Tehran Municipality has announced that it is looking at “cleansing” its museums, and there is some concern among Iranian artists that the city is considering auctioning off the works of prominent sculptor Parviz Tanavoli.
Tehran City’s Cultural Organization, which supervises Iranian Art Museums, City Photo Gallery, Religious Artifacts of Imam, Dr. Sandouzi House Museum, Ali Shariati House Museum, Motahari House Museum and Chamran House Museums, has announced that under expert advice it is planning to cleanse these venues of works that do not comply with the spirit of the museums. A number of Parviz Tanavoli works are in the Imam Ali Museum in Tehran.
The City of Tehran bought 50 Tanavoli sculptures along with his home in two separate agreements under a plan aimed at building a museum in his name. The museum was built but it did not survive beyond five months. The sculptures were transferred to City storage spaces and the house was evacuated. Tanavoli filed a complaint and got his home back, but the City refused to return his sculptures.
On Monday March 16, 2013, a video posted on social network sites revealed that municipal officials had ransacked Parviz Tanavoli’s home and confiscated 11 of his sculptures, damaging some of them. The damaged works were “Iran’s Walls”, “Memorial for Farhad Kouhkan” and “Shirin & Farhad.” Sixty pieces were transferred to Imam Ali Museum.
The Cultural Organization of Tehran Municipality has announced that its plan to cleanse Imam Ali Museum will bring the collection more in line with the spirit of the museum.
The leadership of Imam Ali Museum changed in June, when Safa Fazeli took over from Amir Abdolhosseiny. There is a possibility that the museum’s 60 works by Tanavoli will be put up for sale.
Asghar Kafshchian Moghaddam, a visual arts expert, has been quoted by ISNA saying: “I think what the Imam Ali Museum managers mean by cleansing is just the elimination of Tanavoli’s works from the museum collection.”
The so-called cleaning of the museums is accompanied by the establishment of a council of experts; however, the authority of this council appears to be limited, leaving the final decision with the museum leadership.
Ebrahin Haghighi, a well-known Iranian designer and a member of this council of experts, said: “We, the members of the Cleansing Council, examine the pieces and categorize them. However we do not know what is in store for the pieces. We are only charged with the identification and separation of the pieces.”
In an open letter this past June, Parviz Tanavoli wrote to Iranian president Hassan Rohani, saying: “In accordance with civil, religious and customary laws, these pieces belong to me and must be returned to me as such. I will fight for them as long as I am alive and ask my children to keep after them until they are returned to their rightful owner.”