Donna Stein, "The Empress and I: How an Ancient Empire Collected, Rejected and Rediscovered Modern Art" (Skira, 2020)


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In the 1970s, American curator Donna Stein served as an art advisor to Empress Farah Diba Pahlavi, the Shahbanu of Iran. Together, Stein and Pahlavi generated an art market in Iran, as Stein encouraged Pahlavi’s patronage of the Tehran Museum of Contemporary Art. Today, the contemporary section of the Iranian National Collection―most of which continues to languish in storage―is considered one of the most significant collections of modern art outside of Europe and the United States.

The Empress and I: How an Ancient Empire Collected, Rejected and Rediscovered Modern Art (Skira, 2020) is a vivid account of Stein’s experience working on this storied intercultural initiative. In crafting her highly readable narrative, Stein cites a number of previously confidential documents, including private correspondence with artists and dealers. This text explores the relationship between two women united by their shared passion for the arts and the continued legacy of their partnership in today’s art world.

Kirstin L. Ellsworth holds a Ph.D. in the History of Art from Indiana University and is Associate Professor of Art History at California State University Dominguez Hills.

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