After Forty Years in Storage, Works from Tehran MoCA to Tour Berlin and Rome

The Tehran Museum of Contemporary Art’s collection, considered one of the most important collections of Western modern and contemporary artworks outside of Europe and the United States, will leave Iran for the first time since the works were consigned to storage forty years ago.

Thirty works by artists including Paul Gauguin, Pablo Picasso, Max Ernst, Wassily Kandinsky, Jackson Pollock, Mark Rothko, and Francis Bacon will be part of the touring exhibition “The Unveiled Collection. The Masterpieces from the Tehran Museum of Contemporary Art,” which will travel to the Gemäldegalerie in Berlin and then to Italy’s MAXXI. They will be exhibited alongside thirty works by prominent twentieth-century Iranian artists, including Faramarz Pilaram, Mohsen Vaziri Moghadam, and Behjat Sadr.

The project was initiated by Giovanna Melandri, president of the Fondazione MAXXI. Negotiations with Tehran MoCA lasted more than a year. Melandri said, “The TMoCA collection has an enormous symbolic and cultural value and its journey to Europe and Italy is tangible evidence of the new and constructive diplomatic and cultural relations between Italy and Iran. We have pieced together a grandiose operation of cultural diplomacy: art can aid dialogue between people, build bridges, and encourage a climate of freedom and openness.”

Hermann Parzinger, the president of the Berlin-based Prussian Cultural Heritage Foundation, described the exhibition as an example of art’s civilizing power and its ability to unite people of different cultures and nationalities.

On October 21, MAXXI will host a press conference at which two of the works included in the exhibition, No. 2 (Yellow Center), 1954, by Mark Rothko, and Scratches on the Earth, 1963, a sand painting by Mohsen Vaziri Moghadam, will be on display––the paintings will remain up until November 20 as a preview. Vaziri Moghadam, who has lived in Italy for more than fifty years, will attend the conference with representatives from the three institutions.

The collection was assembled in the 1970s by Farah Diba, the wife of Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, for the Museum of Contemporary Art in Tehran, which was founded in 1977. Two years later, the Shah was overthrown in the Iranian Revolution. Due to the anti-Western climate that characterized the years of the revolution, museum officials “packed up” the collection and stored it in the museum’s basement vault for safekeeping.

The exhibition will be on view at Gemäldegalerie in Berlin from December 4, 2016, to February 26, 2017, and at MAXXI in Rome from March 31 to August 27, 2017.