Interview with Kamran Diba

Skype Interview with Kamran Diba

One of the directors of Rasht 29 Club

Date: Summer 2017

Interviewer: Elham Puriya Mehr (Curator)


Parviz Tanavoli, Roxana Saba and I, opened Rasht 29 Club in 1966. At first, the club was just meant to be a hangout for painters but it slowly gained popularity with the majority of intellectuals of the time. Artists from different backgrounds would come to the club. Back then there were no special places for intellectuals to get together, so Rasht 29 Club became the first venue where artists, architects, people from the film industry and theatre, musicians, writers and poets would come and go . Amateurs would also come there to experience the environment. It was exciting for them to go to a place where professional artists came and went.


We didn’t want to make it into an exclusive or trendy place for people. That’s why we asked the guardsman not to let rich kids with flashy cars inside the club. If we noticed people that put the safety of the club in jeopardy, or people we didn’t know, the guard would stop them from coming in. We cared very much for the moral security of the space, especially since a portion of the artists and people who came were women. The presence of Roxana Saba was very beneficial in this regard since we wanted a place where both men and women could attend freely.


The club did not have a politicized atmosphere and were we not committed to any political causes. People with different viewpoints gathered, including those with leftist views. At the time a lot of the poets and writers were leftists. People who were educated abroad or had lived in Western countries also liked the atmosphere. An important concept being discussed at the time was globalization. We of course wanted to create an international environment and were quite successful at it too. Many of our foreign guests who came to Iran for the annual Shiraz Festival included diplomats, artists and well known international intellectuals.


Rasht 29 Club consisted of a lounge, a U shaped bar and a dining area. The walls were covered with a light clay surface and colored glass windows, in blue, green, red and yellow, creating a colorful interior. The chairs and tables were like the ones in coffeehouses with floral tablecloths bought from the Tehran Bazaar. People would come there to have lunch or dinner or just to meet people and spend time with one another. It was actually a cultural hangout. There was a permanent exhibition of paintings on the walls, contributions from some of the artists that came to the club.


There was always some music playing, mostly Western pop of the 60s. People generally had no access to that kind of music at the time and we would bring the discs from abroad. Hearing that kind of music in Iran was especially surprising for people who used to live abroad. Live music was usually played by Iranian street musicians or hippies on the way to India and Nepal who played guitar in exchange for food. We would ask Shahre Farang storytellers from the street to bring in their devices and perform at the club. They would show pictures of different places in the world and tell stories about them in the old coffeehouse storytelling style. Sometimes street vendors would bring toys like rattles and pinwheels for customers to buy. People would play darts and have dart competitions there. Sometimes on Thursdays, we would sell cheap drawings on paper and other artworks on the street in front of the club.


After moving my office to a building in the Yusef-Abad area, the club was collapsing financially and we were mostly spending from our own pockets. Back then there wasn’t a market for artwork and artists couldn’t sell their work, they were financially poor. That’s when we thought of having the first art auction in Iran. Most of the works were purchased to decorate government offices and all the proceeds were given to the artists. The difference between our auctions compared with other auctions was that the buyers would pay the fee directly to the artists. No commissions were given to the club.


Throughout the years there have been many rumors about the club, mainly that it was private and a lot of people weren’t let in. I remember a story printed in Ferdowsi Weekly by Mr. Abbas Pahlevan saying that the club was a corrupt place. So, our friends invited him to the club. After we met I asked him why he’d said those things in the article to which he replied: “because, you didn’t let me in!” I was stunned by that answer. A large part of the rumors were due to the presence of Keyvan Khosravani. Keyvan had rented the garage and cistern from the club and made it into a men’s boutique called Elegant 27. His character was a bit controversial at the time, so I asked him to leave and give the shop to his tailor. He got very upset. Later on he opened a shop called Number One that became rather successful.


If you take a good look at the artists and customers who regularly came to the club, you’d know how false the rumors were. Rasht 29 Club was a starting point for introducing emerging artists and creating future projects. The office, where I designed plans for Shafaq Park, TMoCA and a few other buildings, was on the top floor of that same building. My connection to the club, the close relationships I established with the artists as well as the Iranian art world was the main reason I felt the need to make the Tehran Museum of Contemporary Art. After my office moved from above the club, I lent it to a theatre group for their rehearsals. Sometimes I would ask them to rehearse their plays at the club as a treat for the customers, which was a welcomed surprise. Every time Zenderoudi came to Tehran from Paris and needed a place to paint, I would let him use it as a studio. Independent film and theatre directors, young architects and painters came to the club as well.


After operating for three years, the club closed down due to its financial problems. I was busy with my new office and architecture practice. Parviz Tanavoli - who is a well known artist - continued with his own career and Ms. Roxana Saba - who is sadly no longer with us - married a poet.



1. Jalal Moghadam (Filmmaker), Hajir Darioush (Filmmaker), Kamran Shirdel (Filmaker), Dariush Mehrjouei (Filmmaker), Ebrahim Golestan (Filmmaker), Farideh Gohari (TV Manager) Jaleh Kazemi (TV Presenter), Bijan Elahi (Poet), Siavash Kasraie (Poet), Parviz Eslampour (Poet), Yadollah Royaee (Poet), Nader Naderpour (Poet), Esmail Shahroudi (Poet), Sohrab Sepehri (Poet), Ghazaleh Alizadeh (Writer), Sadeq Chubak (Writer), Reza Baraheni (Poet, Writer, and Critic), Ahmadreza Ahmadi (Writer), Karim Emami (Writer, Translator, Critic), Goli Emami (Writer, Translator), Manijeh Tanavoli (Parviz Tanavoli Spouse), Hilary Diba (Kamran Diba Spouse), Leyly Matine-Daftari (Painter), Behjat Sadr (Painter), Hossein Zenderoudi (Painter), Sadegh Tabrizi (Painter), Faramarz Pilaram (Painter), Massoud Arabshahi (Painter), Parviz Kalantari (Painter), Mansoureh Hosseini (Painter), Zubin Mehta (Conductor), Farhad Meshkat (Leader of Tehran Symphony Orchestra), Iraj Kalantari (Architect), Nader Ardalan (Architect), Parviz Varjavand (Architect), Manijeh Ghiyaei (Decorator), Karl Schlamminger (Sculptor), Nasrin Azarba/ Schlamminger (Abgineh Museum Founder), and Ahmad Aali (Photographer).