CEO of Tehran Museum of Contemporary Art sacked after “Oil Pool” gaffe

March 15, 2022 - 18:56

TEHRAN – Director of the Tehran Museum of Contemporary Art (TMCA) Ehsan Aqai was dismissed on Monday just two days after a thespian slightly damaged “Oil Pool”, an artwork at the museum, by mistake during his performance.

Deputy Culture Minister for Artistic Affairs Mahmud Salari announced Ebadorreza Eslami-Kulai as the new director of the museum on Monday with no comment on the blunder.

In an interview with the Persian service of ISNA, Aqai also refused to comment if there is any connection between his dismissal and the “Oil Pool” gaffe.  

The solo performance entitled “Cat of the Silk Road” was put on by Yasser Khaseb as part of a program for the opening ceremony of the Panj Ganj Exhibition organized to commemorate Iranian poet Nezami Ganjavi.  

During the performance, Kahseb’s body was suspended by a belt over Japanese artist Noriyuki Haraguchi’s “Oil Pool” and a part of it was immersed in the artwork’s oil, some of which dripped on the floor.

There was no official acknowledgment of the incident until a video of it was posted on Instagram by an art expert, who censured cultural officials for the blunder, and this provoked a storm of criticism from numerous art elites and cultural centers.

In a statement published afterward, the TMCA expressed regret and said that the performer’s plunge into the oil happened by mistake.

Khaseb also apologized for the blunder in an interview published by ISNA and said, “It has caused no damage to ‘Oil Pool’.”

Located in a hall of the TMCA, “Oil Pool” is a sculpture featuring a large metal container filled with used engine oil.

Haraguchi executed the artwork at the museum in 1977 after creating several editions across the world, including the one set up at “Documenta 6” in the German city of Kassel.
Haraguchi, who died in September 2020, visited “Oil Pool” at the museum in October 2017 by invitation of the TMCA to carry out the restoration of the artwork. He expressed his hope that the museum would preserve the artwork for many years to come.

He noted that the culture of Iran and Japan enjoy a common perspective that encourages the museum to retain the artwork.

Photo: Japanese artist Noriyuki Haraguchi glances at his sculpture “Oil Pool” on display at the Tehran Museum of Contemporary Art on October 21, 2017. (Mehr/Majid Asgaripur)


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