Journalists flooded Iran’s National Museum for the arrival of more than 50 artworks from the Louvre -- the first major show by a western museum in the country.
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The show reflects France’s determined use of cultural diplomacy as it seeks to rebuild traditional ties with Iran, even as their officials hold tense talks over political and security issues.
French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian and Vice President of Iran Head of Cultural Heritage Ali Asghar Mounesan, opened the exhibition on Monday.
The doors were unsealed for journalists at the National Museum in central Tehran, which is currently celebrating its 80th anniversary, a day ahead of the public opening.
Among the items shipped over by cargo plane were a 2,400-year-old Egyptian sphinx, a bust of Roman emperor Marcus Aurelius and drawings by Rembrandt and Delacroix.
“Some were definitely easier to transport than others,” said Judith Henon, one of the experts sent by the Louvre. “Our Iranian partners really liked the sphinx, but it weighs close to a tonne and was extremely complicated to put in place.”
The show marks the culmination of two years of work since a cultural exchange agreement was signed during a visit by President Hassan Rouhani to Paris in January 2016.
“Relations between France and Iran are old and profound because France was a pioneer of archaeological exploration here,” Jean-Luc Martinez, president of the Louvre, told AFP.
“This completely unprecedented exhibition... allows us to make the link between this glorious moment and relations that date back to the 19th century,” he added.