Tehran prepares to show the world Shah’s secret Picassos

A Dutch curator has been invited by Iran to conduct what he calls “contemporary archaeology”, cataloguing its huge collection of modern art, including dozens of works by Picasso.

The Tehran Museum of Contemporary Art is planning a big exhibition next year to showcase pieces held in its vaults as well as works by Iranian and foreign artists. Its intended scale is a sign of Iran’s growing acceptance of and appetite for modern art, despite its conservative clerical leadership.

Farah Pahlavi, the wife of the former shah, was an avid collector of modern art until he was overthrown in 1979. She commissioned the building of the Museum of Contemporary Art, which opened in 1977, as protests against her husband’s rule began to gather steam.

After the revolution and for safety during the Iran-Iraq war in the Eighties, much of the collection was moved into the vaults, and many of its Picassos, Rothkos and Francis Bacons have been seen only occasionally since.

The official view of modern art as decadent was lifted under the reformist President Khatami in 1999, after which there were several smaller exhibitions.

Mattijs Visser, a Dutch architect and curator, is now helping prepare a major exhibition, to open in February, called Portrait, Still-life, Landscape. It is due to feature between 400 and 500 works from the 3,000-strong collection.

Art remains a sensitive topic in Iran, although even conservative parts of the Islamic world have generally abandoned traditional opposition to representation of the human form, particularly since the arrival of television.

Mr Visser told The Art Newspaper that he would not display Renoir’s 1907 Gabrielle with an Open Blouse, which has previously been banned from view, or a male nude by Francis Bacon.

He said that the aim was not to focus on “big names”, and denied suggestions that the Picassos and other modern works he was cataloguing were “lost paintings” being brought to light for the first time since the revolution.

“No work by Picasso, nor any other artist, has ever been ‘forgotten’ in the museum, but regularly displayed in different expositions in the museum, although this has not been noticed by curators, press and specialists outside Iran,” he told The Times. However he said that while the collection’s Picassos included a sculpture, two oil paintings, one tapestry and more than 30 prints, only three works were catalogued.

The international art and cultural world has tried to maintain links with Iran both before the signing of the 2015 nuclear deal and since.

Hartwig Fischer, the director of the British Museum, visited Tehran in December after the museum’s milestone 2010 loan of the Cyrus Cylinder, a 2,500-year-old Persian treasure. The loan was the first time in 40 years the cylinder had been in Iran. Mr Fischer was reported to have discussed reciprocal loans from Iran to the museum for its upcoming Assyrian exhibition.


Article by The Times



Refugees International 39th Anniversary Dinner, Washington D.C.

Her Majesty Shahbanou Farah Pahlavi, Her Majesty Queen Noor of Jordan,
Mrs. Annie Totah, & Senator Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota at 
 Refugees International 39th Anniversary Dinner, Washington D.C. April 24, 2018

The Phillips Collection Annual Gala, Washington

Her Majesty Farah Pahlavi at the Phillips Collection Annual Gala, Washington, with Mr. Dani Levinas, Chairman of the Board of Trustees for The Phillips Collection, and Mrs. Annie Totah.

Her Majesty Farah Pahlavi with Lobbyist and fundraiser Mr. Tony Podesta
at the Philips Collection Gala, Washington D.C., 2018


Her Majesty Farah Pahlavi, Mrs. Annie Totah and Chairman of the board of trustees
of the Phillips Collection 
Mr. Dani Levinas,  2018 Phillips Collection Gala.

Ensemble-in-Residence at the Washington National Cathedral

On Saturday, April 28, 2018, Her Majesty Farah Pahlavi attended the Gala concert and dinner celebrating PostClassical Ensemble’s first year as Ensemble-in-Residence at the Washington National Cathedral. For the event, the cathedral’s huge nave was turned into a banquet room alongside a concert hall. The featured soloist was pipa virtuoso Min Xiao-Fen.

Her Majesty Farah with Mrs. Annie Totah, Honorary Chairperson for the First Annual Post Classical Ensemble Gala


First Ever Release of 1978 Farah Choir Recording

Payvand.com - "After 40 years, a never-before-heard recording of the Farah Choir, which was supported by the former queen of Persia Farah Diba (Pahlavi), has been released in Europe. The release of the recording, which contains seven Persian folk songs, was planned for 1978, but was halted due to the Islamic Revolution".

"In 1973, Farah Pahlavi Charity Foundation commissioned Evlin Baghcheban to establish a conservatory of music in Tehran for orphan children. In this school, Ms. Baghcheban organized a choral group called the Farah Choir," musician and documentary maker Pejman Akbarzadeh stated. "In the years before the fall of the monarchy Farah Choir gave regular concerts throughout the country."

For its debut album, in 1978, Farah Choir in Vienna recorded seven folk songs from the provinces of Bakhtari, Lorestan, Mazandaran, and Pars. The songs were arranged by Ruben (Rubik) Gregorian and Samin Baghcheban especially for the choir. "By the time the recording was finished in Austria, Persia was in turmoil with the revolution that brought Islamists to power, and all musical activity, including the Farah Conservatory and its choir, was shut down," Pejman Akbarzadeh added.

The recording in Vienna was neglected until the summer of 2010, when Evlin Baghcheban, just months before her death, passed on the materials to Pejman Akbarzadeh who was working to preserve the Baghchebans' musical heritage. The old recordings, under his supervision, has been restored and released in the Netherlands.


 Available on Amazon


Recently in an interview, Queen Farah said, "I am delighted that the recording still exists. We created this choir to mentally support the orphan children, but within few years, following the efforts of Evlin Baghcheban, it became a professional choral group which was dispatched to Austria for recording projects as well."

The Persian Dutch Network is distributing the album internationally. The 2018 production is funded by the Stratham Group and Kayhan London. The CD is accompanied by a bilingual booklet which contains historical information on Persian choral music and rare photos of the Farah Choir.



VIDEO: A performance by Farah Choir in 1978




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