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  • Aug 15, 2018

Artist Parviz Tanavoli Barred From Leaving Iran Over Legal Dispute With Tehran Dealer

A travel ban has been enforced by Iranian authorities against artist PARVIZ TANAVOLI due to an ongoing legal dispute with Tehran art dealer Maryam Goudarzi. Pictured: The artist with his sculpture Big Heech Lovers (2007) at the Davis Museum, Wellesley College, Wellesley, Massachusetts, 2015. Photo John Gordon. Courtesy the artist and Davis Museum.

Iranian artist Parviz Tanavoli was barred from leaving his home country in late July over charges of “spreading disinformation” brought against him by Tehran art dealer Maryam Goudarzi. 

Tanavoli was about to board a British Airways flight to London at Tehran Airport when Iranian authorities confiscated his passport and told him that he had been placed under a travel ban owing to the unresolved legal dispute with Goudarzi. 

In 2014, Goudarzi struck a deal with Tanavoli to return to him six copper sculptures, part of an early single work titled Three Girls and Three Boys (1972). Goudarzi had originally purchased the sculptures for IRR 8 billion (around USD 270,000 at the time) but asked Tanavoli to buy them from her after she had struggled to sell them. Tanavoli agreed instead to swap the six sculptures for five newer works of the same value. Goudarzi took Tanavoli to court after the exchange was made, alleging that the new sculptures were worth less than the agreed value.

A lower court had ruled in favor of Tanavoli in 2017 but, unbeknownst to the artist, Goudarzi took her case to an appeals court, which has overturned the ruling. The court now values the sculptures at USD 6 million, and has ordered the return of Three Girls and Three Boys or that compensation be paid to Goudarzi, stating, “dissimulation and fraud is evident and proved in this case.” Tanavoli argues that the value of the works could not have increased to such a degree since 2014. 

Tanavoli was also barred from leaving the country in 2016 while on his way to an event for the launch of his book European Women in Persian Houses at the British Museum. He was given no official explanation at the time, but the artist told The Art Newspaper that he now believes the 2016 travel ban was also related to the ongoing dispute with Goudarzi. 

Tanavoli was one of the founders of the Saqqakhaneh school in the 1960s, whose followers combined contemporary practice with Persian folk art forms, as in the artist’s heech sculptures. In 2008, he set the auction record for a work by a Middle Eastern artist when his 1975 The Wall (Oh Persepolis) sold for USD 2.8 million at Christie’s Dubai. Tanavoli has published books on Iranian art and culture, and his artworks are in the collections of the British Museum, London; MoMA, New York; Qatar National Museum, Doha; and Tehran Museum of Contemporary Art.

Christie Wong is an editorial intern of ArtAsiaPacific.

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