Art and sanctions

Reuters

Students from Tehran's Art University look at paintings by 19th-20th century French painter and sculptor Fernand Henri Leger at Tehran's Museum of Contemporary Art June 19, 2010.

Article Highlights

  • Selling antiques through Christie's might bring more reward than offering heirlooms in Tehran's makeshift weekend flea markets.

    Tweet This

  • A Western auction house on Kish would also allow Iranian authorities to raise hard currency.

    Tweet This

  • Iran's attempt to convince Christie's to open an office in Iran would, in its mind restore, Iran to its rightful place in the world's cultural landscape.

    Tweet This

Iranian culture is tremendously rich. Art museums dot central Tehran, prominent Iranian universities teach art, and Iranians have traditionally been fierce patrons and collectors of fine art. Decades of economic mismanagement coupled with sanctions have eroded the Iranian middle class. Iranian society today is increasingly divided into super wealthy and poor.

Against this backdrop, the Iranian approach toward Christie's Auction serves several purposes. Christie's has 32 offices and salesrooms across the world, but only two in the Middle East: in Tel Aviv, Israel, and Dubai, United Arab Emirates. The Iranian Ministry of Culture's attempt, however futile, to convince Christie's to open an office in Iran would, in its mind restore, Iran to its rightful place in the world's cultural landscape. While Kish Island might sound like a random location, the Iranian government has developed it as an outlet to the outside world, the only location in Iran where no visa is required and anyone is welcome, except Israelis. Many Iranians visit Kish for its duty-free shopping and, during the winter, for its beach resorts.

The Iranian initiative to entice Christie's to Kish might serve other purposes as well. As the Iranian economy contracts, some once middle or upper class Iranians are cash poor but have family heirlooms and art for which there might be an international market. Selling antiques through Christie's might bring more reward than offering heirlooms in Tehran's makeshift weekend flea markets.

Upon the success of the Islamic Revolution, the Foundation of the Oppressed and Dispossessed (Bonyad-e Mostazafan va Janbazan) seized the assets of many wealthy Iranians whom it deemed too close to the Shah. As Iran faces a cash crunch, and at a time when international interest in Iranian art is growing, a Western auction house on Kish would also allow Iranian authorities to raise hard currency and perhaps replenish foreign currency reserves depleted during the Ahmadinejad presidency.

Also Visit
AEIdeas Blog The American Magazine
About the Author

 

Michael
Rubin

What's new on AEI

Study: Piketty tax plan would boost equality by making rich less rich. But poor would be poorer, too
image Rep. McCaul’s cybersecurity information sharing center: If you build it, will they come?
image Halbig and its aftermath
image Culture of how Washington pays for medical care
AEI on Facebook
Events Calendar
  • 28
    MON
  • 29
    TUE
  • 30
    WED
  • 31
    THU
  • 01
    FRI
Tuesday, July 29, 2014 | 10:00 a.m. – 12:00 p.m.
Is Medicare's future secure? The 2014 Trustees Report

Please join AEI as the chief actuary for Medicare summarizes the report’s results, followed by a panel discussion of what those spending trends are likely to mean for seniors, taxpayers, the health industry, and federal policy.

Event Registration is Closed
Friday, August 01, 2014 | 10:30 a.m. – 12:00 p.m.
Watergate revisited: The reforms and the reality, 40 years later

Please join us as four of Washington’s most distinguished political observers will revisit the Watergate hearings and discuss reforms that followed.

No events scheduled this day.
No events scheduled this day.
No events scheduled this day.
No events scheduled this day.
No events scheduled this day.
No events scheduled this day.