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Layla S. Diba


Layla Diba is an independent scholar, art advisor and curator.  She has been Director and Chief Curator of the Negarestan Museum in Teheran (1975–79), art advisor for the Private Secretariat of HM Queen Farah of Iran, and Hagop Kevorkian Curator of Islamic Art at the Brooklyn Museum of Art. From 1994 to 2006, she was Visiting Professor of Islamic Art at Bard Graduate Center.  In 2006, Dr. Diba was invited to develop programming and strategy for the future Guggenheim Abu Dhabi Museum and to serve on the Museum’s Asian Art Council and Middle East Focus Group. She has curated the landmark The Qajar Epoch: Royal Persian Paintings exhibition at the Brooklyn Museum of Art in 1998, exhibitions at the Lehmann-Maupin and Leila Taghinia Milani Heller Galleries in New York and served as an advisor to the Doris Duke Foundation. Her recent publications include Turkmen Silver Ornaments from the Marshall and Marilyn Wolf Collection (Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2011).  In 2013 she co-curated Iran Modern, the first major exhibition devoted to Iranian Modern Art for the Asia Society Museum, New York (Sept. 5, 2013- January 5, 2014) and co-edited the accompanying publication.  Dr. Diba holds a B.A. from Wellesley College and an M.A. and Ph.D. from the Institute of Fine Arts of New York University.  Her articles, including over 40 essays on Iranian art, have appeared in numerous scholarly publications. Dr. Diba sits on the Board of The Soudavar Memorial Foundation. She is also a collector of Persian and Islamic art and a benefactor and advocate for numerous Persian cultural causes.

From 1973 to 1975, Diba was an art advisor for the Private Secretariat of HM Queen Farah Pahlavi of Iran.

From 1975 to 1979, Layla Diba was the founding director of Negārestān Museum (Persian: موزه نگارستان), a public collection of eighteenth and nineteenth century Iranian painting, based in Tehran, Iran. She was the first woman museum director in Iran. The museum was shut down during the 1979 Iranian Revolution. The Negarestan Museum was established by Queen Farah Pahlavi to promote the Persian art of the 18th and 19th-century.

NEW York City

Layla Diba served as the associate curator and of Asian Art and as a curator of Islamic Art at the Brooklyn Museum. She has been an art advisor of various organizations such as, the Metropolitan Museum of Arts. She is a member of Encyclopædia Iranica's board of trustees and the Soudavar Memorial Foundation.

In December 2009, she held the role "scholar-in-residence" at Shangri La Museum of Islamic Art, Culture & Design.

Iran Modern (2013)

In 2013, Layla S. Diba and Fereshteh Daftari co-curated the exhibition, Iran Modern (2013) shown at the Asia Society in New York.[11] The exhibition was the first major exhibition of modern art from Iran, featuring 26 artists which included Ahmad Aali, Abbas, Massoud Arabshahi, Siah Armajani, Mohammad Ehsai, Monir Shahroudy Farmanfarmaian, Mansour Ghandriz, Marcos Grigorian, Ghasem Hajizadeh, Nahid Hagigat, Bahman Jalali, Rana Javadi, Reza Mafi, Leyly Matine-Daftary, Ardeshir Mohassess, Bahman Mohassess, Nicky Nodjoumi, Houshang Pezeshknia, Faramarz Pilaram, Behjat Sadr, Abolghassem Saidi, Sohrab Sepehri, Parviz Tanavoli, Mohsen Vaziri-Moqaddam, Manoucher Yektai, and Hossein Zenderoudi. The exhibition covered from 1948 until 1977, and was divided into sections including Saqqakhaneh and neotraditional art styles influenced by folk art history, abstract art, and calligraphy.


Diba, Layla S. (1994). Lacquerwork of Safavid Persia and Its Relationship to Persian Painting: Text. Institute of Fine Arts, New York University.

Diba, Layla S.; Ekhtiar, Maryam; Tauris, I. B. (1998). Royal Persian Paintings: The Qajar Epoch, 1785-1925. Brooklyn, New York: Brooklyn Museum of Art. ISBN 9781860642562.

Amanat, Abbas; Balaghi, Shiva; Behdad, Ali; Diba, Layla S.; Ekhtiar, Maryam; Grabar, Oleg; Luft, Paul; Najmabadi, Afsaneh; Scarce, Jennifer M. (2001). Re-presenting the Qajars: new research in the study of 19th-century Iran. Iranian studies. 34. Priscilla Parsons Soucek, Heidi Walcher, Ehsan Yar-Shater. Society for Iranian Studies.

Journey Through Asia: Masterpieces in the Brooklyn Museum of Art; with Amy G. Poster. Brooklyn Museum Bookshop, 2003.

Diba, Layla S. (2011). Turkmen Jewelry: Silver Ornaments from the Marshall and Marilyn R. Wolf Collection. Stefano Carboni, Jean-François de Lapérouse. New York City, New York: Metropolitan Museum of Art. ISBN 9781588394156.

Iran Modern (Co-Editor with Fereshteh Daftari). Asia Society Museum, New York, 2013