TEHRAN, Iran (AFP) – Iran’s customs service is holding on to a multimillion-dollar painting by U.S. artist Jackson Pollock over “undeclared debt” owed to it by the government, an official from Tehran’s museum of contemporary arts told the Mehr news agency on Tuesday.
The work, Mural on Indian Red Ground (1950), was being returned to Iran from Japan, where it had been on loan for an exhibition, when it was seized on May 11 by the customs service, Ehsanollah Abbasi was quoted as saying.
He said he went to the customs depot to speak to managers about why it had not been cleared to be returned to his museum.
“They told me that the culture ministry had uncleared debt,” he was quoted as saying.
The painting had an estimated value of $250 million and is considered one of the prize pieces in the Tehran museum, which also features works by Paul Gauguin, Pablo Picasso, Andy Warhol, Alberto Giacometti and Henry Moore.
Most of the collection was built up by Iran’s former queen Farah Pahlavi, who deployed a team of experts to tour Western auctions and snap up prestige paintings and sculptures to boost her country’s cultural profile.
Abbasi warned that, right now, “unfortunately the place where the painting is being kept is not suitable for this painting, so there is a possibility of damage.”
A museum spokesman told AFP that the culture ministry was working on the matter and it was hoped that the Pollock painting would soon be returned to the museum.
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