TEHRAN- It’s no secret that Iran has a rich artistic heritage. Renowned for its traditional crafts such as calligraphy, mirror work, miniature painting and carpet making, its art falls nothing short of the above. This history forms the backdrop to the contemporary arts and culture scene in Tehran, a bustling, metropolitan hub for the arts in the region. Galleries and cultural centres are dotted all over the city from big to small, located everywhere from in the parks to street corners. Here is a compilation of some of the city’s best galleries and cultural centres:

Interior view of TMoCA (sothebys.com)

One of  the largest galleries and museums in Iran, the Tehran Museum of Contemporary Art is a must-see for anybody in the city interested in the fine arts. Inaugurated by Farah Pahlavi in 1977, TMoCA houses the most valuable collection of Western modern art outside of Europe and North America, comprising of work from artists such as Van Gogh, Monet, Kandinsky and Degas, along with other works from Iranian and Arab artists as part of its permanent collection. Many of these works spend the majority of the year in storage, only shown for weeks at a time, however works from Iranian masters like Parviz Tanavoli, Sohrab Sepehri and Bahman Mohasses are on display throughout the year.

Note: The museum is currently going through major refurbishment and is closed until further notice.

Iranian Artists Forum building

More than just an art gallery, the Iranian Artists Forum (also known as Artists House), is a complex located in Artists Park which houses several exhibition centres, a theatre for performing arts and a cinema.

Interior of Seyhoun Gallery

Seyhoun Gallery was founded in 1966 in Tehran by painter Massoumeh Noushin, and works to promote leading figures in contemporary art in Iran both in the country and abroad. The gallery is small but beautiful, and is said to be the first gallery designed after Western galleries in the country. In 2004 Noushin’s daughter also opened a branch of the gallery in Los Angeles.

Monir Museum:

Interior of Monir Museum

A recently opened hidden gem, the Monir Museum located in Negarestan gardens is dedicated to showing works by Monir Shahourdy Farmanfarmaian. Opened in December 2015, it is the very first museum dedicated to a female artist in the country. Farmanfarmaian is best known for her stunning mirror mosaic works, which incorporate traditional reverse glass painting with principles of Islamic geometry. Her work is internationally renowned, and has been acquired by some of the most prominent galleries and museums around the world including the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Tate Modern and the Victoria and Albert Museum.

Nabshi Center (www.nabshi.center)

The newly established Nabshi Center describe themselves as a dynamic hub for the visual arts in the city. The space is beautiful, centering itself at the intersection of art, architecture and design. Nabshi facilitates workshops, artist talks and film screenings as well as holding exhibitions on the visual arts. The centre is divided into three distinct sections, Panahgah – an underground shelter in the courtyard of the building used for protection during wartime, is a space for silence and observation. The main part of the building, Pellekan is a place for encounter and observation with its extraordinary natural light. And finally Pastoo, a corner dedicated to displaying and selling special art products such as rare books and limited edition reproduction posters amongst other items, it is also a place for reading and observation.

Mohsen Gallery (from gallery social media pages)

One of the leading contemporary art galleries in Iran, Mohsen gallery was founded by Ehsan Rasoulof in 2010, in memory of Mohsen Rasoulof, the young photographer and illustrator who tragically died in a plane crash. The gallery represent an international group of artists from diverse backgrounds and mediums including painting, sculpture, photography, video and performance art.

Read more from Sahar Esfendiari.
All images courtesy of artmejournalist Sahar Esfandiari except where indicated.


Sahar Esfandiari
Sahar Esfandiari

Sahar Esfandiari is a British-Iranian journalist writing on arts and culture from the Middle East and its diaspora. She holds a masters degree from SOAS, University of London and has perviously reported from Iran and Jordan. Instagram and Twitter @saharesfandiari

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