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Tehran Museum of Contemporary Art Privatization Threatens to Split up the Art Collection

  • One of the previous exhibitions at TMoCA - Image via Aleksanderwillemse com
May 6, 2016
Nadia Herzog is a pen name of Nadja Bozovic, a freelance journalist whose interest goes from the questioning influence of different art movements, through the connection of arts and urban space, to the art activism for social change. She enjoys interviewing artists and reading all about art history, and she is truly passionate about visual arts, especially about photography, design, graphics, multimedia, and street art in all of its forms.

After the announcement earlier in April about the possibility of privatization of the Tehran Museum of Contemporary Art (TMoCA), which could lead to handing over the museum’s art collection to the private hands of the Roudaki Foundation, art lovers and citizens of Tehran disputed that it might lead to splitting up the 3,000 art pieces in the collection. Although the director of the museum and officials from the Iranian Ministry of Culture immediately denied allegations of privatization, Architectural News published a series of documents which appear to confirm such plans. And a whole month later, deep concern over the uncertain future of the TMoCA and its collection is still present.

Tehran Museum of Contemporary Art - Image via Appolo magazine com
Tehran Museum of Contemporary Art – Image via Appolo.magazine.com

The Museum is Supposedly a National Heritage

Protests against privatization of Tehran Museum of Contemporary Art were spontaneously organized in front of the museum’s building. Demonstrators gathered to oppose the handover of the institution to the Roudaki Foundation. They insisted on the fact that this museum is part of the country’s national heritage and should not be transferred to the private sector. That is exactly what art professionals around the world are saying on the subject matter as well. Knowing that TMoCA extraordinary art collection of Western art holds some of the world’s most valuable art pieces from artists such as Paul Gauguin, Wassily Kandinsky, Claude Monet, Vincent van Gogh, Diego Rivera, Andy Warhol, Joan Miró, Edvard Munch, Henry Moore, and Marcel Duchamp, among other artistic greats of the modern art era, fear over the possible breaking up of the collection’s entity is truly understandable.

One of the previous exhibitions of Andy Warhol's work at TMoCA - Image via Petapixel com
One of the previous exhibitions of Andy Warhol’s work at TMoCA – Image via Petapixel.com

Most Valuable Western Art Collection Outside Europe and North America

Inaugurated by Empress Farah Pahlavi in 1977, TMoCA is considered to have the most valuable collections of modern Western art pieces outside Europe and North America. The whole collection is valued at 2.5 billion US dollars. And besides the newest happenings, Tehran Museum of Contemporary Art is preparing for the big appearance at the Western world, as it is supposed to present some of the works within the exhibition in Berlin, Germany this fall. It is going to be the first TMoCA show in one of the western countries in the last 40 years. After the partial ending of Western sanctions after the nuclear deal, the reports over the museum are seen as part of the pull-in-pull-out strategy of the discrepant Iranian politicians.

The Interior of Tehran Museum of Contemporary Art - Image via Commons Wikimedia org
The Interior of Tehran Museum of Contemporary Art – Image via Commons.wikimedia.org

Uncertain Fate of the Art Collection

After the protests and a global media coverage of the issue, and after various reports and worried voices appeared throughout social media venues, the museum’s director had assured the Iranian public that the privatization plan had been dismissed for now, but still there has been no official statement on any plan for the transfer in the first place. And for all this time, no one from the Roudaki Foundation hasn’t said anything officially. This foundation is supposed to be a non-governmental organization, but in its Board of directors are sitting the Minister of Culture, the ministry’s deputy for Artistic Affairs, the head of National Planning and Management and two experts appointed by the minister. The Roudaki Foundation already supervises the Tehran Symphony Orchestra. But will it take over the TMoCA as well? If the allegations were true and if the fear over the collection’s unfortunate fate was solidly grounded only time will tell as officials are constantly giving the opposed information on the topic.

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Featured image: One of the previous exhibitions at TMoCA – Image via Aleksanderwillemse.com