London museum to host major exhibit on Iranian history and arts

December 16, 2020 - 20:59

TEHRAN – The Victoria and Albert Museum (V&A) will be hosting a major exhibition on Iranian history and arts.

Titled “Epic Iran”, the exhibition will open to the public on February 13, 2021, exploring 5,000 years of art, design, and culture of the ancient country, and its monumental artistic achievements, which are still unknown to many.

Just as London museums are closing down again due to heightened Covid-19 restrictions, the Victoria and Albert Museum has optimistically announced further details about its forthcoming 2021 blockbuster survey on Iran.

Epic by name and epic by nature, this exhibition will cover an ambitious 5,000 years of Iranian history through 350 objects. The exhibition is billed as "the first UK exhibition in 90 years to present an overarching narrative spanning 5,000 years of Iranian art, design and culture". Split into ten, fairly chronological sections, it will have an “immersive design” that sets it in a city, complete with a gatehouse, gardens, a palace, and a library. The show will include works borrowed from collections in the U.S., Russia, France, Belgium, and the UK.

Starting in 3,200 BC, the show will first explore the varied landscape of Iran before moving on to early Persian civilizations, the Persian Empire, and later Sassanid rule and Zoroastrianism.

“Visitors will be astonished by the quality and variety of objects from Ancient Iran, showing that it had a civilization every bit as advanced and prosperous as those in neighboring Mesopotamia and Egypt," says John Curtis, the co-curator of Epic Iran. "It will be clear that the Persian Empire, founded in 550 BC, inherited a very rich legacy from earlier periods of Iranian history.”

Another section in the show will look at the emergence and establishment of Islam following the Arab conquest in the mid-seventh century. The display will include Qurans and manuscript illuminations, including the Horoscope of Iskandar Sultan—a 15th-century manuscript featuring the horoscope of a Timurid prince—on loan from London's Wellcome Collection.

Literature is an overarching theme of the show, with a section devoted to poetry and its use in manuscripts and another dedicated to Ferdowsi’s 11th-century epic poem Shahnameh (book of kings).

The final section will cover a tumultuous period of rapid social and political change in Iran from the 1940s to the present day, which has seen the Islamic Revolution, the Iran-Iraq War, and ongoing international tensions.