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Tehran Museum Director Removed After Performance Mishap At Oil Pool Installation

The Tehran Museum of Contemporary Art (TMoCA) director was ousted last week after a performance mishap spoiled a below oil pool installation.

The incident occurred on March 12, when acrobat Yaser Khaseb was performing his aerial show titled Cat of the Silk Road. This was part of the opening exhibition dedicated to 12th-century Iranian poet Nizami Ganzani. However, videos that later emerged showed that Khaseb was suspended upside down from the ceiling via a rope. A swing by a collaborator caused Khaseb’s body to dip down and skim over the surface of the oil installation.

Tehran Museum of Contemporary Art

The installation in question was the 1977 installation by Japanese artist Noriyuki Haraguchi. Titled Matter and Mind, it is a 14×21 feet rectangular pool filled with 1,190 gallons of oil. Since its installation, it has been one of the highlights of the Tehran Museum. While the acrobat barely skimmed its surface, it did cause the oil to splatter around the room. Khaseb later defended the mishap, saying “[A] work of art can be reborn in contact with other works.”

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However, the Iranian government did not take the matter lightly. Two days after the incident, Mahmud Salari (Deputy Minister of Cultural Affair) announced Ebadorreza Eslami-Kulai as the new director of TMoCA. No reasoning was given for the sudden departure of the previous director. However, the museum did post a message on Instagram regarding the accident, saying: “The event has not caused the destruction of the installation…part of the performer’s body hit the oil, causing some oil to spill, which will be replaced. Preservation of the museum’s works of art is one of the main tasks of the museum. We hope that with greater accuracy and sensitivity, we will not see such mistakes in the future.”