• 22 Feb 2018

At the end of the month of January 2016, the Iranian presidential visit of Hassan Rohani in France was marked by the signature of significant contracts with Airbus. However, the negotiations did not limit to commercial agreements. Indeed, an important cultural aspect has been acknowledged as well. What are its consequences in 2018?

This is an early 19th century earthenware work by Owji from the Iranian Qajar dynasty.

Qajar Dynasty, Iran, first half of the 19th century © Owji

A historic and yet unnoticed signature

Concurrently to the commercial deals between France and Iran signed at the beginning of 2016, another historic agreement was under discussion. In fact, a “convention-cadre” running for the next four years was also signed and conveyed significant cultural developments. Indeed, the convention includes, on top of the upcoming exhibitions programmed in France and Iran, scientists exchange programs as well as the resumption of sites excavations. The signature of the agreement is also a sign of the resumption of the relations between the Louvre and Iran, which have been rather unstable since the Islamic revolution in 1979. This could have occurred way earlier since an agreement was signed in 2004. Nevertheless, President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and the international tensions because of the Iranian nuclear case resulted in the interruption of the relations. The deal of January 28th 2016 was signed by the Vice President of Iran’s cultural heritage and tourism organization Namvar Motlagh, and the Jean-Luc Martinez, the director of the Louvre

A large scale exhibition in Tehran

The Louvre museum starts its new relationship to Iran with an exceptional exhibition at the National Museum of Iran in Tehran from March 5th to June 3rd 2018. It will focus on the Qajar dynasty and curated by Yannick Lintz, Director of the Department of Islamic Art of the Louvre museum in Paris. This is an ambitious and politically tricky project because, like the Director, “such a dynasty which ruled [Iran] between the end of the 19th century and the first decades of the 20th century, was modern and liked to live with its time, known for its not so religious behavior and yet very open to a life oriented towards modernity, luxury, photography, cinema etc. It is a dynasty that was hated by the Iranian revolutionaries”. However, the exhibition proposal was taken enthusiastically by Iranians which could mean a potential openness. With over 50 Greek, Roman and Persian artifacts, including some from the Eugène Delacroix museum in Paris, the “The Louvre in Tehran is the first large-scale exhibition by a major Western museum in Iran and an outstanding cultural and diplomatic event for both countries,” stated the museum.

This Iranian shield is part of the Qajar dynasty which ruled Iran from 1796 to 1925.

Shield, Qajar dynasty, Iran (1796-1925)

An enhanced cultural cooperation

The French-Iranian exhibition, sponsored by the Renault Group and the Total Foundation, is part of extended cultural cooperation agreements. Indeed, the new deal includes common actions until 2019 such as exhibition programs promoting both cultures. As a result, the Louvre-Lens will organize in France the exhibition “The Rose Empire: Masterpieces of Persian Art from the 19th century” from March 28th to July 22nd 2018. The exhibition will shine a new light on “the sumptuous Art of the dazzling Qajar dynasty which ruled Iran from 1786 to 1925” said the organizers. It is a sign of the resumption of the cultural dialogue after 2011 when the Iranian government cut ties with the Louvre. Meanwhile, the Louvre in Abu Dhabi promotes the history of the Parisian museum. Over 150 Artworks were selected to tell the story of the foundation of the museum in the United Arab Emirates.

This photograph taken by Mohamed Somji offers a view on Louvre Abu Dhabi's exterior. The building was designed by French architect Jean Nouvel.

Louvre Abu Dhabi’s exterior © Louvre Abu Dhabi, Photography: Mohamed Somji


Read our article about the theft of one of the first Chinese Emperor’s terracotta warriors thumb at the Franklin Institute of Philadelphia here.

Sources: The Art Newspapers, RFI, and the Louvre-Lens