Tehran has just hosted a first for the country’s contemporary art scene

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Iran has long had a vigorous contemporary art scene. But international recognition has grown in recent years, in parallel with the interest in Middle Eastern art more generally, as collectors hope for a repeat of the bonanza in Chinese art. Regional fairs, notably in Dubai and Istanbul, have played a part too. A breakthrough came in 2008, when a work by the sculptor Parviz Tanavoli – part of his “heech” (nothingness) series – fetched $2.8m at Christie’s in Dubai. This remains an auction record for any Middle Eastern artist.
The clientele on Friday appeared mostly to be local, with only one foreign gallery owner, from Dubai. Half-a-dozen landlines connected expatriates and other overseas bidders. A special guest was Michael Jeha, Christie’s managing director and head of sales in the Middle East, who said he admired the auction’s “excellent organisation”.
The works in Tehran …

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