Sanaz Mazinani's Together We Are, 2011, shortlisted for the Magic of Persia Contemporary Art Prize.


LONDON - In the ample setting of the Stevenson Lecture Theatre at the British Museum, Magic of Persia tonight unveiled the first in a series of events jointly organized by the BM, MOP, and Vali Mahlouji. The series will assess the legacy and importance of the work of modern and contemporary Iranian artists. Tonight’s session was dedicated to examining the selection process, challenges and criteria involved in the 2013 MOP Contemporary Art Prize.


A still from Anahita Norouzi's video Tehran, the Apocalypse, shortlisted for the MOP Contemporary Art Prize.


With an introduction by Venetia Porter and moderated by Vali, the panelists – Dr. Feri Daftary, Sotheby’s Institute’s Dr. Anthony Downey and Hamid Severi of Tehran – treated the audience to some important observations and insights involved in the business of awarding an art prize.

Anthony focussed primarily on how we produce knowledge about creative practices and how we can provide further context for an open discussion about the relationship of art to the way we live our lives; Hamid Severi – taped from Tehran due to visa issues – described some of his choices, and Dr. Daftary touched upon the complexities and challenges. Vali Mahlouji’s selection of submitted videos by some of the rejected candidates had the flavour of X-Factor outtakes – an eye-opener in terms of what the selection process must have entailed!

Farhad Fozouni's, Eye Drops Poetry shortlisted for the MOP Contemporary Art Prize.

Sunday evening is not a favoured slot of outings but a good attendance indicated once again that appetite for all things Iranian remain strong in London. Vahid and Maryam Alaghband of Iran Heritage Foundation, gallerist Rose Issa, Maryam Erfan of the BBC World Service and a number of collectors and luminaries made up a representative group that follow the course of this market. Last but not least, Shirley Elghanian, founder of Magic of Persia, filled the room with her usual warm welcome.