|Courtesy The Iran Project.|
The Land of the Solidities, an abstract oil painting of a fully veiled Arab woman by Mounirah Mosly, a Saudi artist, hangs near an untiled piece by the late Sohrab Sepehri, one of Iran’s best known poets and painters.
The fact that the works are displayed at the same exhibition in Tehran provides a rare show of bonhomie in a region blighted by conflict and bitter rivalries. For Iran the event is unique — it is the first time that the predominantly Persian state has hosted such a public display of Arab art.
The organisers touted it as an opportunity to use culture to bridge some of the regional divides, and it is notable that two works from Saudi Arabia — Iran’s regional foe — are on the display.
Karim Sultan, curator at the Sharjah-based Barjeel Art Foundation that put on The Sea Suspended exhibition, says the exhibition is about “continuing the conversation with the Arab world.”
Ehsan Rasoulof, the director of Mohsen Gallery, one of Iran’s avant-garde art galleries, concurs, saying art should transcend the Middle East’s problems.
“In this crisis-hit region where we live, an art dialogue is the responsibility of artists, despite all the tensions between us and our neighbours,” Mr Rasoulof says.
Riyadh cut diplomatic ties with the Islamic republic in January after its embassy in Tehran was ransacked by Iranian hardliners protesting against the Saudi government’s execution of a dissident Shia cleric. Iran and Saudi Arabia — the region’s dominant Shia and Sunni powers respectively — back rival sides in conflicts in Syria and Yemen as they fight proxy wars, and are blamed for stoking sectarian tensions across the Arab world.