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Forgotten Empire' Exhibition Offers Great Cultural Benefits


News Category: Cultural

20 October 2005 



The exhibition of “Forgotten Empire: the World of Ancient Persia” being held in the British Museum until 8 January 2006 has evoked a huge amount of praise as well as some critiques.

Aydin Aqdashlou, a noble Iranian expert of fine arts, has criticized the exhibition after visiting it with regard to overlooking objects from the era that could have been displayed from Reza Abbasi and Isfahan Museums.

Accepting the objections raised by Aqdashlou, Mohammad Reza Kargar, director of Iran’s National Museum, explained to Parseh Weekly that the exhibition is a vast one even with its current collection of 450 items which include some of the most important invaluable remains of the era on loan from Louvre, Iran’s National Museum or from the British Museum itself.

“This collaboration between the three museums is an epoch [in museum relations] and many of the presented items are shown for the first time ever,” he said, noting that Aqdashlou too has praised the exhibition in this regard.

Aqdashlou has pointed out to items belonging to private collections, Kerman, and Reza Abbasi Museums that should have been displayed in the British Museum, but Kargar mentioned the subject of the Achaemenid Empire as an extensive one, explaining that no matter how vast the exhibition is, there would however be some objects left outside.

“The current installation of the artifacts in the museum informs that there is not enough space even for the works displayed. Besides, another factor regarded for the selection of the objects was to focus the exhibition on artifacts which were excavated with scientific methods,” he indicated.

Many of the Achaemenid artifacts, especially those of Reza Abbasi Museum were excluded for the same reason. Some of the objects were also excluded based on opinions of some experts of Iran’s Cultural Heritage and Tourism Organization.

“Critics of the collection should be aware that we prepared to send some of the objects to the exhibition while many accused us of transferring the invaluable ancient relics of Iran’s National Museum abroad, and others of taking a great risk in doing so,” explained Kargar, adding, “I accept that there were more invaluable objects that could have been displayed, and for instance, it would have been much better if we had taken both pieces of paired objects, for example earrings, bracelets, etc. because one single piece fails to present the function of the object and the symmetrical observations of the Achaemenid art, but let’s regard the limitations which we confronted during the preparation of the collection.”

Kargar thanked, however, experts for sympathetic criticisms and explained that many have criticized the exhibition from artistic, historical perspectives, while the organizers’ focus has been on the scientific methods which were used in the excavation of the artifacts.

Pointing out to the huge amount of international feedbacks about the event, he announced that the exhibition will go to Barcelona, Spain and then to Japan after the British Museum display. The future exhibition in Japan will showcase 300 objects and will be held in five cities. The event is supported by Japan’s Emperor.

Besides cultural benefits, such loans can provide Iranian museums with financial benefits. The British Museum is to give Iran 100,000 Pounds for the loan of the artifacts and Japan’s exhibition will provide further $300,000 for Iran’s Cultural Heritage and Tourism Organization. “Iran’s National Museum income through loaning objects has been more than a million dollar in four years which can be considered a great achievement,” Kargar noted.

He, moreover, maintained that all costs, including transfer, publication of the catalogue, and insurance, are covered by the foreign country; the Iranian museum will be given a share of the published catalogues; and Iran has the right to loan artifacts from the host museum collection.

Replying to a question about an Iranian ancient artifact gone missing in a Belgian museum, Kargar said, “Three years ago, during the exhibition of 8000 years of Iranian art which was held in eight European countries for a five-year period, a bronze clip was lost. The Belgian government accepted all the responsibilities and paid the indemnity. Interpol is still pursuing the case and we hope to find it as soon as possible.”