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With Matisse and Van Gogh, Tehran gets a makeover

Drivers and millions of commuters used to spending hours in Tehran traffic jams have at least had something nicer to look at during journeys this week: famous works of art. Vincent Van Gogh’s Sunflowers, Edvard Munch’s The Scream and The Blue Window by Henry Matisse are among the reproductions lining streets and highways, aiming to get citizens more interested in art and to encourage gallery visits. Some 1,600 billboards featuring 200 Western and Asian works and 500 Iranian ones now sit near murals of supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, his predecessor, the Islamic republic’s founder Ruhollah Khomeini, and countless martyrs of the Iran-Iraq war. The art, all of which would have required approval by the culture ministry — nudes are banned in Iran and other works risk being deemed un-Islamic — may be considered a distraction as well as a welcome sight in a city where fatal road accidents and bad driving are common.

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