Modern & Contemporary Middle East

An Iranian Masterpiece in New York

By Roxane Zand

L ondon was awakened to a keen interest in Bahman Mohassess three years ago – shortly after his death - when a major documentary about this modern master was screened at the British Museum, alongside a remarkable anecdotal talk on the artist’s life by well-known film-maker and close friend Ebrahim Golestan.


In the film, Mohassess’s cavalier and ironic self-analyses peppered with darkly humorous remarks both contrasted and confirmed the extraordinary subject matter of his works. Tortured and anguished, his half-beast, half-mythological creatures speak of a deeply thoughtful and pained soul.

A sophisticated palette of Tuscan tones arising from his training in Italy shows an impressive painterly technique and a devotion to a form of aesthetic that was removed from ‘pretty’ subject matter but intimate with existential questions.  To him, ugliness was a form of beauty, and his somewhat lonely and isolated existence did not prevent him from appreciating a certain wittiness that came through in his collages and other works which survived his one-time sudden self-censorship.  On a whim, he had destroyed a number of paintings and drawings - an act which to this day is mourned by his collectors, though images remain.

As a genuine artist, he was not producing for the market but pouring out his deepest ideas and conflicts. Disappointed in love and in professional recognition during his life-time, the artist is now posthumously enjoying global recognition.

Sothebys is delighted to show an iconic work by Mohassess as part of its Twentieth Century Art from the Middle East in London on 25 April.  Do catch sight of this museum-quality work as it makes a brief appearance in NY on its way to London. No doubt New York will be equally roused to an appreciation of a world-renowned modern master who would have quietly smiled at the belatedness of his own success.

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