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Report of the National Conference of Art Management - Day 1

Report of the National Conference of Art Management - Day 1

Management and art have a complicated relationship, both because management is the art of managing itself and also because art has a complicated and multilayered structure, which at times breaks away from the boundaries of management. It won’t be an overstatement to say the most difficult branch and area of management is art management; the most exalted manifestation of culture. This, understanding art management and its requirements is a cultural-management necessity, which is the incentive behind organizing the 1st National Conference of Art Management. The necessity, in the words of the conference secretary Dr. Mehdi Hojjat, is amplified as a result of the fact that art management has not received its due consideration in the past and especially recent years, a trend which has triggered the holding of such a gathering.

The two day conference started to work at 10:00 am on Wednesday December 2nd at the House of Cinema’s Convention Hall. Verses of the Holy Quran were recited in the beginning, and then the event host Kamran Maleki went up on the stage and said a few words in welcome. He said: “A certain need was felt after the shift in management; now that they believe they don’t need any intellectual cooperation and deliberations, the four large art bodies must come together for the first time, an event which has now realized by the efforts of the House of Cinema, to consider their future and put their thoughts and ideas together, so that maybe someday it could be of use. Therefore, the Iranian Alliance of Motion Picture Guilds reached out to different associations and received a positive response. Four organizations of House of Cinema, House of Music, House of Theater and Visual Arts accepted to participate in this conference. The best choice for conference secretary was Dr. Mehdi Hojjat, who is not only an architecture PhD from the University of York in England, but has an extensive executive background as the founder of Cultural Heritage Organization of Iran, Managing Director of the Tehran’s City Theater Complex, Assistant Programming Director at the IRIB and Director of Institute for Humanities & Cultural Studies

Opening Speech by the Conference Secretary

As the first speaker of the conference, Dr. Hojjat described the objective behind this two day conference as listening to experienced governmental managers, art experts and authorities on related subjects, adding: “The articles submitted to this conference will be later presented to the market as a book, for the benefit of the variety of interested parties.” Maintaining that he has been concerned with the issue of art management in Iran for some time now, he stated: “The goal of management is to lead the body it is working at to utmost growth and prosperity, and in the course of action it will definitely benefit from the surrounding conditions and human resources to achieve this goal. However, the circumstances are slightly different in the area of cultural and art management, and the manager’s goals are achieved if the requirements for the realization of the artist’s will are available and accessible.” He further added: “Anyone who wants to work as a manager in Iran should keep in mind that the geography of Iran links the entire east to the entire west, and such a setting provides it with high potentials. In addition, our country has access to many resources, which is another feature that should be taken into account by a manager.”

Referring to the difference in the eastern and western approach to art, Dr. Hojjat then said: “Western art schools were in search of the tangible, external reality of things, while the eastern ones looked for the inner revelations. The difference between the eastern and western arts is in the presence and occurrence of art, and Iran, like its geographical situation, is in the middle of these two outlooks, an advantage which should also be considered in art management to distinguish the borderline between the two extremes.”

Hojjat described the artists’ work as the discovery of the hidden reality and said: “An art manager should know the real place of the artist. An artist has one hand in heavens and on hand on the earth, and actually transforms the heavenly wisdom to a craft. He is in fact a messenger of truth, and if we look correctly at the artist, he can bring us news from the hidden layers. And at the time being, we have a great need for quick insight to things unseen.”  

Referring to concepts related to art management, secretary of the conference then said: “Art management can be defined in two ways; First is to appoint a manager to manage the art venues, which is a very simple task, but the other meaning which seems to be very hard to attain, is for a person to be able to manage in an artistic manner.”

In another part of his speech, Dr. Hojjat referred to the differences between gardening and carpentering managements, explaining: “Cultural and art management is something like gardening, not carpentering. In gardening, we are always after growth and flourishing, but in carpentering, one is making something predefined. An art manager is someone who will employ all his might to elevate the body under his management, not a person who exploits it for his own benefit.” He continued: “An art manager’s conduct and manner of work should provide a proper working environment for the artists, who enjoy both a special sensitivity and a sense of perception and insight. Now imagine for yourself what crimes could be committed if this kind of management is subjected to censorship and inspection.”

He concluded: “If a mother disciplines her child, it should be done to educate the child and help him grow. But does our present art management really act in such a manner? I believe this management is in dire need of a review and a serious examination, and we are hopeful that constructive subjects are introduced in the framework of this conference, and that it can present the people of Iran with the just due of their cultural wealth.”

Legal Challenges of Art Management

After the opening speech by the conference secretary, Dr. Hassan Sabilan Ardestani, member of the board of education at the Islamic Azad University in Arak and a researcher at the research center of the Islamic Consultative Assembly of Iran, presented his article in a PowerPoint format. In his article titled ‘Regulations of Cinema, Theater, Music; Challenges and Voids’, he called the legal challenges and voids as the most important problem of art management fields, stating: “This void has been compensated by devising low level regulations such as ministerial board’s directives and management instructions, which in action cannot be considered the right response to the artists’ needs and rights, and this lack of a cohesive and consistent legal system has given rise to a disarray in the area of production and exhibition of artistic-cultural products.” Dr. Ardestani then presented the existing regulations and directives in PowerPoint, discussing the conditions of authenticity in a directive and concluding that there is no viable law in the arts of music, cinema and theater in our country.

Dr. Ardestani’s article had two main parts. The theoretic part discussed the separation of law from governmental regulations and its conditions, while the second part studied the existing laws which are approved by the National Parliament and Islamic Consultative Assembly of Iran. In conclusion, he emphasized on the necessity of defining cohesive and clear laws in the area to cover the presentation process of an art product from production to exhibition. 

Art Management and Flourishing of Art

The second speaker of the conference was Dr. Mahmood Gol Mohammadi, art research PhD and director of the cinema and theater study group of the Art and Media Studies Research Center of Iran, who brought up the role of art management in the trend-making and flourishing of art. Criticizing the fact that 30 years after the revolution, we are still in the stage of trial and error in cultural and artistic areas, he described the efforts that have to be made to reduce the damages of this trial and error, and the share of art management in this effort. Explaining his views, Dr. Gol Mohammadi touched on the pathology of art and cultural management in our country, and stressed the fact that all arts are of one and the same essence despite their different functionalities, is a significant fact and a foundation and principle for the flourishing of art in general. He advised against ignoring the basic and crucial element of the artist and his creativity.

Director of the research center of International Institute of Nahjolbalaghe Studies then went on to the question why with the large number of prominent artists in the Iranian society, the general public is still deprived of artistic enjoyment. He also raised the question if art and artist are receptive to management or not, and basically how the relationship between artist and art management should be. As an answer to this question, Dr. Gol Mohammadi described the two different viewpoints of gardening management and carpentering management, and stressed that the gardening management is the ideal way and main solution to help art flourish. He concluded that the goal is cultural development, and the desired development can be achieved through proper art and cultural management. 

Picture of a Successful Art Manager

One of the most intriguing and different parts of the first day of the conference was the speech of Ahmad Talebinejad, distinguished cinema critic and member of the editorial board of ‘Film’ monthly. The attraction might have been because of the applicability of his talks about the 10 year management of Seyyed Mohammad Beheshti at the Farabi Cinema Foundation, and it was even more intriguing because Beheshti himself was among the audience. Unlike others who criticized art management in a negative way, Talebinejad opted for a positive approach, presenting a successful example of art management and using it to describe the conditions to realize the ideal art management. Director of banned publications of ‘Haft’ and ‘Arjang’ believed Beheshti’s appealing and charismatic personality and mannerism in his interactions with the cinema people was his basic success factor, and emphasized that Beheshti was a political person and the society around him was gripped in political tension, but he refused to be politicized and thus managed to gain the moviemakers’ respect and trust. Seyyed Mohammad Beheshti is not just a graduate of architecture; many moviemakers believe him to be the architect and engineer of the new cinema in Iran. Talebinejad also mentions this in his article, and describes him as the architect and engineer of the new cinema in Iran in proportion with social and political situation, who concentrated his efforts on recognizing the weak and strong points of pre-revolution cinema and so re-started the wheels of Iranian cinema industry again. He said discovering and attracting fresh new talents like Kianoush Ayari, Masood Jafari Jozani, Kiumars Poor-Ahmad, Rakhshan Bani Etemad, Ebrahim Hatamikia, Tooraj Mansoori, Mahmood Kalari, Mohsen Makhmalbaf and others like them were among the accomplishments of Talebinejad’s managerial term. Referring to Beheshti’s positive impact in introducing the Iranian cinema at the international circles and festivals, Talebinejad counted the positive and negative aspects of Farabi Cinema Foundation between 1983-1993, describing the outcome of Beheshti’s work as the establishment of an effective and active cinematic system and the elevation of Farabi Cinema Foundation to the Iranian cinema industry’s center of gravity, and then explained his view by discussing Beheshti’s viewpoint about gardening management and carpentering management. In conclusion, he said if there ever appears a more effective and successful manager than Seyyed Mohammad Beheshti in the field of art and culture, he will wipe away all that he has written here with water.  

Politics and Art Management

The youngest speaker of the day was Mostafa Asadzadeh, senior political science expert and head of the Motor Research and Technology Center of Iran Khodro, who discussed art management in the political system of the Islamic Republic of Iran in the field of cinema during the two decades of 1370-80.

Cinema and politics are two very intriguing and effective subjects for Iranians, and the relation between the two can also be an interesting topic. Asadzadeh presented the issue in visual format as well, displaying a short clip of some of his selected films on video projector. Delving into the political boundaries of cinema in Iran, he said: “The competition between the two dominant parties in the Iranian political scene is not just a political fight but a confrontation between two political ideologies and discourses, one based on safeguarding revolutionary and religious values and the other supporting the social and civil rights of the people. Tracks of these two discourses can be followed in the Iranian cinema of the 1370s and 80s.” Applying a content analysis method to his film reviews, this researcher then described the government’s cultural and art policies in the field of cinema during these two decades. Discussing the two modern and traditional dialogues as the intellectual symbol of the two radical and reformist political parties in the area of cinema, he stressed that the politicians’ and people’s taste in cinema and films were different, showing clips of ‘From Karkheh to Rhine’, ‘The Glass Agency’, ‘The Estranged Sisters’, ‘Doomsday’ and ‘Red’ as a testament to his claim. He concluded that the two political discourses and trends in Iran did not move toward a cultural unification, thus distancing their cinematic policy-making from the experiences of the past, best interest of the society and a sound foresight for the future.

The instrument of art management is not in tune!

After a few lectures on cinema and art management, it was time for music to carry the tune. Seyyed Abolhassan Mokhtabad, Director of the Writers’ Guild and Inspector of House of Music took this opportunity to talk about the effect of cultural theory on music management. Referring to the highs and lows of music in the past 50 years, he stressed on the lack of clear, precise and long term policy-making in this area and said: “Some of the laws on the rights of artists in this area are not followed up and put to effect by those in charge. What’s interesting is that the law of protecting the rights of writers and composers, which was approved 40 years ago, is under the authority of the Ministry of Culture and Islamic Guidance and the Judiciary branch, but it has not been executed when it comes to music.” Mokhtabad then referred to the seminar studying the three decades of music which was held at the 1387 ‘2008’ Fajr Film Festival, pointing out that from the 120 music publishers, only 15-20% were still active; the rest had either gone bankrupt or stopped investing in this field. This music researcher then directed his serious critique to music education in Iran and the Ministry of Education’s negligence in teaching music in different school levels, adding: “There is no system to record and keep the past works, and no support for national and cultural music.” He also referred to music on IRIB and said the musical instruments are not shown on any of the programs, which is a big blow to the authentic Iranian music. Mokhtabad concluded by speaking of a certain management-operational confusion in the field of music, emphasizing that a cultural theory is imperative for music management in Iran

Art Management and Critics

Mohammad Hassan Hamedi, visual arts researcher and director of Tandis Magazine began his speech as Aydin Aghdashloo, scientific secretary of visual arts joined the conference’s board of directors. A graphic artist and a senior researcher, Hamedi talked about the place of art critique in art management, describing the critics as the unofficial art managers in any society. He said: “If in the past a critic’s job was only limited to recording the events and preparing a scientific support for the future generations, with the multilateral development of science and information, and the general positive response and increased demand, this presence is now more complicated than ever.” He added: “Obviously, undermining or omitting critique will lead a real deficiency in any society, and consequently the creation of excellent and rich art works will face a serious problem.” Hamedi said that art has three sides of artist, art work and audience, and the critic’s job here is to mediate, define and supervise. This art critic then counted some of the obstacles of critique in the Iranian society, referring to factors such as political and economical issues, prudence, and emotional responses instead of reasoning.

Art Management in Iran

Make no mistake, this is not merely the title of this part but the title of a book recently published by the efforts of Soheila Niakan, and her husband Shadmehr Rastin based his talks on this book and Jalal Sattari’s ‘When Culture has no government’, delivering a comparative and thematic study. This screenwriter gave a general and historical account of the art management approach in the University of Gondishapour, proceeding to the Herat School, Isfahan School, Tehran School and finally the establishment of Fine Arts Bureau in Iran in 1949. He introduced these two books as the only resources recently published in this area and then referred to Seyyed Mohammad Beheshti’s viewpoints as a conclusion, saying: “Generally speaking, there are two management classes of thought in Iran, carpenter’s viewpoint and gardener’s viewpoint.” He emphasized on the active presence of government in gardener’s management and said: “Even in this approach, the gardener is not free to plant any kind of flower he wants.” Dividing official and national management in the area of art, Rastin called for a reduction of governmental interference in art and culture. As a final description of art management, he said it is the delivery of idea into execution, and concluded his talks with a Hannah Arnett’s words: “There is no dangerous thought; thought is dangerous on its own.” 

A Review of Cinema Management

The last speaker of the day was Alireza Dolatshahi, freelance researcher and independent moviemaker who presented his article titled ‘Necessity of Reviewing Art Management’. He said: “After the Islamic revolution, the centralized management and art approach took form in Iran. First step was training artistic human resources in the country to shape new ideologies. The most serious concern of the new government was to create a religious art and cinema.”

Dolatshahi went on: “The first stage of achieving this goal was establishing a school in Bagh-e Ferdows named Islamic Filmmaking Center which was in a way the inheritor of Amateur Filmmakers Society, which in turn was the offspring of the pre-revolution free cinema.”

Pointing out that this trend failed in the process, he continued: “Those who were supposed to become the future filmmakers of the country somehow ended up being the managers of the young cinema of Iran, which was the reason for this failure. But, the new custodians of cinema had forgotten that the danger of centralized, regulatory cinema is more harmful to cinema itself.”
He then voiced his belief that changing characters to stereotypes has always been one of the most significant problems of cinema before and after the revolution, because there has been little character build up in the national cinema.  

Dolatshahi stressed: “This goes so far that a group of actors not only play stereotypes in their movies but, in a Don Quixote model, start to act as the same stereotype even in their personal lives. With the spread of a simplification in artistic outlooks in the society, this trend has even penetrated into television. We only need to remember the television productions in the past three decades, especially those made in provinces. We should take a look at the past and present, especially in our national cinema, and make a change in our approach. This article begins with the background of crisis in art management in our national cinema and studies the trend up to present time.”  

Conference Sidelines

• In the beginning of the session, Kamran Maleki made an interesting point that for the first time four important art and culture bodies and trades of the country have come together in a joint movement to discuss one shared subject.
• Sitting at the table of the event’s board of directors were Dr. Mohammad Sarir (Scientific Secretary of Music), Iraj Rad (Scientific Secretary of Theater) and Aydin Aghdashloo (Scientific Secretary of Visual Arts). Of course, Farhad Tohidi (Scientific Secretary of Cinema) was absent.
• Aydin Aghdashloo gave a brief critique on the cliché perception about the suffering artist, emphasizing that the artist should not only take the pains in society to account, but is responsible to also present the happiness and joy.
• At the end of Day 1 of the National Conference of Art Management, Iraj Rad stated: “In today’s event it was mostly art management that was critiqued, but the effects of art on society should also be studied and discussed.”
• The event was held in two time slots, and House of Cinema hosted the guests in a lunch gathering at the interval.
• In the end, a clip of Saman Moghaddam was displayed in which a number of actors were seen, both in scenes from their movies and in person, singing the anthem “O Iran’ together, which was received with the audience’s enthusiastic applause.


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