A Taste of ‘Big Satan’ on Display in Iran
Old and busted: War with Tehran
New hotness: Warhol in Tehran
Iranian hardliners, now back at the helm of the country, may regularly rail against the poisoning of Islamic society by Western culture, but in Tehran, Iranians are flocking to the contemporary art museum to marvel at American pop artist Andy Warhol’s iconic soup cans.
The circular floors of the Iranian capital’s Museum of Contemporary Art display a sprawling lineup of 18 classic Warhol works, recognizable at first glance: silk-screen portraits of Communist China’s founding leader Mao Zedong and Hollywood star Marilyn Monroe, paintings of Campbell Soup cans and a vintage print of former US first lady Jacqueline Kennedy.
The exhibit, simply named A Review of Andy Warhol’s Works, first opened in June and closes on Sunday.
“I love this painting,” gushed 46-year-old Fatemeh Rezaee, taking in the colored ink of Marilyn Monroe’s face, which Warhol produced in 1962 soon after the actress killed herself. “By looking at it, I visualized Marilyn Monroe’s life story in my head. It makes the concept of death really tangible for me.”
Rezaee, a retired teacher in a loose silk hijab, was so enthralled by the exhibit that she flew all the way from her home in the southern city of Shiraz to see it — twice.
Warhol’s works are among a permanent art collection worth billions of dollars kept in the Tehran museum vault. As oil boomed during the reign of Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, the country acquired thousands of pieces, including Monets, Picassos and Jackson Pollocks, before the 1979 Islamic Revolution ousted the pro-Western monarchy and vaulted Shiite clerics to power.
Iran’s new theocracy first banned modern art and packed away the famous paintings. But in recent decades as cultural restrictions eased, some 1,500 Western art pieces from the dynastic era have gone back on display — with much fanfare.
Still, a visitor won’t find Warhol’s grittier fare, like his notorious experimental films, on display in Tehran
And certainly not this piece: