TEHRAN – The art industry in Iran is booming despite heavy economic sanctions that make it almost impossible for internationally successful artists to get paid.
The U.S. and European Union have imposed sanctions against a number of Iranian banks, making it difficult to wire money directly into Iranian bank accounts.
Iranian artists, and the galleries that represent them, have to come up with creative ways to transfer money to the artists, some of whose works command hundreds of thousands of dollars on the international market.
Artist Golnaz Fathi employs an abstract take on traditional Persian calligraphy that has appealed to collectors in Iran and abroad. She even has a piece in the British Museum.
"I'm fortunate because I can say I have clients and collectors from around the world," she told FOX News. "From America to Australia, all around the world. Europe, Middle East, everywhere."
"I think the focus on Iranian life and politics — obviously suddenly everybody or art lovers discovered this amazing talent which has been almost hidden for years," said Fariba Farhad, a London-based gallery owner who represents some Iranian artists.
Despite the difficulties, artists say they are glad to have an opportunity to share some of their culture with the outside world.
"I know sometimes the pressure of getting isolated, it can effect the artist," said Fathi. "They bring all their emotions and feelings and things they cannot say in words in their works."
Dariush Gharahzad tries to capture the youth culture in his art, drawing inspiration from the graffiti that has sprung up on walls all over Tehran.
"I think the message is the people have changed — especially the young people," he said. "There are those who are from the new generation; they have changed. … They need something more interesting than whatever is inside of their culture — the traditional culture."
Gharahzad focuses on women in his art — especially on their headscarves. Women in the Islamic Republic of Iran are required to cover their heads in public and to wear either a chador or a coat that comes down to around their knees, and tend to wear a lot of makeup as a means of expression.
"You saw they had full make-up over their face? This is big contrast with Islam," he told FOX News. "It's a big contrast with their clothes.
"If you have only face for showing yourself, what do you do? You make up yourself. You can pay too much attention to your face."
Gharahzad's work will be auctioned at Sotheby's in London later this month, and Fathi has a show at London's Xerxes Fine Arts gallery called "My Freedom."
Though her paintings are based on Persian calligraphy, the script is abstract and not intelligible. In other words, it is not meant to be read, but admired. She says it belongs to everyone.
Fathi says she loves the thought of her art being shown in many different places and that there is a lot of young talent in Iran ripe for the plucking.
Fathi's work is currently on display at Xerxes Fine Art in London and Daryoush's will be in a Sotheby's auction in London later this month.
"Iran is a young country. Sixty-five percent of the population of my country is under 25 years old," she said. "So there's so many new talents who are coming. And we should wait to see what's going to happen if they have hope, there would be opportunities. So they put more energy, much more, with all their power, they would do the best they could do."