Iran: a bird's-eye view

8 October 2008 until 8 March 2009

Iran, Isfahan (copyright: Georg Gerster)Iran, Isfahan (copyright: Georg Gerster)
Iranian collectionIranian collection

This exhibition combines superb aerial photos of Iranian landscapes and archaeological sites by the internationally acclaimed photographer Georg Gerster (the subject of a recent exhibition at the British Museum) with the most fascinating objects from the Iran collections at the Rijksmuseum van Oudheden (National Museum of Antiquities) in Leiden, the Gemeentemuseum in The Hague, and the Wereldmuseum in Rotterdam. With this exhibition, the museum aims to draw attention to Iran's rich cultural history and magnificent landscape, two features often overlooked in current media coverage.

Spectacular aerial views

The spectacular aerial views reveal not only unexpected diversity, but also surprisingly artistic compositions: the vast emptiness of the desert, cobalt-blue lakes, snow-capped mountains, the stark contrasts around oases, and the graphic lines of rice fields. These breathtaking natural scenes alternate with intriguing images of archaeological sites, monuments, cultural centres such as Isfahan, and the Towers of Silence erected by the Zoroastrians, adherents of Iran's pre-Islamic religion.

Unique Iran collection National Museum of Antiquities

The museum's Iran collection is truly world class. Its size, diversity, and superb quality - as well as its antiquity, with the earliest objects dating from about 5000 BC - make it unique in the Netherlands. It has been more than 25 years since the museum's last Iran exhibition, which marked the acquisition of the renowned Schürmann, Van Lier, and Westerhout collections. The museum has decided that now is the time to present its Iran collection to the public once again. The photographs and artefacts are accompanied by quotes and labels that highlight the connections between them. Some objects come from the region shown in the photo, while others are linked more indirectly; for instance, a Sassanid palace is paired with beautiful glasswork from the same period. The individual photos and objects, as well as the combinations, offer a window onto Iran's past as it lives on today in the country's landscape and cultural heritage.