Back in August of 2018, U.S. President Donald Trump took to Twitter to warn that “anyone doing business with Iran will not be doing business with the United States.” Since Trump announced that the United States would withdraw from Obama’s nuclear deal of 2015 last May, his administration has unilaterally imposed the toughest sanctions in history against the Islamic Republic. In order to isolate the country from the international financial system, the sanctions prohibit Iran’s purchase of U.S. dollars and precious metals like gold, aluminum, and steel.
Many European, British and international companies have withdrawn from Iran to protect themselves against U.S. sanctions, and inflation in the country has skyrocketed: by the end of last year, the Iranian rial had lost almost 70 percent of its value against the dollar. The sanctions also target broad sections of the Iranian economy like healthcare, automotives and the wider energy industry, but one sector of the Iranian economy that has suffered unforeseen consequences from the sanctions is art and culture.
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Iran’s contemporary art scene began to thrive in the mid-2000s, with works like Eshgh (Love) by Farhad Moshiri selling for over $1 million at auction. Over the ensuing years, it has emerged as one of the strongest players from the Middle East on the international stage. Though art is classified as “informational material” and technically exempt from the U.S. sanctions, the situation has posed significant challenges for artists and galleries.
Under the terms of the sanctions, Iranians cannot trade in their own currency, nor can they receive or wire money to foreign bank accounts….