The Forgotten Empire. The World of Ancient Persia. 2006 — Museums

Exhibition on the origins, culmination and decadence of the Persian Empire through pieces from the collections of the British Museum in London, the Musée du Louvre in Paris and the National Museum of Iran.

Institutional sponsor: Fundació Bancària “la Caixa”

Location: Barcelona, Catalonia

© Photography: Ignasi Cristià SL

© Drawings: Ignasi Cristià i Garcia

The Forgotten Empire is a British Museum exhibition that travelled through Spain. It evoked the monumentality of the capital of the Persian Empire. To that end, we devised an abstract scenographic intervention, where black was the main colour to give the pieces themselves as much prominence as possible. The development process was not without conflict, since the curator of the National Museum of Iran, who was acting as a go-between, disagreed with some of the key decisions in the design of the museography, such as the use of black as the predominant colour. As a typical colour for women’s attire, as regulated by law in Iran, in her opinion black did not adequately project the majesty of the ancient Persian Empire. In spite of everything, we managed to preserve the original concept. The monumentality was evoked through a cubic structure, formed by an exposed frame and black tulle, offering a certain amount of transparency. Thus the space was divided into three areas, with this structure located in the centre of the room, and two altars or scenographic backgrounds located on either side.

The first area was dedicated to the birth and rise of the empire. Here, we placed the larger sculptures and the moulds of plaster reliefs made by British explorers from pieces that could not be taken back to England. This area of the exhibition had three levels: the sculptures; the objects that reflected the splendour of Persian culture – accompanied by canvases showing reproductions of the reliefs, and finally the plaster moulds. This room was presided over by a sculpture of King Xerxes I. The path then continued into the central cube, made with a visible structure and black tulle creating a faint transparency. Inside were the palace treasures. The final area explained the decadence of this civilization, with treasures recovered from tombs and contemporary objects from Iran. In contrast to the statue of Xerxes, this area is dominated by a background hung between large supports, representing the landscape in which the excavations took place, the current face of the ancient Persian Empire. 

Fundació Bancària “la Caixa” Website

British Museum Website