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History of Art Exhibitions in Iran

Art Exhibitions in Iran


The 19th century was the heyday of illustration in Iran. As the century progressed, the new Qajar dynasty sought to unify a country torn apart by decades of civil war, even as the outside world increasingly intervened in Iranian affairs. The European powers’ expansionist ambitions and technological advancements brought the Westerners to Iran, and somewhat later and less, they drew the Iranians to the West. Inspired and challenged by developments inside and outside their country, Iranian artists mastered new imaging technologies. They easily absorbed an unprecedented influx of visual material from abroad into their traditional art forms.

Among the creative and efficient artists of the Qajar era, there are people such as Abolhasan Ghafari Sani al-Mulk, Antoine Sorogin, Mubarak Mirza Ben Mahmoud, Mirza Aliqli Khavi, Mohammad Ismail, Mohammad Reza Al-Mami, and members of the Najaf Ali artists’ circle pointed out.

The first appearance of Iran in an exhibition in the world arena coincided with the holding of the first period of world exhibitions (London Exhibition of 1851). In Iran, with the efforts of Amir Kabir, the artisans prepared Iranian goods such as handicrafts such as carpets, tiles or pen cloths, and other products such as dry fruits for sale at the Iranian booth in London. This international presence of Iran is considered one of the most important exhibitions.

In 1931, the international exhibition of Iranian art was held by Arthur Pope, who left a great cognitive impact on Iranian art by holding an exhibition.

The Persian Family, Switzerland, Zurich, 1904–12. Chromolithograph (photochrome). Collection of Azita Bina and Elmar W. Seibel, TL41579.9. Photo: Courtesy Elmar Seibel.


In the period of Reza Khan, with the establishment of Tehran University and the Museum of Ancient Iran and other cultural activities such as the celebration of Ferdowsi’s solar millennium (1313) or the construction of Hafez’s tomb in Shiraz in 1316) as well as the holding of poetry reading sessions, the relative prosperity of theater and cinema also took place. had

One of the important and lasting events of this era, which was formed under the activities of the Iranian-Soviet Cultural Association and the Iranian Fine Arts Department, was holding an exhibition of the works of active and pioneer artists of visual and traditional arts, which we know as “1324 Fine Arts Exhibition”. In this event, the works of 125 artists, including painters, sculptors, and traditional artists, were placed on the walls of Shahpur Gholamreza Palace on the 15th of Bahman 1324.

A group of participants of Ali Karimi’s exhibition, probably Ali Emami, Mohsen Moghadam, Ismail Ashtiani, Hossein Behzad, unknown, standing Hoshang Sihun, Markar Qarabagian, Ali Mutaba (from the archive of Tandi’s publication).

Fine arts exhibition, 1324

The first fine arts exhibition of Iran, initiated by the Commission of Fine Arts of the Association of Cultural Relations between Iran and the Soviet Union, with the efforts of Maryam Firoz (Chairman) and Mr. Sayah (Vice-Chairman) and the serious help of Mr. Kalishian, representative of Farhang Vox and Makarov (Russian painter), on It was opened on Tuesday 16th of February 1324 in Shahpur Gholamreza Palace and was open until Saturday 10th of April 1325. The preparations for this event took almost three months. In the absence of a history of holding such events, many tasks were left to the members of the jury and artists; As a major part of the decoration of the hall was done under the supervision of Mr. Mati, with the position of internal management of the exhibition, and the effort of Mr. Vaziri Moghadam and Makarov was also very remarkable.

The works of old artists in two rooms were dedicated to introducing the productions of activists of the 13th century. In one room, some of the works of painters and painters of the Qajar period from the time of Fath Ali Shah, such as Agha Sadiq, Agha Anjaf, Sani-ul-Mulk Malik Al-Shaara Saba and Mirzababa Esfahani, which came from the collection of Mazda engineer Mr. Muir, Mr. Moghadam, Major General Firouz of the Saba family and others, are gathered in one room. . In the margin, there were also pieces such as notebooks, book covers, pieces, etc. The second room is dedicated to the works of Kamal al-Malek and was borrowed from collections such as Golestan Museum, Majlis and Haj Hossein Agha Malek collection.


The other part of this exhibition was presented under the title of works of contemporary artists in the following three sections

  1. A) The old style of miniature painting with the work of people like Hossein Behzad and Darwish
  2. b) European classical style, the best representatives were the students of Kamal al-Mulk such as Ashtiani, Waziri, Heydarian Sediqi and some young painters who either studied under these masters or studied art from other sources like the Petgar brothers.
  3. c) European modern style. The works of young modernists were displayed in this section.

Regardless of whether it had political intentions behind the scenes or not, this exhibition should be considered a project in the direction of modernization and modernization of Iranian culture and art, because it was practically the beginning of a series of cultural and artistic events that will shape the future vision. did First, the reception of the general public – who were experiencing such an event for the first time – was unique to this exhibition; So that maybe we don’t have an equivalent for it yet. This point was practically a sign of society’s thirst for these categories.

Second, the government honored the neglected category of art and gave credit to the artists, which on the one hand brought pleasure of the artists, and on the other hand, pointed out the government’s more attention to the category of art and artists and understanding its strategic values – especially women artists. These days, their presence in the heart of social events was somehow boastful – and this was the point that quickly made the government appreciate the art of putting awards and incentives such as “art badges” on its agenda.

Criticisms and reports by the thinkers of those days – such as Dr. Fatemeh Sayah, who was the first female university professor and high-ranking lecturer of literary criticism at Tehran University and was considered one of the founders of the Iran-Soviet Cultural Relations Association, and the Russian artist living in Iran R. R. Makarov – writing income should be considered the first attempts to write art criticism with modern knowledge in the field of visual arts in a modern way.

Hasan Ali Khan Waziri, who was a well-known name among painters, says about this exhibition: “Fine arts exhibition is a new door to the life of Iranian society; Because it is the first time that the fine arts of Iranians have been subjected to careful and study in a show, and this attention is visible in the first place for every viewer. After we traveled around a bit and looked carefully, the greatness of Kamal al-Mulk impressed us, his visible influence in a century and among a nation makes everyone praise and praise him uncontrollably, and this thought itself produces It is possible that the capital and the country have seen and had this greatness for a hundred years.


One of the important documents about this exhibition is a personal report named R. R. Makarov (musician and Anton Chekhov’s son-in-law) who came to visit and select this exhibition. He wrote an extensive report in No. 22 of the Iranian government newspaper, which was published on Sunday, March 26, 1324.

On February 4, 1946, an exhibition of Iranian painters organized by the Iran-Soviet Cultural Relations Association was opened in Shahpur Gholamreza Palace. This exhibition attracted the attention of all classes of Iranian society. It can be seen from the Majlis to a simple Iranian veiled woman. This interesting event attracted everyone’s attention. Every day, 2,500 to 3,500 people visit this exhibition, which was unprecedented in Tehran. In the bright and large halls of the palace, the works of Iranian masters and screen painting, miniatures, architecture, sculpture, and industrial arts were exhibited. 125 painters participated in this exhibition. In the exhibition, there are 730 works by masters, among them a special hall is dedicated to the works of Kamal al-Mulk – the founder of Painting on the Screen, whose paintings are truly the jewels of contemporary Iranian painting. This great master has had a profound effect on the further development of the country’s fine arts.


The painting part, Iranian miniatures, and calligraphy of the 18th and 19th centuries are very beautiful. The coloring and fit of the painting called “Khanem Matavos” from the collection of Major General Firoz is very attractive. The paintings, which are from the collections of Mr. Mazda Moghadam and Muir Al Mamalek, amaze and amaze people with their delicate work. The works of painters such as Malik Al-Shaara Saba, Ghaffari, Masakhr al-Maluk, Sani al-Maluk, etc., are exhibited here. The examples of beautiful calligraphy (calligraphy) from Mr. Mazda’s collection amaze everyone with the expertise he spent on them (taken from the article by Mohammad Hassan Hamedi in Tabal magazine).

The names of the artists who participated in the Fine Arts Exhibition of Iran and were honored to receive badges:

Mr. Makarov; 1st grade badge Thank you

Mr. Ismail Ashtiani; 1st degree badge of art

Mr. Hassan Ali Waziri; 1st grade badge

  1. Mr. Abolhasan Sediqi; 1st-degree badge of art

  Mr. Mohsen Foroghi; 1st degree badge of art

Mr. Mohsen Moghadam; 1st-degree badge of art

  Mr. Hossein Behzad Miniature; 1st degree badge of art

  Mr. Mirmasoor (Arzhengi); 2nd grade badge of art

Mr. Ali Karimi; 2nd grade badge of art

  Mr. Ali Mati; 2nd grade badge of art

  Mr. Mehdi Vishkaei; 2nd-grade badge of art

  Mr. Hossein Kazemi; 2nd grade badge of art

  Mr. Hoshang Sihun; Grade 2 badge

The art of Mr. Mohammad Ali Zawiya; 2nd grade badge of art

  Mr. Jafar Petgar; 2nd grade badge of art

  Mr. Ali Emami; 3rd grade badge of art

  Mr. Jamshid Amini; 3rd grade badge of art

  Mr. Frederick Thalberg; 3rd grade badge of art

  Mr. (Gholamhossein) Skandani; 3rd grade badge of art

  Mr. Ali Rokhsaz; 3rd grade badge of art

  Mr. Mohsen Sohaili; 3rd grade badge of art

  Mr. (Markar) Qarabagian; 3rd grade badge of art

  Mr. Masoud Modbar; 3rd grade badge of art

Mr. Hossein Altafi; 3rd grade badge of art

  Mr. Hamlet Hartounian; 3rd grade badge of art

Mr. Nasser Shahbazi; 3rd grade badge of art

  Mr . Hassan Bahri; 3rd grade badge of art

  Mr. Javad Hamidi; 3rd grade badge of art

  Mr. (Jalil) Ziapour; 3rd grade badge of art

Mrs. Ifat Al-Muluk Khajah Noori; the 3rd-grade badge of art

Ms. Shaukat Al-Maluk Shaghaghi; 3rd grade badge of art

Miss Malekzadeh; 3rd grade badge of art

Mr. Yousefi; 3rd grade badge of art


Twelve years later, in 1337, the first biennale of Tehran painting was held, and with all the other achievements of the 1324 exhibition, it continued. Every year, the government awards artists with an art badge. From the 1330s onwards, people like Ehsan Yarshater – who was a member of the Vox Association – criticized the works of art and introduced the artists of the world in important and influential publications, and the artistic activities of women became more colorful. Modern art grew significantly and artists continued to witness their dignity and social prestige. Finally, it is from the summation of these achievements that the Fine Arts Exhibition of 1324 should be considered a vanguard in the visual arts of Iran.

The exhibition of fine arts in Iran was not limited to one period and followed three other exhibitions in 1329, 1331, and 1332. From the second period of its holding, this event tried to play the role of a regular exhibition by selecting the late works of artists, and in the last two periods, it played the role of an annual event of Iranian visual arts with various trends.


The second exhibition of fine arts of Iran 1329

The second painting exhibition of the Association of Cultural Relations between Iran and the Soviet Union was held on Wednesday, 27 January 1329, by the vice president of the association, on behalf of Mr. Mansher al-Dawlah, who could not attend in person due to boredom, in the presence of a group of painters, artists, intellectuals and Cultural leaders of the country were inaugurated.

Holding this event in the community hall made the quantitative dimensions of this event not comparable to the first exhibition in terms of the number of artworks and the number of painters. However, the reporter of Payam No magazine evaluated the quality of the works as a sign of the undeniable progress of the art of painting in Iran. The main and significant difference between this exhibition and the first period was the selection of most of the works from the productions of a year before the exhibition; The behavior that you tried to create an annual show in the visual space of Iran. The range of works displayed in this event included the common schools of this era, from painting in the classical Iranian style to modern painting. However, the way of selecting and attracting works from this period in the modern art department was less than optimal due to many reasons. In this event, 18 painters, some young and some experienced, participated by presenting 80 paintings in different styles and schools. The desire to search for new ways of visualizing and choosing the subject was felt both in the work of the elderly experts and in the paintings of young novices in such a way that the viewer thought that what he saw was not yet complete and that the painter was searching and on his way. Some were facing the Kaaba and some were facing Turkestan. The reporter of Payam No magazine evaluated the quality of the works as a sign of the undeniable progress of the art of painting in Iran. The major and significant difference between this exhibition and the first period was the selection of most of the works from the productions of a year before the exhibition; The behavior that tried to create an annual show in the visual space of Iran included the range of works displayed in this event from the popular schools of this era, from painting in the classical Iranian style to modern painting.


The author of Payam No magazine considered Hossein Behzad to be a master with his work “Vienna Curtains Fall”, and Ali Mati, one of the famous painters of his era, with his painting “Portrait of a Woman in the style of Reza Abbasi” has a favorable understanding of the spirit of Iranian art. did, but also wrote that it would be nice if he stopped making faces; Assuming he is perfect in it, he would be a good photographer.

Among the works submitted to the exhibition, there were 33 portraits of people’s faces. Many painters had worked in photography, and the audience could not get an impression of the spirit and personality of the model by observing their work. However, some portraits were also approved by the critics. 28 paintings in this exhibition showed a view of Iran, and their format, like the portraits section, was evaluated as not having Iranian characteristics. Only the paintings of Soheili, who mastered his art, and Minasian, who tried to reflect the life of the Iranian people in his landscapes, and Javadipour’s work were considered exceptional cases in this section, and other works were more of a fantasy-like nature. The second exhibition of the Association of Cultural Relations between Iran and the Soviet Union ended on the 28th and 29th of Bahman, and according to newspaper statistics, more than three thousand people visited it.


The Third Exhibition of Fine Arts of Iran 1331

The third exhibition of fine arts of the Association of Cultural Relations between Iran and the Soviet Union was devoted to the display of works that were mostly created between the winter of 1933 and the winter of 1931. Mr. Esmail Ashtiani, Hossein Behzad, Mohsen Sohaili, Jafar Petgar, and Ali Mati put a lot of effort into establishing it.

This exhibition, compared to its second period, was judged superior in terms of quantity and quality. Among the advantages of judging the works, in this case, there was an effort to avoid accepting works that are copies of other people’s work or from photos, which was followed as much as possible by the jury. In this exhibition, 29 artists participated with 113 works, described His name is as follows:

  Seda Adamian, Babken Asiriyan Ismail, Ashtiani, Alexey Edik Aivazian, Feringis Ahadi, Ahmed Esfandiari, Grigory Ojaghian, Tigran Basil, Mrs. Kian Broumand, Hossein Behzad, Asghar Petgar, Jafar Petgar, Hossein Pozshi, Akbar Tajevidi, Mrs. Hekmat, Sarkis Zakarian [Zakarians ], Mohammad Ali Zawiya, Mehrabano Zand, Mohsen Sohaili, Shaukat al-Maluk Shaghaghi, Parveen Shams, Mikael Shahbazian, Ahmad Sabahi, Mehdi Taheri, Ali Mati, Sirak Malekanian, Avak Hayraptian and Alber Yek Hospian.

  The time gap between this event and the period before it was small so the exhibition is not much different from the previous event. However, the visitation to this show event was reported with an impressive improvement of six thousand people, which is twice the previous period.


The Fourth Exhibition of Fine Arts 1332

The fourth painting exhibition of the Association of Cultural Relations between Iran and the Soviet Union was opened on June 17, 1332, and ended on July 17.

At this event, 29 painters presented their works, which were: Abolfazl Ashtiani, Edik Ayvazian, Esfandiar Ahmadiyeh, Naser Owaisi, Hossein Behzad, Akbar Tajveidi, Hossein Javadani, Parichehar Hekmat, Mohammad Ali Dolatshahi, Jalal Rafi, Mohammad Ali Zawiya. Farid Ziyori, Bano, Sohaili, Mohsen Sohaili, Shauthe kat al-Maluk Shaghaghi, Mikael Shahbazian, Hoshang Sadeghpour, Farhang Fuladi, Abbas Katouzian, Masoud Karim, AlThird Exhibitionenny, Andre Govalevich Alexi, Ali Mati, Sirak Melkanian, Mostafa Najmi, Rubik Hayraptian and Albrik Hospian, the number of works in this exhibition increased slightly compared to the previous period, including 45 portraits, 34 landscapes and 18 perspective paintings, 10 still life genre paintings, 9 paintings re, related to social issues of the day,intond 4 paintings in the old style of painting. Among the present artists, 11 people were participating in a painting exhibition for the first time.


According to some newspapers, the fourth exhibition of the association had a special privilege, and that was the presence of many paintings that spoke of the continuous and daily efforts of the Iranian people, and the young painters had gone to the enchanted circle of portraits, perspectives, and painting, however, the paintings were full of defects. It was not without technicality that people like Ismail Ashtiani pointed out this point.

  The author of Payam No magazine wrote in the conclusion of this incident: “The fact that the young artists of our age reflect the age that is more eventful than all the previous ages and have grown to this degree is a source of pride and joy. It should be noted that this way, as we mentioned last year, was first opened by Ustad Hossein Behzad. By maintaining his style, he almost lost interest in the ancient themes of Iranian miniatures. He put aside the flower and nightingale and the atmospheric side and frankness and the cup and the lover and the sweetheart, which were more or less the subject of Fourth Exhibition miniature makers of the past and present, and drew the perspective of Abadan and the prosperous life of the owners of black gold as he understood. This act of someone who had been accustomed to certain styles and themes for decades was both brave and wise. Others followed the old master, and this shows that his act was not a random act and had a strong social foundation.

According to Sokhnar magazine, this event in its fourth period did not pay much attention to modernism, unlike the exhibition that was held in the same area at Mehrgan Club. Cultural associations of other countries in Iran continued to play an effective and memorable role despite the growth of specialized spaces.


The first art gallery in Iran

The first gallery in Iran was established by “Jazeh Tabatbai” with the cooperation of some of his friends. Jazeh Tabatabai (Tabatbai), an Iranian painter, sculptor, poet, and playwright, was born in 1309 in Tehran. Along with several contemporary artists, he is considered one of the pioneers of the Saqakhaneh school in Iran. A school that was formed in the early 40s.

One of the most important works of Jazah during his artistic career was the establishment of the first Iranian gallery. He established this gallery in 1334 under the name “New Art”, which was considered one of the important cultural centers of its time. Although “Apadana” and “Esthetic” galleries were active before, they were far from the real meaning and function of art galleries in the world.

New Art Gallery was the first Iranian gallery, which became one of the main hangouts for people of culture and art, and many artists and writers of that period visited there.




The formation of the first art biennials in Iran

The first Tehran Biennale was formed in 1337 due to the efforts of Iranian painter Marko Grigorian who visited the Venice Biennale. The first Tehran Biennale was held in Abaid Palace in the Golestan Palace complex, dedicated to paintings and sculptures. The Tehran Biennale continued until 1345, and in addition to introducing emerging artists, it was a bridge to participate in foreign biennales, especially the Venice Biennale, so that Iranian artists could work at the global and international level.

The Tehran Biennale was inactive for some time after the Islamic Revolution until 1370 when the first painting biennale was held in the Tehran Museum of Contemporary Arts. Until today, not only the biennial of painting has continued, but other biennials in the fields of sculpture, pottery, ceramics, etc. have been formed and started their activities.

Today, like other countries of the world, art galleries in Iran can be held for various reasons. Some galleries are formed to sell artworks, some exhibitions are to introduce the works of young and new artists, while others are held to show the works of well-known and prominent artists. Art exhibitions, based on their mission and nature in cultural-historical matters, sometimes include national and local issues. Therefore, many exhibitions have been curated and displayed in different parts of the world on the subject of Iranian art


To read more, refer to the following sources:


  • In Astana, a look at Iran’s fine arts exhibitions through the efforts of the Iranian-Soviet Association, Arman Khaltabari, Tabal magazine, number 1, 2019.
  • The vanguard of Iranian visual arts, Mohammad Hassan Hamedi, Tabal magazine, number 1, 2019.
  • Ghazanfari, Mehrnoosh, and Farhangpour, Yasman. (1401). The impact of museum artworks on promoting Islamic art in the Western world (case study: visitors to the Uffizi Gallery in 2021). Sociology of culture and art, 4(4), 85-99. SID.
  • Mousaei, Maitham, and Taherkhani, Sima. (2017). Employment, profitability, and added value of visual arts (case study: Tehran art galleries). Economic research and policies, 26(86), 235-257. SID.
  • Pakbaz, Roeen (2015) Encyclopaedia of Art, (first edition). Tehran: Nesharfarhang Maazer.


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