In recent years, in celebration of the Persian New Year, the Tehran Municipality and the Organization of Tehran Beautification have been organizing an annual spring urban art event comprised of art exhibits and installations in public spaces around the city. With each coming year the event has grown larger with a greater number of participating artists and encompassing a wider range of art forms.
This year, Tehran’s spring urban art event was officially named “Baharestan”, meaning “spring garden”; it included mural painting, sculpture, graphic design, installation and environmental/urban art, with a special section dedicated to Norouz “egg painting”.
The event was organized as a competition and the Municipality received an overwhelming number of proposals from artists in all fields. In the sculpture and environmental art sections, 1’431 proposals were submitted by 532 artists out of which 160 artists were invited to participate in the event.
The artworks started going on display in public spaces around the city before the arrival of the New Year and will be exhibited through the end of Farvardin (April 18).The installations are quite varied with each artist marking the cityscape with their own unique style and imagination. The exhibits can be viewed along Vali’asr Ave. from Rahahan to Tajrish; along Enghelab St. from Meydaneh Enghelab to Ferdowsi and also on Keshavarz Blvd.
Fantasy, imagination, humor, nature, and the playful transformation of everyday city objects are prominent themes throughout the artwork. Concrete bollards transformed into mini-people, winged chairs floating on tree tops, pink ladders crossing bubble clouds, trees dressed in colorful yarn, walls with big ears and large imaginary creatures seated on city walls are just a few examples.
In the Norouz “egg painting” section, 694 artists submitted 2’122 proposals, out of which approximately 119 proposals were selected as finalists. In addition to the winning artists, a number of well-known established artists such as Mahnoush Moshiri, Parviz Rastegar and Jamshid Haghighat Shenas were also invited to participate in the event and thus a total of 250 eggs were painted and displayed in 5 major parks: Mellat, Laleh, City Park (ParkehShahr), Ferdows Garden and Abbasabad Norouz Garden.
The concept behind the “egg painting” section was to use the eggs as a canvas for painters and illustrators to showcase their art rather than create merely decorative objects. In addition to being one of the important elements of the “Haft-seen” spread (2), the eggs are a symbol of spring, fertility and birth.
In the murals section of the event, 94 artists created new mural paintings on the walls of Tehran where they will remain as permanent art pieces.The graphic design section of Baharestan showcased work by 44 designers on billboards across the city.
Such public art events are not a novelty throughout the world; New York, Paris Berlin and many other great cities stand as precedents to Tehran. The main question here is how does Tehran’s Baharestan compare to events organized by other cities?
Two major differences stand out in comparison to other cities and these have to do with the quality and quantity of the artwork presented through the event. In comparison to other cities, the number of participating artists and artworks created during this year’s Baharestan event is absolutely mind boggling! To think that in such a short period, 160 installations, 94 murals, 250 eggs and a large number of billboards were created and set up for exhibition throughout the city is both amazing and alarming. It is amazing because no other event has produced so much work in so little time; and alarming because it seems that in the minds of the curators the question of concept, thought and careful execution was forfeited by the idea of “the more the merrier”.
Tehran’s Baharestan may not be an exhibit of the finest and most sophisticated examples of Iranian contemporary art but it has certainly been a huge success in terms of providing an opportunity and platform for the younger generation of Iranian artists who cannot easily find venues for their creativity and constantly face an uphill battle in the world of elitist galleries and art shows. And while more is not necessarily better, in this case it has certainly been “merrier”. With large numbers of young enthusiastic artists painting, sculpting and setting up installations throughout the city, a wave of joy and creativity has engulfed the mega-city, bringing vitality and creating a spirit of renewal. This spring cultural event has been so well received across the social spectrum that in addition to the many renowned artists, actors, filmmakers and city planners who have made positive comments, individuals such as Ali Parvin -the popular Iranian athlete- have also shown their support.
One of the most important aspects of public art is that it is accessible to a wide range of social groups. According to Penny Balkin Bach, the founder of America’s first non-profit organization dedicated to the integration of art and urban planning “public art occupies a unique position within the art world. In comparison with big-name gallery shows, public art is often “under-appreciated” much like landscape architecture is. But there’s lots to applaud: “It’s free. There are no tickets. People don’t have to dress up. You can view it alone or in groups. It’s open to everyone.” As Bach points out, bringing art to urban spaces is a major step towards raising social consciousness and unlike museum exhibits and gallery shows which are visited by a very select social group, urban art reaches out to all layers of society.
Finally, as a socio-cultural event, Baharestan should be praised for two major achievements: firstly for providing an opportunity for young artists to exhibit their work and secondly for promoting art and creativity by exposing art to all layers of society.
To participate in the Baharestan photo competition please visit: