Iran Opens First Museum Dedicated To A Female Artist

Monir Shahroudy Farmanfarmaian
Photography by James Whineray for FvF x Zeit
Monir Shahroudy Farmanfarmaian in her Tehran studio
The Monir Museum devoted to artist Monir Shahroudy Farmanfarmaian opened on 15 December in Tehran

The Monir Museum, currently filled with 51 works donated by the 93-year-old artist through a vakif (charitable endowment under Islamic law), celebrates her longstanding mirror mosaic and reverse glass painting oeuvre and sets new precedents in Iran for the recognition of female artists at a large scale. "We are very honoured to have had the chance to be part of Monir's journey as an artist," says Sunny Rahbar, co-founder of The Third Line gallery that represents Farmanfarmaian, of the opening. The historic moment sheds a light on Iranian modernity and Iran’s recent move to embrace previously exiled artists, such as New York-based Shirin Neshat and Parviz Tanavoli.

Fittingly set in the historic Negarestan Museum Park Gardens, a Qajar palace complex, the collection managed by the Tehran University showcases a selection from six decades of Farmanfarmaian’s artistic career marked by heavy influence by Islamic art and geometry. Farmanfarmaian developed her trademark after a 1970s visit to the Shah Cheragh mosque in Shiraz, renowned for its mirrored interior, and has since been widely revered for her ability to pay homage to Iranian craftsmanship, architecture and heritage while simultaneously making it universally accessible through incorporating tenets of modern abstraction and expressionism.

Highlights include pieces from the Heartaches series from the 1990s, a series of sculptural collaged boxes she produced following the death of her husband, Abolbashar Farmanfarmaian, who was also the driving force behind her decision to donate the works. "It is a museum she has always dreamed of, where everyone could come to see her works, in her beloved Iran," adds Rahbar. "Another one of her dreams has come true."

Farmanfarmaian was born in Iran in 1924 and left on two occasions: to study art in New York in 1945, and then by force during the 1979 Islamic revolution, which resulted in much of her art collection being seized. The time in the US saw Farmanfarmaian associate with artists such as Andy Warhol, Jackson Pollock and Willem de Kooning, before returning permanently to Iran in 2004, where she continues to work in her Tehran studio.

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Monir Shahroudy Farmanfarmaian
Photography by James Whineray for FvF x Zeit
Monir Shahroudy Farmanfarmaian in her Tehran studio