A Conversation with Roxane Zand

In her 60s, Roxane Zand has been and still is a prominent figure in the contemporary art scene. Since I adore Iranian modern and contemporary art, I wanted to get to know this lady more. So, I figured by asking her questions that I liked, she would also be addressing some of the questions other people may have in their minds.


When did your appreciation for art come to be a part of your life?

As a child!

The world is becoming more and more technologically advanced. In your opinion, how has contemporary art and its auctions been affected by technology?

Technology is ‘democratizing’ art and making it available to a far larger audience than ever before. Even museums are now doing online shows, and some art collectors have now digitized a few of their private collections entirely. Instagram itself is also a wonderful example of being able to put on display the incredible things that we work with to a wider, more global set of art lovers and would-be collectors.

How do you define the relationship between art and money?

One cannot exist without the other. Renaissance painters needed patrons; many great Persian artworks and architecture would have never happened without patronage and commissions. That dynamic continues today. Artists need collectors, and collectors thrive on the art they love.

How has Sotheby’s, as an auction house, been able to promote or, at the very least, make modern and contemporary Iranian art visible to the larger art market?

What many people do not realize about auction houses is that our presale exhibitions are open to the public and free to view. Meaning that for a few weeks every year, our galleries turn into pop-up shows of Iranian art, displaying both the pioneering modern masters and newer contemporary names. In terms of its brand, Sotheby’s has a wide reach and recognition as a 275-year-old institution, and so it is even more special to witness Iranian art displayed in this context.

In recent years, we have also achieved record prices for the works of such artists as Bahman Mohasses and Manoucher Yektai, demonstrating their enduring values and growing appeal internationally.

In auctions, it is common to see paintings sold for more than 100 million Euros. Can you walk us through how an art object is valuated and what the deciding factors are in calculating such price?

The most important factor in evaluating a work of art is expertise and experience. Establishing the value of such work is determined by a number of considerations, including rarity, ownership history, historical importance, subject matter, and, of course, quality. You also have to take in mind prices previously achieved on the primary market, art fairs, private deals, and other sources.

How do you compare the evolution of art in Iran before and after the 1979 Revolution?

The 70s was a fertile period with the increase in oil prices that brought about a strong economy and the opening of Tehran Museum of Contemporary Art, as well as other art and culture activities, which encouraged art production. After the revolution, Iranian artists continued to show the strength of their creativity and output, and artists such as Zenderoudi, Ehsai, and Tanavoli remained popular.

More recently, the lively art and design scene in Tehran has been blossoming at an unstoppable pace. Galleries have flourished, with local institutions continually striving to provide a platform for a new generation of first-rate artists.

In January 2019, the Tehran Auction ended with a new record of 2.6 million Euros in sales. Do you think that the art world is a safe haven in Iran under the new sanctions?

The sanctions are no doubt a challenging situation that has influenced all sectors; however, when good works come up on the market, they are consistently with enthusiasm.

What does the future hold for the art market in Iran?

The art market relies on a number of factors, but Iran also has many talented artists, which means that the future is likely to be bright. I am confident and optimistic that the international interest that spurred the recent boom will continue.

In your opinion, have female Iranian artists been successful in portraying their experience?

Many talented Iranian female artists portray their experience in a variety of expressive ways. We have a number of works by such artists coming up in our next auction, including wonderful pieces by Behjat Sadr and Leyly Matine-Daftary.

We advocate for openness and women’s rights. I imagine these topics are close to your heart as well. Is there anything specific you would want to touch on?

Women all around the world strive to be on equal footing with men. In the West, the Me Too movement has shown to what extent women have had gender issues in their workplace. I hope that every woman can achieve her dreams with hope, energy, and positivity, and that as time goes by, age does not become a barrier. Just look at Iran Khanoom!

Photographer: Heath Cooper

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