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Trendy, wealthy and in its element, the packed crowd edges around abstract sculptures, somewhat grotesque portraits and looped cartoons by U.S.-based Iranian artist Pouya Afshar.The work has clear Iranian and religious themes, drawing on traditional mourning ceremonies, yet the censorious rulers of the Islamic republic – deeply ambivalent about the liberating and libertine tendencies of the art world – feel a world away.The clerical establishment still meticulously monitors all art for anything deemed un-Islamic or obscene, but a public space has opened up for young creatives to live in a way that would have seemed impossibly daring just a few years ago.The freer atmosphere has pushed ordinary artistic concerns to the fore: about authenticity and funding, and what it means to be an "Iranian artist".The numbers are still small and many obstacles remain, says Hormuz Hematian, who founded the Dastan Gallery in Tehran five years ago.Hematian says the market could grow five or 10 times in the next decade, if only the remaining US sanctions on Iran can be lifted.
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