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The Tehran Museum of Contemporary Art in Berlin: The Tehran Collection


From December 2016, the Nationalgalerie – Staatliche Museen zu Berlin will be giving visitors the chance to see artworks from the collection of the Tehran Museum of Contemporary Art (TMoCA), on display at Gemäldegalerie.

The collection is unique both in terms of its composition and history: not only does it boast one of the biggest collections of 20th century Western art to be found outside Europe and the United States, it also displays them alongside significant examples of Iranian art – particularly works created during the 1960s and 1970s.

With the assistance of the German Foreign Office, the Stiftung Preussischer Kulturbesitz has been granted the right by the TMoCA to exhibit its collection of artworks. The President of the Stiftung Preußischer Kulturbesitz, Hermann Parzinger, described the forthcoming exhibition both as a highlight of the Berlin exhibition calendar and as a "significant ges-ture of cultural diplomacy". It was an example, he said, of art's civilizing power and its ability to unite peoples of different cultures and nationalities. Parzinger also expressed hopes that the exhibition and the associated programme of events by the Goethe-Institut would make a positive contribution towards strengthening civil society in Iran.

The collection was put together by the then newly established TMoCA, and officially opened in 1977 by the second Shah of the Pahlavi dynasty. Since the Islamic Revolution of 1979, the collection's works of Western art have only been on very limited display at the museum itself, with just a few individual works exhibited abroad. Now for the first time, they can be seen as a collection outside Iran. The Nationalgalerie of the Staatliche Museen zu Berlin is the first international institution to show the collection to the public and provide an overview of its highlights.

"To present this unique exhibition at the Gemäldegalerie is a tremendously exciting and rewarding opportunity," said Michael Eissenhauer, General Director of the Staatliche Museen zu Berlin and Director of the Gemäldegalerie. "There can hardly be a more fitting location for this cross-cultural project than the Kulturforum, where twentieth century modern art is equally at home as European art history."

The exhibition is to feature over sixty outstanding works of US and European art, including works by Jackson Pollock, Mark Rothko, and Francis Bacon, alongside works by protagonists from Iranian modern art, such as Faramarz Pilaram, Mohsen Vaziri Moghadam, Behjat Sadr, and many others. The cultural dialogue at the core of this collection should remain a visible feature of the exhibition in Berlin. Thus visitors in Germany will be able to enjoy the rare opportunity of learning more about important examples of Iranian art from the second half of the twentieth century. Following this exhibition, the collection will be shown in Rome at the MAXXI – Museo nazionale delle arti del XXI secolo.

The Goethe-Institut is marking the exhibition with an associated programme of events, organized in close cooperation with the Berlinale, the CTM Festival, the Freie Universität Berlin, and other partners. The aim is to provide the TMoCA's works with a cultural and historical context, to showcase a little-known side of Iran's contemporary arts scene, and to create space for an ongoing cultural partnership.

The programme features works from the visual arts, film, music, literature, theatre, and philosophy, illustrating the perspectives and boundaries that shape cultural creativity in Iran. Visits to the homes of Iranian families will give Teheran-based writers and German participants the opportunity to engage in dialogue. A programme of philosophical discussions will investigate what it means to be "modern" in Western and Iranian discourse. A series of concerts will weave the traditional sounds of the santoor, setar, and daf into works exemplifying Iran's contemporary electronic music scene.

The Secretary-General of the Goethe-Institut, Johannes Ebert, has stated: "The programme of events will provide some contemporary context for the Teheran collection, while keeping abreast of what's happening in Iranian cultural life today. The Goethe-Institut's work outside Germany fosters in depth cultural encounters, a spirit of open dialogue, and a variety of forms of artistic expression, which in turn lend audiences in Berlin new insights into this complex and multifaceted country."

The Goethe-Institut is the Federal Republic of Germany's cultural institution, which is active throughout the world. Comprising 159 institutes in 98 different countries, it supports the study of the German language abroad, maintains international cultural partnerships, while helping to promote a contemporary image of Germany. By working together with partner institutions at numerous additional locations, the Goethe-Institut is able to provide over 1000 access points throughout the world. You can find out more by visiting