The Arts of Iran Now and Then
With the opening of ‘Epic Iran’ at the Victoria and Albert Museum on 29 May 2021, in HALI 207 we remember the last time a major exhibition of the art of Iran took place in the United Kingdom—the ‘International Exhibition of Persian Art’ at the Royal Academy of Arts in London in 1931. This exhibition has taken on almost legendary status and is often referenced. As is clear from the installation photos, some of the world’s greatest carpets played a prominent role. Seeing the Milan Hunting Carpet, the shaped carpet from the Shrine of Shah Abbas II in Qom and the Ardabil Carpet in the same gallery may never be possible again. The limited selection of carpets in ‘Epic Iran’ is probably related to the modern conservation and display challenges these works of art present, as well as the choice to include more contemporary works. The 1931 exhibition was accompanied by a robust lecture programme, with Arthur Upham Pope speaking on Persian carpets, and it is encouraging to see that the V&A’s two related online courses—‘From Isfahan to Istanbul: Arts of the Islamic World’ and ‘The Arts of Iran: 5,000 Years of Culture’—are both sold out.