The V&A museum’s Epic Iran show is the first British exhibition for a long time to give an overview of how Iran’s complex culture developed over thousands of years. And its curator hopes it’s a way to get visitors to think beyond Tehran’s recent tensions with the west.

When a major exhibition of Persian art opened in London in 1931 it was the first chance for Britain to study up close the culture of a country little understood by non-Iranians. (It wasn’t until a few years later that the word Iran replaced the established name Persia.)

The V&A’s Tim Stanley says it’s regrettable that Britain then waited another 90 years to re-explore Iran’s multi-faceted and fascinating artefacts. The new London show, which he has co-curated, covers five millennia of history and culture.

“Yet you still have to ask how much better our understanding is today than in the 1930s,” he adds.

“We start at roughly 5200BC as that’s the earliest period from which written texts tend to survive. And we use some 300 objects to put back together the history of arts and design in Iran. We felt the persistence and continuity of Iranian culture often isn’t appreciated.

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