Exclusive: Secret Iranian Art Collection Features Work from Iconic Israeli Artist Yaacov Agam

August 5, 2012 6:21 pm 15 comments

Salon Agam.

The Algemeiner has learned that the secret Iranian art collection now partially displayed at Tehran’s Museum of Contemporary Art includes up to ten works of Israel’s highest-selling and most iconic artist Yaacov Agam. In an interview, his son expressed concern over the future of the masterpieces.

The modern art collection which is considered to be the finest of its kind anywhere outside of Europe and the US, boasts works by Francis Bacon, David Hockney, Roy Lichtenstein, Mark Rothko, Andy Warhol, Edvard Munch and others, and was brought before the revolution by the late Shah’s wife, Empress Farah Pahlavi.

“The Empress was visiting Paris in 1977 two years before the revolution,” Ron Agam, the artist’s son told The Algemeiner, “and she saw a very important artwork of my father’s called Salon Agam, commissioned by the late President Pompidou, in the Elysee, the presidential palace of Valéry Giscard d’Estaing at the time.” After doing some research on the artist, she requested to see more, and the Prime Minister of France then, Raymond Barre, arranged for her majesty to have a private Agam presentation at a Paris gallery, according to Ron Agam.

“I was in the gallery with my father when she came with her entourage and she selected a few pieces, she asked my father if he could come to Iran to install them,” he said. “She selected some very early pieces, very valuable pieces, some oil and some acrylic.”

A week later Ron Agam flew to Tehran with his father, spending three weeks of the summer of 1977 meeting Iran’s most prominent cultural figures and touring the country with Pahlavi. They stayed at a first class hotel in Tehran, and attended private dinners and lunches with members of the Royal Family. “She wanted to commission some major public art from my father there,” added Ron Agam.

At the time he says, “They were in the process of building the museum, so some of the art was installed in the palace and some was put away for the museum.”

Following the Islamic revolution of 1979, the Queen fled the country with the late Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi. The returning Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini and the country’s new Islamist leaders took control of the state treasures.

Now, as a result of the Islamic Republic’s expressions of visceral hatred towards the Jewish state Ron Agam is worried about the future of “the treasures.” Although so far, the collection has been safely guarded despite the contempt of the regime’s rulers for western art, according to Pahlavi speaking to London’s Guardian newspaper, a Warhol portrait of herself “has been cut with a knife,” highlighting the possibility that other pieces deemed ‘inappropriate’ by the regime could be damaged as well.

“I am extremely concerned” said Agam, “I would love them to give it to the Pompidou museum or an Israeli museum, which would be an incredible gesture on their part.” He is not optimistic however, “It is so difficult at this time with everything that is going on in the international arena, it is hopeless to think that there will be a resolution to this,” he said.

Expressing some optimism however over how the Ayatollahs might view the work, Agam says that his father’s style is well suited to Islamic tastes, saying, “The art that my father created, influenced by kabbala is totally in sync with the Islamic culture, because it is totally abstract, if you view the artwork of mosques everything is abstract, nothing has a figurative representation.” He also has faith in the Iranian people, who he says might resolve the situation amicably if the decision was in their hands. “I visited the country and I loved its people, it is a great and important civilization,” he said.

The Iranian collection, which is thought to be worth upwards of $3 billion also includes iconic pieces by Pissaro, Van Gogh, Monet, Picasso, Renoir, Marcel Duchamp and a number of others, and includes Pollock’s Mural on Indian Red Ground which is estimated to be worth over $250 million. Another Jewish artist whose work is also said to be featured in the collection is Russian-French painter Marc Chagall.

The Guardian notes that before the current exhibition, “the pieces have been stacked in the basement of Tehran’s Museum of Contemporary Art for more than 30 years, gathering dust in storage. Censors in Iran classed some as un-Islamic, pornographic or too gay, and they have never been shown in public. Others have been displayed only once or twice.”

Representatives of the Iranian regime in New York could not immediately be reached for comment.

15 Comments

  • I thought this article was about Agam’s artwork!!! What’s all this writing about the Mossad and Jewish demographics in Iran and other Arab countries doing here?

  • Let’s get back to the discussion of artwork…Please?

    Steven Cohen the hedge guy from NY recently worked out a deal with the Iranian Government thru an intermediary to obtain a select piece of artwork from it’s collection..in exchange for an Islamic manuscript

    So hope is not all lost…

    • The “Mullah Mafia” has been brokering deals in the secret for years. Billions of US dollars are tucked away on off-shore banks in their names while the poor sell organs to survive. Sad but true!

      Last year, a few in Iran were put on trial and now are in jail for their criminal deeds.

      Once again, not one of these paintings discussed in this article were on the 2006 TMCA list.

  • Much of the orignal collection is gone. The lone Renoir, “Gabrielle Avec La Chemise Ouverte” now in Paris despite the promise to never sell it after the Feb 26, 2003 Republican Guard Parliament motion to sell 20 pieces was defeated by the people.

    Andre DeRain, “L’Age D’ Or” appears to be in the hands of a privater collector in New York City. Is there a replica in the basement?

    As for Japer Johns’s four pieces..”"Pinion, Decoy, Passage I and II”…Barbara Rose wrote a great article in 1986 for the Wall Street Journal, “Leisure Section”.

    Before this sitting President was put in office, the TMCA had a beautiful web site. It listed the 121 paintings and 24 sculptures. When you clicked the title you saw a nice visual. The facts of the work were listed below…LUckily, I printed this list off for it is now gone.

    It is my hobby to investigate a few each week,,,I have noticed many appear to be elsewhere beside in the basement of the TMCA

  • Much of the orignal collection is gone. The lone Renoir, “Gabrielle Avec La Chemise Ouverte” now in Paris despite the promise to never sell it after the Feb 26, 2003 Republican Guard Parliament motion to sell 20 pieces was defeated by the people.

    Andre DeRain, “L’Age D’ Or” appears to be in the hands of a privater collector in New York City. Is there a replica in the basement?

    As for Japer Johns’s four pieces..”"Pinion, Decoy, Passage I and II”…Barbara Rose wrote a great article in 1986 for the Wall Street Journal, “Leisure Section”.

    Before this sitting President was put in office, the TMCA had a beautiful web site. It listed the 121 paintings and 24 sculptures. When you clicked the title you saw a nice visual. The facts of the work were listed below…LUckily, I printed this list off for it is now gone.

    It is my hobby to investigate a few each week,,,I have noticed many appear to be elsewhere beside in the basement of the TMCA

  • According to ‘ALEX’ the shooting of the Egyptian border guards was the work of ‘Mossad’ where does his intelligence
    originate from? does he have direct access to Mossad’s movements? Let him first prove that Mossad was involved with concrete assurances, before he accuses Israel of what actually took place, if he can’t he should close his poisonous mouth up!

  • Mister “Alex”, What has the incident at the Egyptian/Israeli border to do with Agam’s paintings in Iran?

    But I understand you are very well informed about the
    mossad and about how many Jews live in Iran and Arab countries. NOT!

  • It was a Mossad operation everybody knows that!
    Recent attack on the Egyptian troops in Rafah is not that big a mystery to those who know how Mossad operates, allow me to enlighten you:

    Mossad training camp specializes in training saboteurs and assassins, located in the Negev this training produces professional killers for all ocassions. Their name “Arabai” indicates their apearance as Arabs, but they are from many nationalities, and speak various dialects. They are trained to infiltrate different tribes and assume that tribes appearance. Arabai are trained to do Israel’s bidding in many places, including Syria, Sinai, Egypt and all other Arab states.

    If you read about the latest “attack” on the Egyptian troops, you may note that the only victims of that attack are Egyptians. No Israeli was killed. Hardly indicating a Hamas participation.

    “Arabai” are also trained to cause turmoil between Christians and Muslims in Egypt, by starting turmoil amongst the susceptible groups amongst them.

    This latest attack on Egyptian Rafah checkpoint is just such an attack perpetrated by Arabai on behalf of Mossad.

    The report of the Kabila tribe near Rafah crossing indicates particular savagery of the attack in which every Egyptian soldier was shot number of times, even as they lay on the ground. That again indicates to me that those who shot them are not Gazans Arabs, or any of the Sinai tribes.

    • Alex – A brilliant deduction – How though could you suggest that Arabs might shoot injured people lying on the ground and kill other arabs. You sound racist and anti-muslim -

  • It is pretty stupid to suggest that anything that some Jew painted or made, belongs to Israel. Many thousands of Jews live in Iran, and other areab countries, it is their own heritage also.

    • “Many thousands of Jews live in Iran, and other areab countries”

      Okay, it’s true that maybe 25,000 Jews live in Iran (which isn’t arabic, but persian). But arab countries? My grandparents lived in Iraq and Egypt, and they had to run away to a refugee camp in Israel to stay alive. In Iraq, there are basically no jews left (Many of those who remained were executed in 1969). In Egypt, since shortly after the six-day war, the jewish population has all but vanished (Some of them were imprisoned and tortured for several years after the war).

      As for the other arab countries, Tunisia has around 1,000 Jews, Morocco has about 3,000, and Yemen has maybe 300. All of the other arab countries have either around 10-40 Jews remaining, or no Jews left at all. Check your facts before making ridiculous claims. There is no way a large Jewish community can survive in the antisemitic arab world of today.

    • “Many thousands of Jews live in Iran?” Are you NUTZ?!? Most Jews fled after Kolmeini ret’d to Iran and took power – and those who remained have been leaving as fast as possible ever since (some to Europe, others to Israel, many to the USA). Iran is NOT friendly or hospitable to (or, dare I say, HEALTHY for) Jews!! DUH!!!

      As for the “Arab countries,” you sure must like that head-in-sand position, ’cause there has been a very “successful” ethnic cleansing going on in those countries since 1948 – or, have you missed that inconvenient fact? Upwards of 900K Jews fled countries thoughout the Mid-East when the State of Israel was established – most with only the shirts on their backs – and headed to Israel as refugees, while the effin’ muzzie arabs stole all the property they had to leave behind. My God, Alex, you’re either a congenital liar or just plain STOOPID!!

  • Just as the Taliban blew up famous sculptures, one must anticipate that the Iranian government following Mohammad ‘s teachings will destroy all this art. It is a horrible result but it is being true to Mohammad and Islam.

Leave a Reply

Please note: comments may be published in the Algemeiner print edition.


Current day month ye@r *

More...

  • Music US & Canada Lady Gaga Accepts ADL Award: ‘Your Philosophies Are So in Line With Ours’ (VIDEO)

    Lady Gaga Accepts ADL Award: ‘Your Philosophies Are So in Line With Ours’ (VIDEO)

    Pop superstar Lady Gaga on Thursday accepted an award from Jewish human rights group the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) on behalf of her Born This Way Foundation, which strives to combat bullying among young people. “Your philosophies are so in line with ours,” she said of the ADL upon accepting the Making a Difference Award in a videotaped message, which was shown at a ceremony in New York City. “We want to help young people know that their feelings and who they are on [...]

    Read more →
  • Music Personalities At 80, Singer-Songwriter Leonard Cohen’s Jewish Roots ‘Very Much Intact’

    At 80, Singer-Songwriter Leonard Cohen’s Jewish Roots ‘Very Much Intact’

    JNS.org – Eighty years young, Leonard Cohen fits many descriptions—singer, songwriter, poet, novelist, monk. From his Jewish upbringing in Canada to the present day, Cohen has always explored his spiritual side. This month, the singer-songwriter released the CD (May 12) and iTunes (on May 8 of this year) formats of his latest album, Can’t Forget: A Souvenir of the Grand Tour, which features live recordings from his world tours in 2012 and 2013. Last year, Cohen’s Popular Problems was voted by Rolling Stone [...]

    Read more →
  • Europe Sports FIFA Head Says Israel Should Not be Booted From World Soccer Association

    FIFA Head Says Israel Should Not be Booted From World Soccer Association

    JNS.org – Fédération Internationale de Football Association (FIFA) head Sepp Blatter said during a meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu that contrary to Palestinian complaints, Israel has not violated any FIFA statutes and should not be suspended from international soccer’s governing body. “We should not come to one federation saying we will exclude them,” said Blatter, the Jerusalem Post reported. “If the national association is fulfilling its obligations then there is no need to intervene,” he said. “I’m on a [...]

    Read more →
  • Featured Middle East Sports Jewish Rights Group Slams Palestinian Attempts to Suspend Israel From FIFA

    Jewish Rights Group Slams Palestinian Attempts to Suspend Israel From FIFA

    Jewish human rights group the Simon Wiesenthal Center (SWC) said on Tuesday it was “appalled” by a Palestinian Football Association initiative to suspend Israel from FIFA, calling it another “front waged in the context of the Palestinian Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions (BDS) campaign.” “We are appalled at the temerity of the Palestinan Football Association (PFA) demand that FIFA suspend Israel at your forthcoming Congress in Zurich,” wrote the group’s international relations director, Dr. Shimon Samuels, in a letter to FIFA President Joseph [...]

    Read more →
  • Theater US & Canada Star of Auschwitz Thriller Says ‘God Was Holding the Hand of Every Jew in the Gas Chamber’ (VIDEO)

    Star of Auschwitz Thriller Says ‘God Was Holding the Hand of Every Jew in the Gas Chamber’ (VIDEO)

    The lead actor in Son of Saul, an Auschwitz thriller featured at this year’s Cannes Film Festival, told the UK’s The Guardian that he believes God was “holding the hand” of each Jew who died in the Nazi gas chambers during the Holocaust. “I do not for one nanosecond like to pretend that God is off the hook. He could and should have stopped it at a much earlier stage,” Géza Röhrig, 48, said. ”But I would not be able to get [...]

    Read more →
  • Music Backstreet Boys Singer Howie D Gushes Over Masada During Israel Trip

    Backstreet Boys Singer Howie D Gushes Over Masada During Israel Trip

    Backstreet Boys singer Howie Dorough took to Instagram on Tuesday to marvel about climbing the famed Masada fortress with his band during their visit to Israel, where they will perform this week for the first time. The group’s second day of sightseeing in the Jewish state included the Masada hike, and taking a mud bath at the Dead Sea. A picture from the band’s official Twitter page shows the five singers covered in mud. While relaxing in the Dead Sea, [...]

    Read more →
  • Book Reviews US & Canada ‘Arms and the Dudes:’ New Book, Film Detail How Ex-Orthodox Yeshiva Guys Became Top Suppliers for Afghan Army

    ‘Arms and the Dudes:’ New Book, Film Detail How Ex-Orthodox Yeshiva Guys Became Top Suppliers for Afghan Army

    A new book and its upcoming film adaptation tell the true story of how three former yeshiva students who habitually smoked marijuana scored a $300 million contract from the U.S. government to supply weapons for the Afghan Army, the New York Daily News reported on Sunday. Arms and the Dudes details how the Miami Beach potheads became “the most unlikely gunrunners in history,” according to the book’s author, investigative reporter Guy Lawson. The tale begins with Efraim Diveroli, nephew of [...]

    Read more →
  • Blogs Theater Natalie Portman: Israel-Themed ‘A Tale of Love and Darkness’ Not Political

    Natalie Portman: Israel-Themed ‘A Tale of Love and Darkness’ Not Political

    JNS.org – Natalie Portman, who directs and stars in the new Hebrew-language film adaptation of author Amos Oz’s A Tale of Love and Darkness, says that despite Oz’s record as a vocal left-wing critic of Israel, her film is not political. Like the book on which it is based, Portman’s film is about a young boy at the time of the founding of the state of Israel. “I think the movie is very much about this very particular, specific family story. Of [...]

    Read more →



Sign up now to receive our regular news briefs.