Bringing together past and current generations of Iranian artists through works on paper
A small section in the middle of the lower ground floor of the British Museum has a beautiful red carpet laid out, and surrounding walls adorned with a selection of recent acquisitions of works on paper by Iranian artists from both inside and outside Iran. The works – collages, drawings, artist books, and photographs – fill three glass cases standing on both sides of the carpet. Of the two walls devoted to the exhibition, the entirety of one has been given over to a series of collages by the late modernist Bahman Mohassess. A notable work entitled Pour Munch is a nod to Edvard Munch’s 1944 The Scream, in which a grotesque, animal-like figure mimics the Norwegian original. Similar misshapen figures are present in the other works by Mohassess, complete with twisted and warped visages. His figures can be described as bestial, as they certainly do not appear human. A shark, for example, serves as an allusion to the late Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, who served as Iran’s president between 1989 and 1997 (and who was often likened to the sea creature – kuseh in Persian). To the right-hand side of Mohassess’ collages is the artist’s own portrait, taken by Ahmad Aali, often referred to as the father of fine art photography in Iran. The black-and-white image shows Mohassess seated in front of one of his mythical artworks, facing away from the camera. He looks pensive, and seems far more serious than the artworks the photograph has been placed beside.