Monir Shahroudy Farmanfarmaian

1922Qazvin, Iran | 2019Tehran, Iran

Iranian visual artist.

An Iranian artist known for her work with mirrored and painted glass, Monir Shahroudy Farmanfarmaian moved with her family to Tehran when her father was elected to parliament in 1932. She moved to New York in the 1940s and trained as a fashion illustrator at the Parsons School of Design, later working as a freelance illustrator for clients such as Glamour magazine and the department store Bonwit Teller. In 1957 she returned to Iran and married Abolbashar Farmanfarmaian, a lawyer and member of a prominent nineteenth-century royal family. She began to present her worksduring this time. Her floral compositions were awarded first prize in the First Tehran Biennial in 1958. She participated in the Venice Biennale in 1958 and 1964, she had also an individual exhibition at the University of Tehran in 1963. In 1966 she produced her first public commission, an enamelled glass window for Tehran’s Senate building.

She travelled extensively through Iran, from the 1950s until the 1970s, and was a collector of folk and tribal artefacts, including “coffeehouse paintings” (a style of Persian folk art, which developed parallel to the official Iranian painting), Turkmen jewellery, and reverse glass paintings. She began working with mirrors in 1969 and with geometric designs in 1975. The Islamic Revolution of 1979 forced the family to resettle in New York, but she was able to return to Iran in the early 2000s and establish a studio where she produced many of her important later works, such as multi-panelled 2006 Variations on the Hexagon, commissioned for the launch of the Jameel Gallery of Islamic Art at the Victoria and Albert Museum in London; and Lighting for Neda in 2009, an installation for the 6th Asia Pacific Triennial of Contemporary Art in Queensland in Australia.

Much of M. Farmanfarmaian’s work was inspired by the traditional Iranian technique of mirrored geometric mosaics, known as ayeneh-kari, which have been popular decorations in mosques and palaces since the sixteenth century. She collaborated with craftsmen to explore new permutations of the geometric designs, translating the principles of mystic Sufi cosmology into strikingly modern abstract compositions.

She had several major solo exhibitions in the last decade of her life, including Infinite Possibility: Mirror Works and Drawings, 1974–2014, shown at both the Serralves Museum of Contemporary Art in Porto and at the Guggenheim Museum in New York in 2015, as well as 2018’s Sunset, Sunrise at the Irish Museum of Modern Art in Dublin, which travelled to the Sharjah Art Foundation in Sharjah in 2019. Her works are in the collections of the Guggenheim, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Victoria and Albert Museum, and the Tehran Museum of Contemporary Art, among others. In 2017, the Monir Museum was established in Tehran, Iran, the first institution in the country dedicated to the work of a female artist.

Media Farzin

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