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    Politics, culture clash thanks to Contemporary Iranian Art Exhibit

    Wednesday, 08 February 2017 14:08

    Written by Mark Wigmore

    Senior Arts Editor Mark Wigmore speaks to “The High Rise Collector” Mohammed Afkhami about his impressive collection of modern Iranian art, his take on the US Travel Ban, and why his Aga Khan Museum exhibit “Rebel, Jester, Mystic, Poet: Contemporary Persians” is so important at this point in history.

    In the face of sanctions and travel bans, a new exhibition of Contemporary Iranian Art at the Aga Khan Museum has found a zeitgeist moment. The beloved Toronto Museum that focuses on Muslim civilizations through the centuries is in the final weeks of its “Syria: A Living History” exhibit, making way for an exclusive look at modern Persian works from one of the world’s foremost collectors. Both events have found heightened relevance given the current travel quagmire in the U.S.



    “Rebel, Jester, Mystic, Poet: Contemporary Persians” opened in Toronto on February 4th and arrives in Canada thanks to British-Iranian real estate magnate and art lover Mohammed Afkhami. His 300 + private collection has been curated for a dazzling, new exhibition that features various mediums and 23 artists. The show confronts big themes within the country’s identity, including gender, politics, social justice, and religion.



    Afkhami is known as the ‘High Rise Collector’ thanks to his impressive Dubai home that looks more like a gallery than a luxury condo. His GQ-ready look and his unending affinity for contemporary works from his homeland have made him one of the most watched art mavens in the world.

    He also grew up with the knowledge that his great grandmother was the founder of the first Iranian art institute for women in the 1930s, and his family was filled with artists and art collectors. But it wouldn’t be until the mid-2000s that he would find his own path in the collecting game. He purchased his first piece for around $500.

    With Iran’s contentious relationship with the arts, and the current U.S. travel ban that affects Iranian artists and art collectors like himself, Mark Wigmore spoke to Mohammed Afkhami about this timely exhibit.



    “Rebel, Jester, Mystic, Poet: Contemporary Persians” continues at the Aga Khan Museum. Click here for details.

    It should be noted that collector Mohammed Afkhami wasn’t sure he would be able to get back to his New York home when we recorded this interview. He indeed returned on February 5th.  And at least one of the U.S.-based Iranian artists who was slated to be at the opening night gala had to cancel the Toronto appearances due to ongoing travel ban negotiations in Washington.


    Senior Arts Editor Mark Wigmore is heard at 8:40 a.m. and 4:30 p.m. on weekdays during the JAZZ.FM91 Arts Report. And don’t miss his arts and culture interview and entertainment magazine program, Arts Toronto, Sundays between 8-9 a.m.

    To get in touch with Mark it’s mwigmore@jazz.fm.

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