Getting Iranian Artists Out of Iran

08/31/2009 11:23 AM |

Tehrani girls photographed by Newsha Tavakolian

The Magic of Persia Contemporary Art Prize, a London-Tehran venture run by cultural consultancy group Candlestar and the Magic of Persia arts charity, just announced the names of its six finalists, Farhad Ahrarnia, Mahmoud Bakhshi Moakhar, Vahid Chamani, Sahand Hesamiyan, Abbas Kowsari and Newsha Tavakolian, two of whom (Kowsari and Tavakolian, whose work is pictured) are featured in Iran Inside Out, the excellent group show that runs through Saturday at the Chelsea Art Museum. Nomination for the prize means an exhibition at the Royal College of Art, London, and an auction at Christie’s, half of the proceeds from which will go to the artists, with the other half funding their artists’ residency programs.

This is the first juried prize to recognize emerging Iranian artists and help promote their travels, and if the Times review of the exhibition at the Chelsea Art Museum is anything to go by, outside help is crucial to the ongoing success and freedom of expression of contemporary artists inside Iran. Though the exhibition features 35 artists based in Iran (the rest are expats), only one was able to leave the country to attend the exhibition opening. Many of those who opted to remain in Iran did so for fear of never being allowed to return home. Click here to learn more about the artists nominated for the Magic of Persia prize.