Building Bridges Through Art

July 1, 2017

by Mohammed Afkhami

On February 2nd 2017, the Agha Khan Museum opened Rebel, Jester, Mystic, Poet: Contemporary Persians drawing on works from my family collection of over 300 Iranian modern and contemporary artworks.  The show could not have been more timely, opening five days after President Trump’s controversial banning entry for citizens of seven predominantly Muslim countries, of which Iran being the largest The show comprises of 27 works from 23 Contemporary Iranian artists based both in Iran and in the diaspora. The selection has been put together by the respected Dr. Fereshteh Daftari, who has had a long and distinguished career as an internationally acclaimed curator.

  Having come from a family of collectors with my grandfather, Senator Mohammed Ali Massoudi and my mother, Maryam Massoudi having assembled a vast antiquity and Islamic Collection, art has been a constant in my surroundings and upbringing. My journey collecting Iranian art started over 12 years ago after an extended visit to Iran where I found myself increasingly drawn to Iran’s rich cultural heritage but in particular some of the very eclectic and diverse art works being produced by today’s artists. My initial focus was on traditional mediums, such as oil on canvas but I quickly found that I was collecting all forms of sculpture, photography, videography, tapestry, mirror work and sequence. Over the past few years, and as the collection has achieved a critical mass, I have become determined to exhibit the works in the public domain to paint a softer narrative of what Iran as a country represents and my hope is that by viewing the art, people regardless of background, will find common ground and a different perspective through art.

The forms of art exhibited in this show demonstrate the versatility of Iranian artists but also the complex themes that underpin Iranian art today. As the title of the show suggests, the Rebel, is portrayed by the likes of Rokni Haerizadeh whose work on paper has a very poignant political