Situated in the heart of the Iranian capital, Tehran’s Museum of Contemporary Art is home to the world’s most valuable collection of western modern art outside Europe and the United States. The rarely shown collection, which includes works by giants such as Pollock, Warhol and Bacon, was bought under the supervision of Farah Pahlavi, the former queen of Iran who fled the country along with the late Shah during the turbulent events of the 1979 Islamic revolution. The Guardian has spoken to the former empress about the museum and its remarkable collection on the occasion of an exhibition showing some of the art pieces for the first time.
Q. Where did the idea for the collection come from?
I have always been fascinated with the arts. When I was in Iran in that position I was constantly concerned with promoting our Iranian traditional art but, at the same time, with introducing contemporary and modern art. I was particularly interested in modern paintings and sculptures. A number of private galleries were open at the time and the ministry of culture had a biennial of art and I was always involved in the inaugurations and the ceremonies.