Improved beyond repair

Restaurant Daff, Tehran


One of the things in Iran I find endlessly intriguing, is the use of Achaemenid motifs in contemporary design. For instance, it is quite normal to see painted Immortals guarding a restaurant, and Darius’ audience scene on a curtain, a pillow, or a wallpaper, and the sign of Ahuramazda on the ministry of Foreign Affairs. The use of pre-Islamic symbols in an Islamic republic is one of the many remarkable aspects of a country that seems to collect paradoxes by the dozen.

Most imitations are coarse and only a few are truly beautiful. (In this respect, it reminds one of Catholicism’s artistic language, which also ranges from the sublime to the terrible.) Occasionaly, a modern Iranian artist allows himself a little joke, neutralizing the sometimes warlike imagery of Achaemenid art. The flowerman in a restaurant in Tehran is based on a soldier (this one), but our Iranian artist has made something much more charming. I was reminded of Alexander Kosolapov, who is also capable of neutralizing unpretty images – for instance, by making an addition to Hitler’s state portrait.


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