Interview with Goli Emami

Interview with Goli Emami, wife of the late Mr. Emami (Writer & Translator)

Regular at Rasht 29 Club

Date: 28 August 2017

Time: 11:30 AM

Place: Mrs. Emami’s house

Interviewer: Sara Shaban-Azad (Research Assistant) 


In those days in Tehran, there was a club that had a celebrated restaurant called the French Club. But it was only a social place, where the people in charge were French and mostly educated French-speaking folk went. Actually, it was my husband Karim Imami - then the most important art critic - who was the reason I started going to Rasht 29 Club. It was meant to be a private club for artists and art lovers. So, of course, we went there too. When Mr. Emami and I started working at the Franklin Book program in 1968, we didn’t have any more time to visit Rasht 29. The few times we did go at the start of its opening, I remember it not being too crowded. The restaurant had only a few tables.


Rasht 29 was specifically for artists and intellectuals. Gender was no issue. The presence of men and women made no difference there and anyone who was in the art scene would go. But it was mostly for people who had time on their hands; it had a lot of programs and activities. They wanted to build a library. Mr. Diba had designed the restaurant. I don’t really remember the food or how long it lasted. I think after Mr. Diba started working on TMoCA (Tehran Museum of Contemporary Art), he no longer had time for Rasht 29.


The managers wanted Rasht 29 to be a hub for artists. If you read the book Karim Emami on Modern Iranian Culture, Literature & Art, a selection of my husband’s articles from that time, it describes how in those years contemporary art had become a really big thing and in one of those articles he’s quoted saying: “Tehran is in dire need of a contemporary art museum”. There were a lot of different things going on in the field of modern art, so it was understandable that two of the best artists of the time would want to have a part in it.


There were many activities going on at the time, among them a few biennials which were very important. It was as if the art society in Iran was hit by a wave of modern artists and was getting bigger by the day. A new gallery was opening every day. I think that same year a very important gallery opened called “Bourges”. A competition was held there for Mother's Day on 16 December (1967) and artists had to create an artwork inspired by that theme and then judges had to pick out the best. I’m not sure who was responsible for organizing it, maybe the Ministry of Arts and Culture. Even Tanavoli entered but Gholamhossein Nami’s was chosen in the end—a beautiful Mother and Child sculpture.


In the 60s, there was rapid growth in the artistic and literary scenes of Iran. Artworks that are still being referenced today all belong to that decade. Modernism was just slowly beginning to find its place among the intellectuals and educated individuals of society. It was of course a very Western idea to have a club especially for artists. This was natural, since everything else that was going on was in debt to the West. So it was normal for Diba and Tanavoli, who were educated in the West and forerunners in the Iranian modern art scene, to have that idea.