The Tehran Auction, conceived in June 2012, is described by the organizers as a national endeavor to fulfill the increasing interest in modern and contemporary Iranian art and to facilitate the acquisition of the best quality works in the most reliable way possible in a pleasant and secure atmosphere.
But perhaps six years ago, few would have predicted that the Auction would live to see its tenth edition, and not only that, but to have grossed over 150 trillion rials by having sold a total of 843 artworks in its previous runs. Counting the 10th edition in, 957 works by 313 artists – 242 of whom living – have so far gone under the hammer at this highly anticipated event, with female artists taking up 9 percent share of the whole proceeds, and younger artists having a total share of 5 percent – a trend which has been on the rise with each passing edition.
On Friday, January 11, Parsian Azadi Hotel in northern part of the capital played host to the 10th Tehran Auction – a three-hour event during which 114 contemporary artworks by 105 Iranian artists went under the hammer, grossing 344,030,000,000 rials ($8,191,904*), which shows an increase by more than twice compared to last year’s total proceeds.
All 114 works were sold, at times above their estimated price, and there were nine works in total which were hammered at over 1 billion rials. To be able to sell all of the presented artworks at an auction is a feat that many auctions around the world usually cannot pull off.
The bidding process went fast, prices rose from tens of millions to hundreds of millions to billions rapidly, and the pleasant surprise on the face of the auctioneer – famous Iranian actor Hossein Pakdel – at the smooth progressing did not go amiss. After all, with the plunge the national currency rial has taken to records low in the past few months, having lost almost half of its value against the dollar, one was expecting a less enthusiastic reception at this year’s Auction compared to the previous editions. Such was not the case.
The highest bid of the 10th Tehran Auction was placed on an untitled work by a 96-year-old woman artist, Monir Farmanfarmaian: a 90×180 cm mirror mosaic, reverse-glass painting and plaster on wood, created in 2018, which was sold at a hammer price of 40 billion rials (952,381 USD). Farmanfarmaian (born 1922), hailed as one of the most prominent Iranian artists of the contemporary period, has taken part at five editions of the Tehran Auction with 10 artworks, which generated a total proceeds of over 47 billion rials for the buyers and sellers.
Following Farmanfarmaian’s record at last night’s auction is an oil on canvas calligraphy/painting titled ‘PI+ROUZ+G’ by Hossein Zenderoudi (b. 1937), which was sold at a hammer price of 35.5 billion rials (845,239 USD).
Now living in Paris and New York, Zenderoudi is an Iranian painter, calligrapher and sculptor, known as a pioneer of Iranian modern art and as one of the earliest artists to incorporate Arabic calligraphy elements into his artwork. His painting titled, ‘Tchaar Bagh’ was sold at Christie's international auction in Dubai for $1.6 million in 2008.
Another mirror mosaic and plaster on wood creation by Farmanfarmaian also managed to hit the billion bar; an untitled work created in 2009, which was hammered at 29 billion rials (960,477 USD).
The next highly-priced work was a bronze sculpture titled ‘Birds’ by the late Iranian painter, sculptor, translator, and theater director Bahman Mohassess (1930-2010). Executed in 1971 and property from a prominent collection, ‘Birds’ was sold at 26.5 billion rials (630,953 USD). The same work had been presented to the Bonham’s Auction in London in Oct. 2010.
‘Ya Abolfazl’ by Farhad Moshiri (b. 1963) was sold at 16 billion rials (380,953 USD), ‘Chaos’ by Koorosh Shishegaran (b. 1945) was hammered at 11.9 billion rials (283,334 USD), ‘Black Farsi on White’ – an oil on canvas painting by Farhad Moshiri (b. 1963) was sold at 11 billion rials (261,905 USD), an untitled metal sculpture made by Jazeh Tabatabai (1930-2008) in mid 1960s was hammered at 10 billion rials (238,096 USD), and finally ‘Self-Portrait as a Child’ by 63-year-old NYC-based Iranian-American artist Y.Z. Kami (Kamran Youssefzadeh) was sold at 10 billion rials (238,096 USD).
This year’s Auction introduced as many as 36 artists to Iran’s art market for the first time. Among the works that went under the hammer were three photographs, as well: ‘Prayers’ by Jamshid Bairami (b. 1961) sold at 380 million rials (9,048 USD), ‘Third of Khordad 61-Khorramshahr’ by Mohammad Farnood (b. 1957), photographed in 1982 and sold at 700 million rials (16,667 USD), and ‘Khorramshahr’s Conquest’ by Saeed Sadeghi (b. 1953), which was sold at 750 million rials (17,858 USD).
Despite the current uncertain atmosphere permeating the country’s economy and the devaluation of the national currency, the 10th Tehran Auction did not lose any of its previous glamour. The event, which opened by “Understanding beauty is a beautiful understanding”, brought together many artists and art collectors in a bid to support the domestic art market as a key basis for the international market.