The museum of the first woman in Iran painting history
“I hope to install each piece of art in the museum with my own hands. I think all Iranian women would be pleased to learn of this historic event: the first female Iranian painter paying for and building her own museum and donating 195 of her works to her own people.” Iran Darroudi, internationally renowned and highly successful painter, often repeats this idea.
As reported by ISNA, the project’s groundbreaking ceremony occurred in September 2016 at Yusef Abad, an upmarket location in Tehran, following 6 years of perseverance by the renowned artist. Darroudi sold her home in France to pay for the museum’s construction. Darroudi had been hospitalized prior to the ceremony, but insisted on leaving against her doctor’s recommendation to attend the ceremony. She had been counting down the hours and days to this special event.
Initially, she had optimistically estimated an 18 months construction timeline for the 1600-2000 square meters museum. 18 months later, not even a single brick has been laid.
The Iranian artist has often repeated her dream of constructing a museum for her artworks. That was still her wish in her 81st birthday: “Pray that I live long enough to see the Museum’s completion, and can finally install my artwork there.”
When an official delegation from the Ministry of Cultural Heritage, Handicrafts and Tourism visited Darroudi’s home to install a plaque celebrating her status as an internationally renowned artist, Darroudi explained that she has donated everything she owns to her country: “I even sold my house in France to pay for my museum. The house that I am living in today will be converted to a museum as well. My hope is that visitors will leave with an understanding that they visited the home and workplace of someone who deeply appreciated the great luck and fortune that she had the privilege of experiencing in her lifetime”.
Darroudi has held solo exhibitions in famous museums and galleries across the world, but the delayed construction of her own museum has been a source of great anxiety in light of her old age.
She said to ISNA in December 2016: “Unfortunately, construction has not yet begun. The main reason is that the deed for the land has not yet been transmitted by the mayor’s office to the local municipality. If you look at my body of work over the past 63 years, you’ll see that I have always felt a patriotic duty to spread contemporary art to my people. Love of my people and a desire to serve my fellow citizens are the reason that for the past 46 years I have reserved my best artworks for the museum.”
“The 195 pieces to be installed at the museum have been officially donated to the people of Iran. When Tehran’s mayor came to visit me at my house in early 2016, he ordered the city council to assign a piece of land for building the museum. Dr. Jahangir Dervish, a master architect, gifted the design for the museum itself to me. The earlier stages of contract with municipality went forward smoothly but because the New Year holidays, presidential election, then some changes in city council and mayor, the land assignment process was delayed.”
“Let’s not forget that at 81, I’m hardly fit to cope with all these ups and downs and ongoing anxiety. I hope these obstacles are removed as soon as possible so I can inaugurate the museum and gift it to the Iranian people during my lifetime. I pray that the Almighty grants me the opportunity to fulfill this dream.”
A week after the ISNA interview, Ali Azimi, the mayor of Tehran’s sixth district, visited Darroudi and announced that “we’ll be working with the city authorities to make sure that construction begins soon; there are no major obstacles to building the museum.”
A while later after this visit, the local municipality declared: “as long as the land grant is approved by the city council, it’s very possible that ground will be broken by the end of the year.”
Unfortunately nothing happened by the end of the year. And no further progress was made before the resignation of Mayor Mohammad Ali Najafi.
Four days after election of Tehran’s new mayor, a bill was passed unanimously by the city council approving a plot of land in the Yusuf-Abad district for the museum.
The 81-year-old painter, exhausted by the endless administrative bureaucracy, is still waiting for the project to get started. Her dream of a museum to house the artwork that she is donating to future generations of Iranians remains as yet unfulfilled.