Iran: We Will Put American Art Treasures on Display

I don't know whether the Metropolitan Museum in New York, or other museums, constantly talk about selling their work. I've heard in the media during the last three years about [our museum selling], and I'm not clear why that is. I believe this art belongs to mankind's art collection and is not to be sold by our specialists. We are supposed to keep these global treasures. We would really like to show the works of the greats here, like Picasso, Matisse and others. Still, we will lend some of these pieces to other museums in the world so that others may enjoy these achievements of humanity.

How is this collection maintained?

It is maintained in exact, scientific and first-rate conditions, much like the British Museum, or the Louvre, or the Metropolitan Museum, ensuring the proper maintenance of the pieces, paying close attention to their storage climate, and looking after them like dear life.

How do the people of Iran feel about the international collection?

Iranian people are all really interested in the works of esteemed and much appreciated American painters. We have a large collection of French sculptures by Rodin and others, which appear in our catalog. Over the past 30 years we have diligently safeguarded historic [art] treasures from Japan, China, Russia, US, and other countries. Today, Iranians follow the arts news and developments in the US, a country our people consider their friend. We hope that the two nations can see each other and exchange ideas and experiences through the window of arts.

Throughout the history, the Iranian people have loved and respected the arts of different cultures and other countries. If you go to the Louvre Museum, you will notice that entering cultural gate, you will have to pass through Iran's gates. I once said just as I feel close to [Iranian painter] Kamaleddin Behzad and his works, I feel close to Jackson Pollock and his works. We feel honored and special to be custodians of such important pieces of art by renowned artists from all over the world. We will put them on display at every chance.

There are certain sensitivities with subjects like nudity in art. How do you explain these issues to people unfamiliar with Iran?

Each museum has two different functions; individual and public. Individual is like when a medical student is in the anatomy room. Each painter should know the skeleton, muscle system, skin and anatomy in general. Our museum is not a place just to display the artwork, it is an academy, a college. Our museum is an art college and our youth come and use these images and sometimes copy them to have more visual knowledge.

It is true that our society is a special society with its own public behavior. But I cannot keep researchers or someone who is studying anatomy from viewing the efforts of Renoir on the body of a woman. For my students, I show them these works as though I were a doctor, for them to see all the muscles and organs and see the relation between them. So, for us there is no erotic meaning attached to it.

What do you wish the West and America in particular know about this museum, collection, or Iranian culture in general?

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