Last year, we were honoured with a sneak peek of Viola Raikhel-Bolot and Miranda Darling’s book, Iran Modern: The Empress Of Art. Published by Assouline, this sizeable and handsome book details Her Imperial Highness, Farah Pahlavi’s incredible journey, the struggles of being exiled and the impressive contemporary art collection she had to leave behind.
When Raikhel-Bolot and Darling first previewed us the book they shared a little part of their journey with us. “When the book arrived we couldn’t quite believe it because it is gigantic and it is part of what the publishers call the ‘Impossible Collection’ and we joke it’s not called that for no reason because it is impossible to lift,” said Darling. “It’s been a real labour of love, Viola always says we could have had three children by the time we did this book and it does weigh 10.6 kilos. Hopefully though it is in a way a beautiful manifestation of what is really an important story and we feel very strongly about the legacy the Empress has left for women in the arts, for the her country and for the art world more generally. I think the book, as much as it was difficult to make, reflects that importance.”
When elaborating on the Empress Raikhel-Bolot describes her as a “magnificent woman. We aspire to be like her.” The Empress turned 80 last October. Neither Raikhel-Bolot or Darling realised the significance of this timing. “Our mission with Vanishing Pictures – which is our production company now – is to tell the story of women who have changed the course of history. We feel it’s our duty to help these women have their voices heard. We have many more stories to tell.” And the Empress is a fabulous way to start such a series. “[The Empress] said the rest of the world has extraordinary Iranian art but we don’t have any Western art… she bought the living artists who were working at the time,” Darling says. “She was very well advised.”
“The collection is exceptional and some of the works in the book have not even been displayed in Iran in a museum since ’78 / ’79. The last time she saw the museum was at her birthday in 1978. She has not returned since, this is the first record of the collection since then,” says Raikhel-Bolot.
Raikhel-Bolot and Darling have finally launched the book in Australia, officially presenting it at an event hosted by Van Cleef & Arpels who for the first time will present a selection of its private collection in Sydney, including a replica of Her Imperial Highness, Farah Pahlavi’s tiara crafted for her by Pierre Arpels in 1967.
The Empress and her journey is fascinating and the book, a visual marvel. And we thank Raikhel-Bolot and Darling for giving us the Empress.
by Bec Khoury