Farmanfarmaian, now 92, is a renowned Iranian visual artist known for her geometric style and mirror sculptures. She became the first Iranian artist to have her work featured in a solo exhibition at the Guggenheim; a retrospective, spanning four decades of work: “Infinite Possibility: Mirror Works and Drawings 1974–2014”, organized by the Serralves Museum of Contemporary Art, Porto, Portugal.
In 2011, Vogue — where she worked early on as a freelance illustrator — featured her when she was the subject of an art book. “Whatever time I have left, I want to make art,” she said in the Vogue interview. “And I hope it will be worthwhile to see it.”
Contemporary Iranian art has a decades-long history in the West — though artists are now exhibiting their work with increasing frequency in the United States and Europe.
From September 2013 to January 2014, the Asia Society in New York exhibited Iran Modern. The show featured a diverse body of work from numerous artists that spanned the three decades leading up to the revolution of 1979.
In January and February of this year, the Taymour Grahne Gallery presented Traveling Demons, a collection of colorful and haunting pieces by Malekeh Nayiny, who was born in Tehran and currently lives in Paris.
And while Farmanfarmaian’s work was at the Guggenheim, the works of famed sculptor Parviz Tanavoli was on display at the Davis Museum at Wellesley College. Like Farmanfarmaian, Tanavoli is also the first Iranian artist to have a solo show at that space.
Shiva Balaghi co-curated the Tanavoli exhibition, and is a visiting scholar in Middle Eastern studies at Brown University. As one of the few academics in the country who specializes in Middle Eastern art history, Balaghi is quick to debunk notions of an Iranian art renaissance in the U.S., despite its recent popularity in the American art world.
“A reemergence is not really true,” she told BuzzFeed News. “The fact that there’s a growing interest in the West is key, not that this art hasn’t been made before.” Balaghi’s theory is that art institutions are beginning to look beyond Iran’s current political climate and explore the country through its art.
“It’s almost like museums are taking on this cultural diplomacy role,” she said. “There’s a cultural life in that country that continues and flourishes, one that doesn’t have to do with nuclear negotiations.”
Related articles to Monir Shahroudy Farmanfarmaian:
Iranian Roots | Monir Shahroudy Farmanfarmaian – Iranian Artist (Bio)
The Huffington Post | 90-Year-Old Iranian Artist Monir Shahroudy Farmanfarmaian Gets Her First Comprehensive U.S. Exhibition
The Guardian | Infinite Possibility: Monir Shahroudy Farmanfarmaian