Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 19 September 2019

Iran rift hits major UK art exhibition

Curators are braced for a boycott by the National Museum of Iran

The Victoria and Albert Museum. Alamy
The Victoria and Albert Museum. Alamy

Preparations for an exhibition showing 5,000 years of Iranian art at one of Britain’s leading museums have been hampered by the deepening diplomatic dispute between the UK and Iran.

The Victoria and Albert Museum in London has announced plans for the six-month exhibition Epic Iran to open in October 2020.

But curators face the prospect of a ban on loans from the National Museum of Iran, The Times reported.

“Every week it becomes more challenging but that means every week it's more important to do,” said director Tristram Hunt, a historian and former MP for the Labour Party.

“It seems to be more valuable as the sanctions, as the militaristic language [increases] that we think about broader narratives.”

An Iranian boycott would not cancel Epic Iran because the museum has one of the world’s largest collections of Iranian art, which would form the backbone of the exhibition.

The UK museum authorities declined to say what items they were seeking from Iran.

Mr Hunt said relations between the museum and Iranian curators were excellent but there was a growing risk of political interference.

“The landscape is not easy,” he said.

The continued detention of British charity worker Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, the seizure of a tanker carrying Iranian crude to Syria and the increase of Iran’s uranium enrichment programme have contributed to poor relations between the two countries.

The museum has billed the exhibition as an exploration of 5,000 years of art, design and culture that would “shine a light on one of the greatest historic civilisations, its journey into the 21st century and its monumental artistic achievements”.

The exhibition will display 300 pieces and would be the first major display of Iranian art and culture for 90 years, the museum said.

Ranging from sculpture to film, it will include objects from the museum’s archives and private collections.

Much of the art held by the museum was collected from the late 1870s and includes tilework, scrolls and the “exceptional” Ardabil carpet, the world’s oldest, made in north-west Iran in 1539-1540.

Updated: July 12, 2019 04:39 AM

SHARE

SHARE