artnet Asks: Omid Tehrani on Iranian Art

If you're looking to enter the Iranian art market, Omid Tehrani is your man.

Omid Tehrani. Courtesy of Assar Art Gallery.

As one of Iran’s major art world figures, Omid Tehrani is dedicated to advancing and promoting the best of Iranian Modern and contemporary art to both a national and international audience. As the founder, co-owner, and director of Tehran’s Assar Art Gallery, he is also a specialized dealer who has assisted many new collectors in entering the exciting Iranian art market. During his 20-year career, Mr. Tehrani has collected and presented some of the country’s most important artists and archives in a variety of major private and public institutions.

Under his direction, Assar Art Gallery mounts unforgettable exhibitions by some of the country’s most exciting established and emerging artists. Be sure not to miss the upcoming solo presentation of Iman Afsarian, one of Iran’s most celebrated still-life painters, opening on September 23.

Iman Afsarian, Car Showroom, Mirror Hall (2010). Courtesy of Assar Art Gallery.

Iman Afsarian, Car Showroom, Mirror Hall (2010). Courtesy of Assar Art Gallery.

Tell us about your background in art and what led you here.
I was raised in a family of collectors and began collecting myself at the age of 17. At the time, I was also painting and studying painting and thought of selling my own work, but gradually I realized I am a much better dealer than an artist. I was very much encouraged and inspired by one of Iran’s legendary gallerists and a dealer for over 50 years, the late Mrs. Seyhoun, and began working for a private gallery in Tehran. Later opened my own gallery.

What type of art does your gallery focus on?
Assar Art Gallery is focused on Iranian contemporary art and represents 11 mid-career painters and sculptures. All the artists working with us began as emerging artists with the gallery and have grown with us over the years, so the collaboration is close and very special.

As a dealer, however, I deal both Iranian Modern and contemporary art and I have so far created over 20 extensive and important collections.

Tell us about your first show. Was there a particular moment, good or bad that was memorable for you?
I organized and held my first show back in 1999. I gathered works by a generation of artists who had stopped being active or present in Iran’s art scene after the revolution and war. I was new in the art scene back then so it was very challenging to be trusted to gather the 30 artworks from private collectors and the artists for the show.

It was a proud feeling to see so many visitors, collectors, journalists, and others coming to see the works of their favorite Iranian masters all under the same roof. The exhibition got a vast media coverage and became a hit.

Niloofar Rahnama, From the Still Air series (2015). Courtesy of Assar Art Gallery.

Niloofar Rahnama, From the Still Air series (2015). Courtesy of Assar Art Gallery.

How did you settle on your specialty, and what makes your gallery unique? What is the most challenging part of running a gallery?
I think persistence and belief settled me in this career. I’ve never been interested in controversial art or what is fashionable and short-lived. What makes Assar unique is its dedication to the art is specialized in—the type of art it presents and the utter care and dedication that goes into its exhibition.

The most challenging part of this business is to maintain a reasonable market and to attract and gain the trust of collectors with your advice.

How do you select the artists you represent? When does your personal taste play a role in your selection?
It’s 90 percent my personal taste. I follow artists I like and look carefully at what they do for years before inviting them for an exhibition as my guest artists. When I am confident I can promote and invest in them, I choose them as my representing artists. Of course, I always have the ups and downs of the market in mind throughout the process.

Where are most of your buyers from? Which countries?
Most of our buyers are Iranians around the world. We also have European and regional clients, and also have collectors from around the world who follow us at auctions in London and Dubai and the art fairs we participate in.

Alireza Adambakan, Terminated (2014). Courtesy of Assar Art Gallery.

Alireza Adambakan, Terminated (2014). Courtesy of Assar Art Gallery.

What is your next important show? Tell us why we should come.
Iman Afsarian’s exhibition opening on September 23 is a long-planned and highly anticipated exhibition. It takes a long time for each of Iman’s paintings to be completed, so there is always a long waiting list for the acquisition of his works. Afsarian is considered one of the most unique and special Iranian painters at work today, and it’s always an overwhelming experience being exposed to his subtle and powerful works. I am sure many are waiting to see his new series.

What advice can you give to a first-time collector?
Carefully look and study what you love and be knowledgeable about what you like to acquire. Trust your eye and your taste, and always have a specialized advisor.

For collectors specifically interested in investing in Iranian art, my advice is to buy from Iranian Modern artists who have established records and rising prices and gradually get into Iranian contemporary art.

If you were not an art dealer, what would you be doing?
I would still be an art dealer!

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