On Tuesday, the Fourth of July, prominent Iranian developer Ali Razi, now 77, was on hand to unveil a new public art installation in Los Angeles, the Freedom Sculpture, which Razi and others in the Iranian American community hope will be a beacon for the world.
“America is great because of all the beautiful cultures brought by immigrants,” Razi said. When people drive by the sculpture along Santa Monica Boulevard, he said, he hopes they ask: “What is this freedom? This shared dream is based on what?”
Artist and designer Cecil Balmond agrees it is a symbol of timeless values of freedom and tolerance. Balmond, whose proposal was chosen from among more than 300 others as the design for the $2.2-million sculpture, said the pair of gold and silver cylinders set atop rings is to be seen at speed.
Production of the sculpture was organized by the Farhang Foundation, an L.A.-based nonprofit organization, and the unveiling was part of the inaugural Freedom Festival, a nightlong block party that featured live music, food and fireworks. The Farhang Foundation promotes the study and appreciation of Iranian art and culture. Organizers said they hope the Freedom Festival becomes an annual event.
The area is home to many from a sizable diaspora of Iranian Americans in Southern California. Community groups estimate that about 500,000 Iranian Americans live in the region, the largest enclave outside Iran.
The 20,000-pound piece is set upon travertine stone and was built entirely in the US. It is the newest addition to Century City — a neighbourhood of towering office buildings — but it traces its inspiration back 2,500 years to the Cyrus Cylinder, which was unearthed in 1879.
The 9-inch barrel is inscribed with the story of Cyrus, the king of Persia, and his conquest of Babylon. The artifact is seen as a testament to how Cyrus brought justice and peace to Bablyon, according to the Los Angeles Times.
Razi, the founding chairman of the Farhang Foundation, said the Cyrus Cylinder carries special symbolic weight on the Fourth of July.
“This conqueror, rather than killing or stealing, let people practice their own religion. He was the first to put together a multinational empire based on freedom of religion,” Razi said.