by Helen Whittle, DW
Mitra Farahani: Strangely enough, Bahman Mohassess had a kind of physical absence within the contemporary art scene in Iran - partly because of his disappearance. This absence was always striking to me because of the sheer power of his works. There was a kind of paradox between the fact that he's rarely mentioned and rarely present in history, and the force and the power of his works, paintings and sculptures. One of my objectives was to try to find out how to explain that paradox.
Why did Bahman Mohassess leave Iran?
The very first time that he left Iran was during his artistic formation in his youth during the 1950s, when the democratically elected Prime Minister of Iran Mohammad Mossadegh, who was famous for wanting to nationalize oil, was overthrown in a coup d'état orchestrated by the US and Britain. At this time, like many other artists, he had the opportunity to benefit from scholarships and funding for young artists to go and be trained in Europe. We're talking about the coup against Mossadegh, who most of the artists supported and were committed to in this political context. Obviously the defeat gave them the desire to leave, the disillusionment - that's the very first time he left Iran.
He came back to Iran in the 1960s and 70s and was really productive during this time and acquired some famous commissions from the wife of the Shah. This was the period when he translated and staged important works of theater in Iran by Jean Genet, Luigi Pirandello, Eugene Ionesco. He really flourished during this time. After the Iranian Revolution, he continued to travel in secret between Iran and Europe, especially Italy. Then 2006, the year when his brother died, was a kind of symbolic moment when Mohassess decided he could no longer stand the state of culture, and, let's say, the social environment in Iran. He left the country for the last time and remained in Italy.