The fight to save Iran’s oldest art gallery
16 Dec 10

Iran’s oldest gallery of contemporary art is under threat of closure. Tehran’s Seyhoun Gallery opened its doors in 1966, showcasing, launching and establishing many of Iran’s prominent 20th-century artists. Founded by the painter Massoumeh Seyhoun, the gallery fast became the hub for Iranian and international artists, exhibiting and hosting Andy Warhol in 1976.

During the 1979 revolution Seyhoun was herself imprisoned for one year for her display of “foreign extravaganza”, but re-opened the gallery upon her release, in spite of the significant change in social, political and economic climate, and continued, thereon promoting Iranian artists only.

Sohrab Sepehri, Faramarz Pilaram, Massoud Arabshahi, calligraphers Reza Mafi and (in its abstract form) Hossein Zenderoudi all exhibited at Seyhoun Gallery on Vozara Street in northern Tehran before becoming widely acclaimed outside Iran. In October this year sales of Sepehri’s work secured Sotheby’s a record auction. His Untitled (From the tree trunk series) painting sold for £409,250 more than double the pre-sale low estimate of £200,000.

After land costs soared for the Seyhoun Gallery spot following Seyhoun’s death earlier this year, plans to open a restaurant in its place have been exposed, causing uproar among Iran’s artist community who protested outside the gallery calling for the preservation of this historical site. “The footsteps of Iranian artists from Sohrab Sepeheri to Mokarameh Ghanbari can be heard though the walls of this gallery, and the demolition of this gallery means the demolition of the national and artistic identity of this country,” said Ahmad Nasrollahi, one of the artists. Maryam Seyhoun, the founder’s daughter and leading architect and artist (whose work was exhibited in a group exhibition with Picasso and Dali in Massachusetts in 1972) Houshang Seyhoun, argues that it is the gallery as a landmark that has in fact created the monetary value of the site, adding “This gallery belongs to all the people of Iran and should be preserved as a historical site”.

To sign the petition to save the Seyhoun Gallery click here