December 2020


The Iran Heritage Foundation is delighted to announce 

the details of the upcoming exhibition


13 February – 30 August 2021

V&A, London


Detached folio from an illuminated manuscript of the Shahnameh for Shah Tahmasp, 1525-1535, Tabriz. The Sarikhani Collection, I.MS.4025. Photo: © The Sarikhani Collection

Full Exhibition Details
Book Tickets

The exhibition is organised by the V&A with the Iran Heritage Foundation, in association with The Sarikhani Collection. IHF has spent much of the last two years working towards this exciting project and we are very proud that the exhibition has been co-curated by Dr John Curtis, IHF’s Academic Director.


Opening in February 2021, Epic Iran will explore 5,000 years of Iranian art, design and culture, bringing together more than 300 objects from ancient, Islamic and contemporary Iran. It will be the UK’s first major exhibition in 90 years to present an overarching narrative of Iran from 3000 BC to the present day. 


Iran was home to one of the great historic civilisations, yet its monumental artistic achievements remain unknown to many. Epic Iran will explore this civilisation and the country’s journey into the 21st century, from the earliest known writing through to the 1979 Revolution and beyond. Ranging from sculpture, ceramics and carpets, to textiles, photography and film, works will reflect the country’s vibrant historic culture, architectural splendours, the abundance of myth, poetry and tradition that have been central to Iranian identity for millennia, and the evolving, self-renewing culture evident today. From the Cyrus Cylinder and intricate illuminated manuscripts of the Shahnameh, to ten-metre-long paintings of Isfahan tilework, Shirin Neshat’s powerful two-screen video installation Turbulent, and Shirin Aliabadi’s striking photograph of a young woman blowing bubblegum, the exhibition will offer a fresh perspective on a country that is so often seen through a different lens in the news.


Tristram Hunt, Director of the V&A says: “Ninety years since the last major UK exhibition to cover 5,000 years of Iranian art, design and culture, Iran has undergone significant changes and the cultural landscape has changed dramatically. ‘Epic Iran’ will serve a vital purpose in enabling audiences in Britain to discover more about one of the world’s great historic civilisations and its incredible creative output in the 21st century. This landmark exhibition will unite the ancient and Islamic study of Iran – often seen as two separate disciplines – alongside a powerful modern and contemporary section, allowing the Iranian people’s artistic achievements across millennia to be considered in their entirety."


Armlet, 500-330 BC, from the Oxus Treasure

© Victoria and Albert Museum, London


Dish showing a king hunting ibexes and gazelles, about 484-629

The State Hermitage Museum, St. Petersburg. Photograph © The State Hermitage Museum, 2021/photo by Alexander Koksharov


John Curtis (Academic Director, IHF), Epic Iran co-curator: “Visitors will be astonished by the quality and variety of objects from Ancient Iran, showing that it had a civilisation every bit as advanced and prosperous as those in neighbouring Mesopotamia and Egypt. It will be clear that the Persian Empire, founded in 550 BC, inherited a very rich legacy from earlier periods of Iranian history.”


Horoscope of Iskandar Sultan, 1411

Courtesy Wellcome Collection


Woman’s jacket, blouse and skirt, 1800–50

© Victoria and Albert Museum, London


Tim Stanley (Senior Curator, V&A), Epic Iran co-curator: “This exhibition offers a rare opportunity to look at Iran as a single civilisation over 5,000 years. Objects and expertise have come together to tell one of the world’s great stories in art, design and culture. In the Islamic period, political power in Iran was recast in many different forms, but an overarching sense of history and a deep devotion to Persian literature survived the turmoil of events. In 1501 the Imami form of Shi’ism became Iran’s official religion, giving the population a unifying set of beliefs that set them apart from their neighbours. Shared beliefs, memories of a glorious past and a joy in Persian poetry are still a vital part of life in Iran today.”


Sirak Melkonian, Veiled Women, 1957.

© Sirak Melkonian. Photo: Peter Kelleher/Victoria and Albert Museum, London.


Shirin Aliabadi, Miss Hybrid #3, 2008. Photograph © Estate of Shirin Aliabadi


Ina Sarikhani Sandmann (Director, The Sarikhani Collection), Epic Iran associate curator: “Contemporary Iranian art is dynamic and exciting, critically self-examining and engaged in the global world, and both intellectual and playful. The rich variety and quality, often radical and experimental and unapologetic in playing with themes such as gender, politics and religion, may surprise visitors – and helps explain why Iran’s long legacy of culture continues to be so relevant to the world today.”

Click here for full exhibition details

Please Support the Iran Heritage Foundation

You can help us to continue our work and activities, and any donations would be gratefully received, especially in these challenging times. IHF depends on the generosity of individuals and corporations for its funding and does not accept donations from any government or political organisations. Click here to donate.