Iranian Political State and Art

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The following essay is a summary about Iranian political state and how use of art to present their political culture is related. The essay will focus mainly on revolutionary and post-revolutionary artworks. The paper will consist of comparisons and contrasting views about how political influence has been affecting and if it’s still affecting artists and their artwork. Iranian government which since attainment of independence appears to be the main director of art content entering or leaving Iran has seem to be running on dictatorship leadership. This paper will expose how the relationship between the Iranian government and artists has changed overtime and how deep was the government politics interfering with Iranian art. Iranian art culture has been an underground activity mostly run by artists who do not fear the governments laws that limit them from freely practicing their talents and sharing it to the world. With the Iranian revolution events in 1979 where Western-backed Shah was overthrown and replaced by an Islamic state run by the Alyatollah Khomeini, there has been a tight political atmosphere ever since that affects its relationship both internally and externally. The country underwent a big change in power and social life. Having a set of wars with Iraq its neighboring country also brought questions on what was happening in Iran, but with these revolution artist took to the stage to demonstrate their heart felt desire by drawing about things happening around them just as any artist would do. The art culture in Iran divided into revolutionary (years of modernization) and post revolution.

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Revolutionary period

This period of art presentation occurred between 1960- 1989, with artists like Bahman Mohasses being the pioneer of encouraging artists with his unwavering, relentless and demanding attitude toward showing and educating people with his art work. Artworks done during this period were never openly displayed to the public and world because of laws set by the new ruling Islamic government. Bahman Mohasses used a style of referencing classical mythology and history of sculptures, he introduced a very unique style that dealt on caricature and later expanded into theatre-directing and painting. He is one major alumnus on how art can lead people into reacting against and also reflect the complexity of politics in a society. Iranian film making has been featured around the world with some film makers like Parviz Kimiavi. He was born in 1939 and has got some of his work edited in the 1970s where he produced works like Gowharshad Mosque, P like Pelican and Bazare mashhad. His films were a bit ethnographic with a singular and always impressionistic style. He made them to have a compelling mixture of documentary and fiction, with a movie like P like Pilican had a story focused on a character named Aqa Seyyed Ali Mirza; who was a reclusive person who was encouraged by nearby youths to engage with the titular pelican. During the period of 1979-1988 Iranian government was mostly dominated with revolution of 1979 and then the Iraq war of 1980-1988. The things that helped and pushed for revolution in Iran being their culture and art works. On the pre-revolutionary era, the shah and his Empress were seen as the main supporters of Iran culture and art. The shah believed that culture and art will help in developing Iran and make the Iranians to have a national identity than to have a non-western culture of modernization. The step of using art to show case the real culture by shah was however not supported with the inequalities within the country about culture and social; Thereby helping in the growth of the revolution that lead to the overthrown of shah’s government who was supported by the Europeans. The revolution affected a lot of things in the country with its major hit being on the nature of how the citizens are interacting around their public spaces. The country was under a lot distress followed by eight years of war with Iraq that caused deaths and sorrow all over. Researchers believed this was a political and social related war that Iran was facing. Art was the only means that helped show the world what Iran was facing and even be part of their history they will live to remember. The visual artifacts captured that time are what showed what really transpired in Iran, with the help of photographers like Bahman Jalali and Rana Javadi who took their time come up with documentary evidence of what really occurred and led up to the overthrown of shah. These photographers took their photos during 1978 to 1979 and later published them in the book Days of Blood, Days of Fire. The contents of his work being released late in 2010 after his death because of the laws that Iran government had placed and its involvement in Iranian art works. Some artists used a different approach to showcase their art skills, with an artist like Kazem Chalipa who was born in1957 at Tehran village. He was a very prominent painter among the revolutionary generation, whereby his work was a combination of religion and the potent symbols and political vocabulary used during the revolution. His art work was constantly used as posters during the Iran-Iraq war. The use of his art work as posters was a big indication of how politics was in relation with Iranian art culture. The posters are now being used as evidence to relate the citizens of Iran with the revolution era. Revolution era was filled with various art developments through the help and support of the overthrown shah. After Islamic took over museums set up were now less used. Some schools like Saqqakhana School gained international prominence for their art work. The government offered an arts festival called Shiraz Arts festival that was organized in Persepolis. The festival offered opportunities to show case international musicians, dancers and artists, all this was before Islam taking over Iran. With the opening up the festival shah made a point of developing a museum for Iranians called Tehran museum to show case both western and Iranian artists. Some of the artists that were featured in the museum were like Feremarz Pilaram and Hossein Zenderoudi who used techniques such as modern painting, abstracting letters and calligraphy. With a Master of tradition encouraging painters t use calligraphy which consisted of oil paint and canvas to produce words not only content as it was done traditionally. An artist like Sohrab Sepheri who was both a poet and a painter managed to travel the world by visiting Japan and India; he made his painting to feature simple brushstrokes and colors that showed his appreciation of nature and of Zen philosophy. The art culture was like the main economic provider of Iran with Shah taking advantage of the offers western countries offered them by not equally distributing the resources thereby making the court to start protesting his leadership. Ardeshir Mohassess for instance used cartoons to demonstrate the corruption and misuse of monarchical leadership in Iran and the world in general. Although in 1976 the Shah banned his work and this made him to flee the country to Paris and later on U.S.A because Shah used his power to oppress those who defied his ruling. Nahid Hagigat was an artist to born in 1943 and used prints to show case the tension that was among the males in society under government interventions. Print making was a unique technique during that time so it worked well to her advantage.

Post-revolutionary art work

After the period of revolution art work was still a major tool of showcasing political operations in Iran. The post-revolution era being between 1989-2014 shows a different set of artistic culture being adapted in Iran that are being used till now to showcase their culture and political arenas. Most of the artist during this time had studied abroad and knew the social conditions in Iran. The late Chohreh Feyzdjuo, who was an installation artist, came up with installations and assemblages that acted as commentaries in commercialization of contemporary art and global art market. She used materials that related to the past Iran like vegetable fibers and rolls of her own canvas over painted in black. She inspired artists like Barbad Golshiri, he had a writer for a father thereby giving him a tactful method of writing which was use of guerilla tactics. For example, by giving tribute to Feyzdjuo he came up with a sarcophagus-shaped tomb on top of Feyzdjuo’s grave in the cemetery at Pantin. These was him showing the nation of how the anonymous graves that the martyrs were placed in are not allowed to be done any inscription on them as it was not allowed by the regime. Photography was also used to pass message and lessons that the nation and culture of Iran had on their citizens. Bahman Jalali inspired various phtotographers during his time like Mazdak Ayari, Behzad Jaez and Tahmineh Monzavi. Ayari for instance took his photos mostly concentrating on his domestic life and family. He did that for ten years by narrowing his talent to capture his family social life and cultural life in Iran. The practice gives an open and full insight into the contemporary life of Iranians which gave him a step to open up the theme about boundaries between private and public existence. In the early 2000s, Behzad Jaezs work in photographs is seen to depict religious schools in Tehran and Qom exposing the day-to-day activities and life of the students. His images indicate and tell a story of different social backgrounds of pupils, thereby giving a clear picture of life in contemporary Iran. Monzavi is also one vibrant photographer born in 1988 who is influenced by diversity. He takes photos centered on individuals who failed in following rules and were convicted or sent away as refugees. He has a series of photos about a girl called Tina who is a transvestite and lives a life of a refugee. His work is aimed at exploring the effect of social exclusion and pains that come with it. He is fearless on exposing his photos to the world making him a very vibrant member of the art culture. Arash Hanaei was also an artist during this time that used digital techniques to reimagine and re-contextualize the Iranian capital city. He used to create digital views of Tehran starting from a source photograph. His work from a psycho-geographical approach of art is seen through the process of erasure covers and reveals so much. His technique of art that entailed to isolate and erase certain elements made it to attract viewers to a poetic view. Example of Hanaei’s piece is with the murals of the martyrs and advertisement of hoardings. His work was like an exploration of Tehran which helped to see its history and present. In the mid of 1990s Iranian film industry started to go international with some film producers doing things underground because of the government ban on show casing films without their approval. Jafar Panahi was sentenced for a six year sentence and a 20 year ban on film making being introduced after putting blame it was affecting the national security and causing propaganda. Panahi was sentenced for the release of a proposed documentary on the 2009 post-election unrest. An Iran expert who wants his name anonymous states that for example, there is a film that subtly addresses the AIDS issue without once mentioning the diseases name and even goes to a point and highlighting every form of art in Iran is a form of protest. Iranians are constantly trying to find gaps in the law. After the 2009 elections some of the remaining artists who are Iran have been complaining that fewer and fewer permits were being granted to artists who want to either paint or do music. Iran has a law in which one has to acquire a permit from the Ministry of Islamic Culture and Guidance to work professionally. But many have disapproved such laws by practicing their arts underground and even making the underground channels to be the major platforms for artists in Iran. Back then in 1998 Mohammed Khatami who was a former minister of culture became the president and gave some bit of breathing space to the artists. Galleries had more opportunities to show case their work and even adapt new works. Places like Tehran Museum being brought back to life until now, some history work that was being hidden was let out to the public and films made available for kids to watch. Historical films were now allowed to be filmed and some artists took them to America from filming. Example is the former soldier and fruit-stall holder known as Khosrow Hassanzadeh, who became a painter and poet and manage to show in his series wars some of the disturbing works that would have been critical to the war and the regime. A scholar and philosopher from Iran says this words on behalf of a catalogue presented by Bita Fayyazi that consisted of ceramics molded from cockroaches that “do not simply glorify fallen creatures despised by humans, but reveal the extent of the damage caused by a claustrophobic situation, where the sole refuge is the solitary prison of their own repression. Photographs have seen to take a major step in visualizing problems faced in Iran. Especially women in Iran who feel that the rules and laws bestowed upon them limits then to do a lot of things; A 24 year old photographer called Shadi Ghadirian show cases some of his photographs in Tehran museum that seem to describe defiant young women who are wearing Qajar costume but seen posing with modern objects like vacuum cleaner, bicycles that are prohibited, pepsi cola cans. Her use of these photographs is a way of showing or speaking on behalf of the women who seem to not have one voice. We finally have the work of Fereydoun, who does film and came up with a series called Collages “Rostam and Sohrab. This film was inspired by a 10th-century poet Ferdousi,s The Book of Kings. The film was epic with a taste of Iranian culture, where it described the limitations of individual monarchs and stressing Irans national instead of Islamic identity. It described the struggle between modernization and tradition where modernism is represented by the son Sohrab and tradition by father Rostam. It showcases the tragedy that unveils when the father kills his son just in the belief of being unworthy king. It teaches the world how the tragic struggle leads to not considering family bonds and personal dignity.


Art work in relation to Iranian politics is seen to have a major impact both during revolution and after revolution. The artistic works done during this periods vary according to the political state the country is facing from change of power to being ruled by an Islamic president who disoriented the social culture and placed women under certain laws that undermined them some basic human rights. Art is seen to have helped in starting the revolution but is also seen to be a big help on returning the country back on its feet. Art was becoming a major economic earner for Iran at some extent but opticians say this as an obstacle for their demands. The artists are witnessed to be taking part in educating the world on what is happening in Iran from cultural to evolution of the state. Art therefore was a major weapon the politicians could not sustain so they had to put laws to be able to manage and control what the artists portrayed to the world.


It is evident that politics and Iranian art were two things that mattered in the state. Artists were like politicians but with the task of informing the nation and world what really the politicians were doing to the nation. The artistic work done after revolution exposed a lot that occurred during the war with Iraq and also the laws that were undermining the state if it was planning to rebuild itself. Often artists will try to do work that goes along with the laws placed but others would do what they see appropriate and valid to their situation. The development of underground platforms so as to be able to showcase their art work is seen as a step to help the country with its political position.

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Iranian political state and art. (2018, Dec 17). Retrieved January 27, 2023 , from

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