Iran is a riddle, wrapped in a mystery, inside a burqa. In the West, it's a nation defined by stereotypes of religious fanaticism, female oppression and human-rights violations. Yet the latest cultural evidence coming out of Tehran would have you think otherwise.
Art, a window into a society's heart, is thriving in the Iranian capital and the West is taking notice. New York's Metropolitan Museum of Art is now showing work by modern Iranian artists and one of London's Asian art specialists, Rossi & Rossi gallery, held a show by Iranian women last year. In Sydney, the largest exhibition of contemporary Iranian art in Australia opens on Thursday at New Albion Gallery, covering themes of identity, the pull of modernity against tradition and female independence.
Iranian artist, critic and university lecturer Behrang Samadzadegan says: ''I can see a sort of anarchistic art in this new generation of artists … I call them the Tehran hip-hop generation.
''You see the very beautiful pop-art image but with a lot of radical and anarchistic context in it,'' he says.
''They are always narrating stories about politics and the social situation of life and all the stories you hear in the news about Iran right now.''