In Tehran, Hormoz Hematian’s gallery was thriving. Domestic and international collectors were buying works by his local artists. When Donald Trump tore up the Iran deal, those prospects began to dim.
|Peybak’s Untitled, from the Abrakan Series, 2017. Courtesy of the Artist, Dastan's Basement and Bloomberg.|
In theory, the devaluation of the Iranian rial this year—to date, the currency has lost about 70 percent of its value against the dollar—should have been good for Hormoz Hematian.
The founder of Tehran’s contemporary art gallery Dastan’s Basement, Hematian spends a significant portion of his time traveling the world to show his artists’ paintings, sculpture, and installations to an international audience; he’s been to six different fairs or exhibitions in 2018 alone. So once the rial plummeted to a third of what it was just months before after Donald Trump resurrected oil sanctions on Iran, by maintaining art prices in foreign countries (and currencies) Hematian’s gallery should have been able to triple its profits.
But the opposite is true. Despite Hematian’s aggressive international sales efforts, more than 80 percent of his clientele is still at home. “The majority of our market is definitely inside Iran, it’s not even a question,” he says. “We’d like it to be more than just inside the country, but it really is a kind of wait-and-see situation.” As a consequence, Hamatian is squeezed on both ends: The costs of traveling and selling abroad have tripled, while the discretionary spending power of his collectors at home has plummeted.