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


  • Michael Rubin is a former Pentagon official whose major research areas are the Middle East, Turkey, Iran and diplomacy. Rubin instructs senior military officers deploying to the Middle East and Afghanistan on regional politics, and teaches classes regarding Iran, terrorism, and Arab politics on board deploying U.S. aircraft carriers. Rubin has lived in post-revolution Iran, Yemen, both pre- and post-war Iraq, and spent time with the Taliban before 9/11. His newest book, Dancing with the Devil: The Perils of Engagement examines a half century of U.S. diplomacy with rogue regimes and terrorist groups.


    Follow Michael Rubin on Twitter.


  • Phone: 202-862-5851
    Email: mrubin@aei.org
  • Assistant Info

    Name: Ahmad Majidyar
    Phone: 202-862-5845
    Email: ahmad.majidyar@aei.org

What's new on AEI

image Getting it right: US national security policy and al Qaeda since 2011
image Net neutrality rundown: What the NPRM means for you
image The Schuette decision
image Snatching failure from victory in Afghanistan
AEI on Facebook
Events Calendar
  • 21
    MON
  • 22
    TUE
  • 23
    WED
  • 24
    THU
  • 25
    FRI
Wednesday, April 23, 2014 | 12:00 p.m. – 1:30 p.m.
Graduation day: How dads’ involvement impacts higher education success

Join a diverse group of panelists — including sociologists, education experts, and students — for a discussion of how public policy and culture can help families lay a firmer foundation for their children’s educational success, and of how the effects of paternal involvement vary by socioeconomic background.

Thursday, April 24, 2014 | 12:00 p.m. – 1:30 p.m.
Getting it right: A better strategy to defeat al Qaeda

This event will coincide with the release of a new report by AEI’s Mary Habeck, which analyzes why current national security policy is failing to stop the advancement of al Qaeda and its affiliates and what the US can do to develop a successful strategy to defeat this enemy.

Event Registration is Closed
Friday, April 25, 2014 | 9:15 a.m. – 1:15 p.m.
Obamacare’s rocky start and uncertain future

During this event, experts with many different views on the ACA will offer their predictions for the future.   

Event Registration is Closed
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.