Displaying Dissent

Newsha Tavakolian / Polaris for TIME

A U.S. flag painted on pavement by the Iranian regime is exhibited at the "America the Beautiful" show.

Tehran's most avant-garde art gallery sits on a quiet, treelined street in the midtown area of the city. Only a tiny white sign with black lettering alerts those looking that they've found their destination. But on Friday nights, the Aaran Gallery is the coolest place in town. Girls in heels, their headscarves slipping back to reveal fantastical upsweeps, hipster boys in skinny jeans and gray-haired intellectuals who look as if they've just stumbled out of the smoke-filled back rooms of a French café mingle and discuss the art that surrounds them. At one opening on a late August afternoon,...

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