A basement chock full of Picassos, Monets, and almost every important Western Modernist painter—surely the Louvre? Au contraire, the Tehran Museum of Contemporary Art. That’s where the LA Times’ Kim Murphy found a treasure trove of painstakingly cared-for paintings that have seen the light of day but once since the 1979 Islamic Revolution.
Flush with oil money in the late '70s, the shah's regime snapped up Warhols, Kandinskys, and a Pollock. So despite it's vehemently anti-Western stance, modern-day Iran owns the most important collection of Western art outside the West. It has been shown once, in a celebrated 2005 show. “We keep it like the apple of our eye,” the museum’s curator says. (Read more Iran stories.)