There is an on-going problem in academic work on the history of the art and architecture of Iran: it is divided into two fields, one much more populated than the other. One of these is the widely studied historical field with its focus on pre-modern, medieval and ancient ‘Persian’ art and architecture; the other is the field of modern and contemporary ‘Iranian’ art and architecture. The problem arises in the fact that there is often little communication or appreciation between these two fields. Modern and contemporary artists and scholars reflect on classical art and architecture, but from the historical side there tends to be considerably less interest in the modern and contemporary field. Methodological practices also differ between the two: contemporary art history uses 20th and 21stcentury theoretical perspectives, whereas in the historical field, more often than not, historical and traditional art historical methods are used. Yet, the two fields are connected – artists and historians of art do not live in a vacuum, and Persian and Iranian art is by definition connected. There has always been a looking back at, and awareness of, the past among historians of art, but modern and contemporary artists too are rooted in, and make reference to, the past.
Keynote speakers: Professor Robert Hillenbrand Professor Paul Luft Dr Hamid Keshmirshekan

This conference is supported by a research grant from the British Institute of Persian Studies and the Iran Heritage Foundation. For more information on BIPS and grant opportunities please see, and for the IHF

In this Conference we seek to bring together scholars from both the historical and contemporary fields to discuss certain issues which run across their respective subjects.

The iconic and historic John Rylands Library, Deansgate in central Manchester will be the location for this two-day conference. There will be an opportunity to view some examples of the John Rylands Collection of a thousand Persian manuscripts.

Scholars from Iran and elsewhere are being invited to attend the conference.

For further information contact the main convener of the Conference, Dr Aida Foroutan at aida.foroutan at


Day 1: Thursday 17 May 2018
Christie Room, John Rylands Library, Deansgate

8.45: Arrival and Registration
9.10 – 9.15: Welcome: Prof. Alan William (Professor of Iranian Studies, University of Manchester)
9.15 – 9.20: Introduction: Dr. Aida Foroutan (University of Manchester)

9.20 – 10.00: Keynote Speech
Chair: Prof. Alan Wiliams

  • Prof. Robert Hillenbrand FBA (Professor of Islamic Art History, University of St Andrews, Professor Emeritus, University of Edinburgh): ‘The Originality of the Great Mongol Shahnama’

10.00 – 11.35: Panel 1 – Historicism
Chair: Prof. Paul Luft

  • Dr Mina Talaee (Alzahra University): ‘Committed Art: Post-revolutionary Figurative Sculpture in Iran in the Context of Modernism’
  • Ms Elizabeth L Rauh (University of Michigan): ‘Visual Resurrections: Reproducing “Classical” Persian Images in 20th-Century Iranian Art’
  • Dr Saeid Khaghani (University of Tehran): ‘The Dynamics of Historicism in Contemporary Iranian Architectural Discourses’
  • Dr Aban Tahmasebi (The Sapienza University of Rome): ‘Romantic Architectural Historiography Linked to Persian Cultural Absolutism’
  • 11.35 –12.00: Tea/Coffee break

12.00 – 13.15: Panel 2 – Identity
Chair: Dr. Ilse Sturkenboom

  • Prof. Abbas Daneshvari (California State University, Los Angeles): ‘The Color of History in Contemporary Iranian Photography’
  • Mr Keivan Moussavi-Aghdam (Tehran University of Art): ‘Society for the National Heritage and Iranian Modern Identity’
  • Dr. Aida Foroutan (University of Manchester): ‘Extension of the Universe on Canvas: The Painting of Bobak Etminani’

13.15 – 14.20: Lunch break In the Atrium

13.15 – 14.15: Collection Encounter: (Group 1: 13.15 – 13.40 - Group 2: 13.50 – 14.15) In the Bible Room led by Elizabeth Gow (delegates will be divided into 2 groups: there will be 2 sessions) The Collection Encounter will present selected Persian manuscripts (including miniatures, lacquer bindings and calligraphy)

14.20 – 15.10 Panel 3 – Case Studies
Chair: Prof. Ali Ansari

  • Dr David Hodge (Art Academy, London): ‘Reformism’s Self-Portrait: Reformism’s Self-Portrait: Cosmopolitanism, Contemporaneity and Class in Mehraneh Atashi’s Early Work’
  • Ms Roberta Marin (Khalili Collection of Islamic Art and the University of York): ‘The “Traditional Abstract Art” Of Faramarz Pilaram (1937-1983)’

15.10 –15.30: Tea/Coffee break

15.30 –15.45: Panel 4 – Education
Chair: Prof. Alan Williams

  • Prof. David Lomas (Professor of Art History University of Manchester):  ‘Human Flows’

15.45 – 16.15: Mr Bobak Etminani (Vice-President, the Association of Iranian Painters) ‘Typology of Painting and the Five Genes: A Comprehensive Academic Shortcut in Teaching Drawing and Painting’

16.15 – 17.00: Keynote Speech
Chair: Dr. Siavush Randjbar-Daemi

  • Prof. Paul Luft (Hon.Vice-President of the British Institute of Persian Studies, formerly Senior Lecturer University of Manchester): ‘Following the track of Iranian Studies at Manchester’

17:00 End of Day 1

18.45 Conference Dinner (for Speakers and Chairs) Christie’s Bistro Located in The Christie Building, #58 in the Campus Guidance The Old Quadrangle, University of Manchester, Oxford Road, Manchester, M13 9PL?

Day 2: Friday 18 May 2018
Christie Room, John Rylands Library, Deansgate

9.15 – 10.00 Keynote Speech
Chair: Dr Aida Foroutan

  • Dr. Hamid Keshmirshekan (London Middle East Institute, SOAS Univ. of London) ‘Challenging Points of Entry: Modern and Contemporary Art Historiography of Iran Revisited’

10.00 – 11.10: Panel 5 – Method 1
Chair: Dr Siavush Randjbar-Daemi

  • Mr Hosein Eyalati (Kaarnamaa Art Magazine): ‘Collective Memories / Selective Interpretations’
  • Dr Combiz Moussavi-Aghdam (Tehran University of Art): ‘Contemporary Iranian Art and Its Scholarship: A Critical Review’
  • Dr Jamal Arabzadeh (Tehran University of Art): ‘Theory versus Method: The Evolution of Art History Teaching in Iran’

11.10 – 11.40: Tea/Coffee break

11.40 – 12.55: Panel 6 – Exhibiting
Chair: Dr Ilse Sturkenboom

  • Dr. Nicoletta Torcelli (The French-German cultural channel Arte): ‘Exhibiting Iranian Art: Curatorial Considerations’
  • Mr Tim Cornwell (The Art Newspaper, and other publications): ‘The Building of the Collection of the Tehran Museum of Contemporary Art and its Art’
  • Ms Chaeri Lee (Free University and Humboldt University of Berlin): ‘The Politics of Collecting and Displaying Iranian Coffeehouse Paintings’

12.55 – 13.55: Lunch break

13.55 – 15.10: Panel 7 – Photography & Cinema
Chair: Prof. Alan Williams

  • Dr Anita Hosseini (University of Hamburg): ‘Public And Private Spaces Of Emotions: Ashgar Farhadi’s “The Salesman/Forushande” in The Context of European and Persian Art History’
  • Ms Agnes Rameder (Catholic Private University of Linz): ‘Photographer’s Self-Depiction in Staged and Constructed Photographs from the 19th Century to the Present’
  • Ms Janet Rady (Gallery Director and Curator, Independent): ‘Shadi Ghadirian - Nostalgic Revivalist or Contemporary Creative?’

15.10 – 15.40: Tea/Coffee break

15.40 – 16.30: Panel 8 – Method 2
Chair: Prof. Paul Luft

  • Ms Dafne Gotink (University of Amsterdam): ‘Political with a wink: how to read critical contemporary art from Iran’
  • Mr Abbas Hosseini (University of Zanjan): ‘Reading Art Historiography through Persian Safavid Manuscripts; Approaches and Challenges’

16.30 – 17.30 Final Panel: Professor Hillenbrand, Professor Luft, and Dr Keshmirshekan

Panel: Plenary Discussion: Concluding Remarks
17.30 End of Conference

Members of the conference are invited to join us for an informal dinner as the English say, ‘Going Dutch’