GLOBAL ART MAGAZINE – Interview with Dr. Ladan Akbarnia
Interview with Dr. Ladan Akbarnia, Executive Director of Iran Heritage Foundation, London (Davood Khazaie): Well, Dr. Akbarnia, thank you for your time. Before asking some questions about Iran Heritage Foundation, we would like to know something about yourself and your achievements as an Iranian and as an art director. (Ladan Akbarnia): Thank you for this interview; I am happy to be here. My background is that I have a doctorate in the art of the Islamic world, Islamic art and architecture, specifically, and I received that doctorate at Harvard. My particular focus was in the arts of Iran and Central Asia during the medieval period, the Mongol period, which comprised the 13th and 14th centuries. I’ve taught at university level and most of my experience has been as a museum curator. I came to Iran Heritage Foundation from the Brooklyn Museum in New York, where I was in charge of the museum’s collection of Islamic art. (D. Kh.): Being at Harvard itself is a great achievement, I suppose. (L.A.): Well, that was a great program for me; there are two professors who specialise in Islamic art and architecture, so a wider range is covered and it’s great for students who want to survey the whole spectrum. You know, I had a particular interest in Iran, but I became educated in material covering anything from Spain to China, and from the 7th century to the present day. (D. Kh.): Could you explain more about your specialty? (L.A.): It’s Mongol art, basically the arts of Iran and Central Asia during the 13th and 14th centuries. I was very interested in the kinds of interactions that existed between Iran and China. Look at Iranian art. Many people notice Chinese influence or, rather, inspiration; I wanted to look at that relationship and see how that relationship under the Mongols, between China and Iran, affected the art and visual language of Iran. (D. Kh.): How about the miniatures? Did you also study them? (L.A.): Yes, definitely miniature painting is a significant part of Persian art, the arts of Iran; in fact, during the Mongol period the production of illustrated manuscripts flourished; one of the most celebrated manuscripts of the Shahnameh was produced during this period. Miniature painting is something that definitely drew me to the subject, but I was also interested in ceramics, metal-work, textiles―beautiful textiles woven from silk to gold― and, of course, architecture.