Iran and allow Iran to improve access to our culture".
Shiva Balaghi, a visiting scholar at Brown University, Rhode Island, says: "That a succession of Iranian museum curators and administrators have worked to put together the collection and maintain it over decades is a testament to a fundamental respect for the arts. That this collection now serves as a foundation for greater collaboration between Iranian art institutions and those abroad is another indication of art's ability to create alternative contexts for mutual understanding and appreciation."
It is still to be announced which works from the Tehran museum's collection will be shown for three months in Berlin, but they could include ones by Picasso, Pollock, Francis Bacon and Monet, which were acquired in the 1970s. Opening the Tehran Museum of Contemporary Art in 1977 was a grand project close to the heart of the late Shah's wife, Farah Pahlavi Shahbanu. When hard-line conservatives gained power the works were kept in store. But in the past few years, many of the pieces have been shown in exhibitions in Tehran. It is considered the best collection of 20th-century American and European art outside the West.
While a few works have been lent in the past, this planned large-scale loan will be the first since the improvement of relations between Iran, Europe and the US after the nuclear deal was reached this summer.