EghtesadOnline: The number of Iranian art galleries has been rising in recent years, a member of the Faculty of Art and Architecture of Islamic Azad University said.
In an exclusive interview with Financial Tribune, Vahid Sheykhian added that this is mainly because of two reasons.
“One is rooted in the growing focus on art galleries’ business and financial aspects, i.e. buying and selling artworks. The other is that quantity has overcome quality and the number of permits issued daily for the establishment and operation of art galleries is increasing. The artistic value is not appreciated like they used to be,” he added.
In Iran, the Visual Arts Office at the Ministry of Culture and Islamic Guidance is in charge of issuing permits for art galleries, Financial Tribune reported.
Sheykhian, who is also the owner and manager of Yasamin Art Gallery, said the office issues 10-12 permits daily.
He explained that the ministry does not supervise or deal with artists and artworks, while many people finding their ways into galleries are not artists. They either have a place to set up a gallery or have the investment.
Although the number of art galleries and art museums in Tehran or throughout the country can be estimated by conducting a survey within a period of time, no reliable and precise data on the number of genuinely active galleries are available. Since many gallery owners nowadays run their place only for the sake of business, they might close down their galleries and some just operate for a certain period of time,” he added.
Past and Present Status
An art gallery is a business that sells the artworks it exhibit. The profits made from sales will cover the operating costs to run the business and a successful gallery will also turn a profit.
As it is in the business to promote artists and sell their works, the gallery staff will also spend considerable time with potential clients to enlighten them about their artists.
According to an article by Tebyan.net, art galleries in Iran date back to 1949-50 during which the first Iranian gallery Apadana was established by Mahmoud Javadipour and some of his artist friends.
In the past, art galleries were merely a place to show artworks and to develop art appreciation and the financial aspects of galleries had almost no place. But things have changed now.
Over the years, the business of art galleries has grown in the country and economic aspects of holding art exhibitions seem to be gaining more prominence.
Art galleries are places to go, see and experience art. In galleries, the artworks are typically shown in pristine empty spaces with minimal distraction and controlled lighting. This allows the public to engage with the art in a specially-created aesthetic environment.
Artists typically receive payment for their work when it is purchased, minus a percentage taken by the gallery for representing the artist and showing their work.
In Sheykhian’s words, there are different factors at work when it comes to the overall cost of holding an art gallery, including the size of artworks and advertising costs.
Big artworks need big frames that might cost around 3-3.5 million rials ($67-78) per artwork. Add to it advertisement costs like printing flyers or posters on social media outlets.
Art galleries’ entry fees should also be taken into account.
If an artist manages to sell their artwork during the time the exhibition is underway, galleries usually receive 30-40% of the sales.
It is not usually economical for artists to hold solo exhibitions, hence more and more artists tend to hold group exhibitions these days.
Because of this strong attention to the business aspects of holding art exhibitions, many gallery owners and managers nowadays do not accept novice artists; they opt to cooperate with famous names as the chances of gaining profit is higher.
Referring to differences between Iran and other parts of the world with regard to galleries, viewers and art trade, Sheykhian said unlike Iran where viewers and buyers mostly pay attention to big names rather than the artworks, in other countries, most of the praise goes to the artistic aspects of the work.
“People’s declining purchasing power has absolutely played an effective role in the business of Iranian art galleries,” he added.
Sheykhian said most Iranian art galleries are located in the capital and others are mainly located in big cities such as Isfahan, Mashhad, Shiraz, Tabriz and Ardabil.
One other aspect of art galleries in foreign countries is that they are mostly concentrated in a place so you do not have to travel across the city to see different galleries and artworks. This benefits everybody, including artists, gallery managers, curators, artists and viewers.
In Iran, artworks enjoy a remarkable variety in terms of quality and price that can satisfy every taste. However, Sheykhian believes the number of customers and sales are not really high throughout the year.
Iran’s Art Market Growth
According to data released in the current Iranian year (ending March 20), Iran’s collective art market, namely the five major components—books, visual arts, cinema, theater and musical concerts—have had higher growth in terms of revenues.
Based on estimates, Iran’s art market revenues hit a record by earning 5 trillion rials ($111.73 million) this year, a report by Financial Tribune’s sister publication Donya-e-Eqtesad said.
The book market and cinema have had the biggest role in the Iranian art market growth during the year.
Visual arts market lack reliable data on sales. However, sales at Tehran Auction this year are said to have already broken last year’s record of 400 billion rials ($8.93 million).
The Persian economic daily Donya-e-Eqtesad estimates that the total visual arts sales in the country amounted to 410 billion rials ($9.16 million), indicating a 7.89% rise year-on-year.