Unveiled: Tehran Museum of Contemporary Art Masterpieces Go Digital

The Tehran Museum of Contemporary Art (TMoCA) has gone digital. Considered one of the finest collections of Western modern art outside Europe and North America, the collection was kept hidden away for nearly four decades after the 1979 Islamic revolution. It was subsequently considered irrelevant by successive governments. Many of the works of art are now available to the public via the internet. Masterpieces by Picasso, Francis Bacon, Andy Warhol, Cy Twombly, Jackson Pollock and Mark Rothko hang seamlessly with Impressionist and Post-Impressionist works by Pissarro, Monet, and Renoir. 

The collection was compiled from 1966 by Farah Pahlavi, the former queen of Iran. The museum was commissioned and designed by Kamran Diba a prominent architect and a cousin of Pahlavi and inaugurated in 1977. The galleries were designed in such a way that light enters through windows that are reminiscent of the famed wind-catchers in the ancient city of Yazd. A portrait of Farah painted by Andy Warhol as well as a nude by Iranian painter and sculptor Bahman Mohassess were destroyed by the revolutionaries. The rest of the artworks were moved to the museum’s basement for safe keeping.

Work is now underway to showcase all of the artwork housed at the museum on its website. However, until this process is complete, there will be no permanent displays of the pieces due to what has been described as a lack of space as well as “cultural issues.” There have also been numerous reports in the Iranian media during the past year about some art being stolen and returned. Some pieces have also been deemed unsuitable for display and it is well known that a de Kooning ‘Woman’ series was sold off to a prominent art dealer.

A few months ago it was announced that an agreement with the German government had been struck to send 60 pieces from TMoCA 30 Western works and 30 Iranian works to Berlin for a three-month show this winter.

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