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.

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