Photo: A V&A employee looks at colour images projected onto casts on loan from the British Museum, based on originals from the Palace of Darius, on display at Epic Iran, an exhibition soon to open at the V&A in London, Britain, May 25, 2021. REUTERS/Peter Nicholls
25 May 2021 | Hanna Rantala and Marie-Louise Gumuchian | Reuters
From ancient sculptures to contemporary photographs, objects spanning 5,000 years of Iranian art, culture and design go on display at London’s Victoria & Albert (V&A) museum this week in the first such major exhibition in Britain in 90 years.
“Epic Iran”, which opens to the public on Saturday, features more than 300 items from ancient, Islamic and contemporary Iran, including manuscripts, ceramics, carpets, textiles as well as photos, the museum said.
The exhibition is made up of 10 sections, including “The Persian Empire”, spanning the Achaemenid period, “Change of Faith”, which focuses on the role of Islam in Iranian culture and “Literary Excellence” looking at Persian poetry.
“It’s only quite recently that people are recognising that Iran has got this wonderful, rich artistic tradition, wonderful cultural heritage stretching back many, many, many years,” co-curator John Curtis told Reuters.
Artefacts on show, either collected over time by the museum or on loan, include ancient relics such as the Cyrus Cylinder and Lion Rhyton as well as more contemporary items like Shirin Aliabadi’s photograph of a woman blowing bubblegum.
“Obviously it’s been a very difficult time to put together an exhibition … it hasn’t been possible to bring objects from Iran,” Curtis said, referring to the COVID-19 pandemic and sanctions reimposed on Iran after former U.S. President Donald Trump exited a 2015 nuclear deal in 2018.
“We have had to source objects from other places and I think we’ve been very successful in doing that … what you see here gives everybody a rounded picture of the great civilisations of Iran.”
Opening in May 2021, Epic Iran will explore 5,000 years of Iranian art, design and culture, bringing together more than 300 objects from ancient, Islamic and contemporary Iran. It will be the UK’s first major exhibition in 90 years to present an overarching narrative of Iran from 3000 BC to the present day. Epic Iran is organised by the V&A with the Iran Heritage Foundation in association with The Sarikhani Collection.
Iran was home to one of the great historic civilisations, yet its monumental artistic achievements remain unknown to many. Epic Iran will explore this civilisation and the country’s journey into the 21st century, from the earliest known writing – signalling the beginning of history in Iran – through to the 1979 Revolution and beyond.
Ranging from sculpture, ceramics and carpets, to textiles, photography and film, works will reflect the country’s vibrant historic culture, architectural splendours, the abundance of myth, poetry and tradition that have been central to Iranian identity for millennia, and the evolving, self-renewing culture evident today. From the Cyrus Cylinder and intricate illuminated manuscripts of the Shahnameh, to ten-metre-long paintings of Isfahan tilework, Shirin Neshat’s powerful two-screen video installation Turbulent, and Shirin Aliabadi’s striking photograph of a young woman blowing bubblegum, the exhibition will offer a fresh perspective on a country that is so often seen through a different lens in the news.