The Cyrus Cylinder, Achaemenid, 539-538 B.C., excavated at Babylon, Iraq, 1879, on display in 'The Cyrus Cylinder and Ancient Persia: Charting a New Empire' June 20, 2013 at The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York. AFP/ Getty Images.

- Mayor Bloomberg said it all in his welcome message to guests at the Sotheby’s dinner in honour of the Cyrus Cylinder at the Met: “These artifacts played an important role in developing our understanding of world history and this exhibit is a wonderful way for residents and visitors to learn more about the historical significance of this great empire.” On June 20th, Sotheby’s welcomed nearly 80 guests to a dinner to celebrate the opening of a landmark exhibition in New York. Of course the Cylinder itself is by now a rather savvy tourist, having been displayed at the Smithsonian, and the Houston Museum of Fine Arts since last March. It will go on to San Francisco in August, and the Getty Museum in Los Angeles in October, before reaching its final destination in Mumbai. To date, more than 200,000 visitors have viewed the exhibition on its American journey.
The Sotheby’s dinner guests were warmly welcomed by Lisa Dennison, Chairman of Americas, and Alireza Rastegar, Chairman of IHF America.  Dr. John Curtis of the British Museum said a few words about the importance of this small object that has such extraordinary significance: it has urged mankind to a life of tolerance and understanding of human rights. A replica standing above the entrance of the UN building in NYC reminds us that the 2600 year old message is even more relevant today in a world where populations converge and peaceful co-existence is more important than ever.

Alireza Rastegar, Chairman of IHF America (right), Shahla Ansary (center) and Joanna Mackle, Deputy Director of the British Museum (left) at the Sotheby’s dinner.
Guests included exhibition sponsors, patrons and art collectors from around the United States. Akbar Lari who sat next to me at dinner was one such personality, as was Hamid Biglari, a stalwart supporter of Iranian art and culture. Their concern is for the world to have a better, more comprehensive understanding of Iranian civilization – over and beyond the clichéd stereotypes and media images that we have come to associate with it. One hopes that many more such initiatives will evolve from the success of this show, and that “Iran Modern,” an exhibition scheduled to open in early September at Asia Society NY, will receive as warm a welcome from the American public as the ancient relic left to us by the great Cyrus.