From the Blog


Persia has a rich tradition in the arts and literature, and it is a major part of the Persian cultural heritage that goes back thousands of years. But in modern day Iran, art is making somewhat of a resurgence especially for female artists. The current regime in Iran is relatively progressive and gives a wide leash to female artists who want to create new and engaging work. However, if an election happens and the current regime loses then things might well change.

Tehran is not particularly known for having a thriving and avant-garde art scene, especially featuring women, but times have changed, well for the moment.

The Role of Women in Tehran’s Art Scene

In other parts of the Middle East such as Saudi Arabia or Pakistan, women have had a relatively emancipated life in recent times. But in 1979 the revolution happened, and many emancipated women artists such as Monir Farmanfarmaian fled the country. In 2018, things are very different in Tehran and there are around five hundred galleries (some owned by women) who regularly show art pieces created by women.

The Cause of the Change

So why did the art scene in Tehran change so drastically? It was mostly due to the election of Hassan Rouhani as President of Iran. There became a new open feeling to the streets of Tehran, women were no longer persecuted for minor dress infringements against the hijab. Events such as concerts that were regularly banned, are now allowed to take place, and it is a time now when artists can produce work with a little more freedom, including women. There is now a more tolerant approach to women in the limelight and they are making the most of it.

Pushing the Boundaries

Many Iranian woman artists have been pushing the boundaries of modern art for decades, but these are mostly the women that have been in exile and working abroad. Even some nudity has appeared in their art which would be a jail offense back in Iran. Like most artists that have just found their liberation, many of the art pieces now being made are provocative and political. Some women are pushing just how far they can take their rebelliousness to get booted out of Iran to settle in America or Europe.

Current Exciting Artists

Some of the great artists shaking down trees right now in Iran are Behjat Farah Ossouli who is a talented miniature painter, and her work can often be seen in Tehran, her home city, at the Museum of Contemporary Art. One of the best known artists is the late Farideh Lashai, her best works are a mixture of both paintings and animated videos. Her series, I Come From the Land of Ideology creates a small white rabbit who is working through trying to decipher the opposing ideologies of Iran.

The biggest inspiration for her work were Rauschenberg, Rothko and Pollock, and it highlights just how advanced her thinking was. In part two of our blog to discover more about contemporary Persian woman artists we delve even deeper to unearth some fabulous recent art and the women who made it.