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Christie's could start holding sales in Iran, says Culture Minister

Announcement highlights an increase of interest in contemporary art in Iran
Christie's artwork may soon help bolster the art scene in Tehran (AFP)
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Iran is negotiating with the leading international auction house Christie's to hold sales inside the Islamic republic to support its blossoming art scene, it was reported on Monday.

Dubai, across the Gulf from south Iran, is currently a hotspot for emerging contemporary Iranian artists as well as collectors, hosting the London-based auction house's biannual sales events.

Iranian artists have fetched top dollar in those auctions.

Quoted by the official IRNA news agency, Culture Minister Ali Janati said negotiations with Christie's are under way to hold auctions at Iran's Gulf resort Kish Island.

"The close distance to Dubai has allowed Iranian artists - who can afford the travel costs - to present their work there," Janati said, noting that local auctions could attract a bigger audience.

The art scene in Tehran, although considered a lightweight in global standards, is expanding with the country's nouveau riche buying big, observers say.

In July 2013, Iran held its first ever contemporary art auction, with 80 sales totalling almost $2 million (1.4 million euros).

That came after several prominent artists sold work at regional fairs.

Renowned sculptor Parviz Tanavoli sold a piece for more than $2.8 million at a Christie's sale in 2008 -- an auction record for any Middle East artist.

An art collector, who spoke to AFP on condition of anonymity, welcomed Janati's comments which he said would "send the right signal of encouragement to many up and coming artists".

But he was also sceptical of the practicalities.

"Can an Iranian auction really stand against Dubai when it comes to attracting big names and money?" he asked.