NESHAN, The Iranian Graphic Design Magazine

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Neshan 34


Iranian Museum of Graphic Design: A timeless treasure

Ehsan Rezvani

On the evening of Sunday, the 18th of January, 2015, a group of Iranian graphic designers gathered at the “Arbab Hormoz” edifice in Police park, Tehran. They were there to see their old dream come true and to take part in the opening ceremony of Iranian Museum of Graphic Design.
The establishment of this museum was one of the main objectives the Iranian Graphic Designers Society (IGDS) pursued since the institute’s foundation. The establishment of Iran’s Museum of Graphics is a major and influential step towards recording, collecting, and documenting an important part of the contemporary visual culture and its products which were called “the homeless treasure” in the years of their displacement.
Previously, the collection was cared for in one of the rooms of the IGDS office. The inevitable place and method of its preservation had turned the collection into a family heirloom kept with fear and obsession in a small room of the ancestral home.
A museum is defined as a place for conserving and exhibiting cultural and artistic movable assets; assets that have lost their function and usage and serve no other purpose than being displayed. A placeless object of art is under the threat of destruction and oblivion. At the same time, a part of the culture and history to which the mentioned object belongs and in which it is embodied is also destroyed. Hence, it is extremely gratifying that the collection of Iran’s graphic design works found shelter before becoming devastated and forgotten.
Coincidentally, there is a formal and historical homogeneity between Iranian graphics and Iranian Museum of Graphic Design, as if they both recount the same the story. The Arbab Hormoz edifice is a construction from the second half of the Qajar era—the period in which graphic design has its origin according to the majority of accounts—with a combination of European neoclassical and traditional Qajar architecture. The same type of synthesis can be seen in Iranian graphics; the same narration and the nostalgia of our architecture and graphics. Museums are an institutions founded on thought and culture, based on a historical idea that provides a method for reading history and culture. The emergence of museums in Europe had its roots in the Enlightenment intellectual framework and was a consequence of this period’s historical view.
The objects that are placed in a museum are inanimate and draw their meaning from a thought that is based on an idea and a narration. In the absence of ideas and consciousness, all objects are in a state of historical placelessness and have no historical matter or cultural evolution except their own corpse.Today, most of our museums suffer from a lack of consciousness and historical idea. In the political atmosphere following the 1979 Revolution, the mainstream ideology, which was in conflict with the Western attitude and idea, did not approve of the Western historical narration. However, to date it has been unable to offer an alternative idea and narration. This is perhaps one of the most important reasons for the success of private museums in contrast to the public ones, since private museums have been somewhat distant from this ideological conflict.

Today, Iranian Museum of Graphic Design must face these questions: What is its forming idea? On what basis must the graphical works in this museum be ordered and what historical recitation and interpretation from Iran’s contemporary visual culture are they to represent?
It must be noticed that we still have no documented and written account of the history of Iran’s graphic design, and the existing accounts are mostly oral narratives or chronological texts, nothing like the analytical history of art and graphic design that exists in Europe.
Our collection of invaluable graphical works was finally transferred from a room in the Society’s office, or from small personal collections to a museum with a different identity. Now the museum can no longer be viewed and established from the previously-existing “nostalgic” perspective, or with a merely subjective approach that estimates the value of the objects of the museum based on our mentality and memories.
Iran’s budding Museum of Graphics is deeply in need of a historical narration that redefines the value of its objects based on their historical positions—and with a dialectical, analytical, and critical approach that is dependent on current cultural and artistic trends, particularly that of visual and graphic design. Only after this phase we will be able to define and identify the current state of Iran’s graphic design more precisely.
We must hope that the establishment of Iranian Museum of Graphic Design highlights the necessity of compiling the history of graphic design more than ever; since, a museum is the embodiment a historical idea. In the absence of a historical idea, a museum is nothing but a pile of artistic-cultural corpses, objects, with no scientific and educational aspects.
This deficiency will reduce the museum to a recreational ground that serves no other purpose than displaying the works and will —in an optimistic view— nothing more than a promenade.
What is currently placed in Iranian Museum of Graphic Design is a collection lacking a specific historical geography or any historical account. Although the collection has gained the place it merited, it is still historically placeless and undefined, hence, “a timeless treasure.”

Ghassemi, Houman. (2015, Winter). The crisis of institutions, the crisis of museums. Herfeh Honarmand, 53.
Nasrollahzadeh, Mehdi. (2015, Winter). Museum, object, organization. Herfeh Honarmand, 53.

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