Monir Shahroudy Farmanfarmaian, the Iranian artist best known for sculptures combining Islamic and modernist geometric traditions, has died at the age of 96.
Born in December 1922, Farmanfarmaian's plans to study art in Paris were derailed by the outbreak of the Second World War. Instead she moved to New York in 1944, graduating from the Parsons School of Design in 1949. After befriending artists including Willem de Kooning, Jackson Pollock and Andy Warhol (to whom she gifted an early iteration of the mirrored sculptures that would become her trademark), and following the dissolution of her marriage to fellow artist Manoucher Yektai, she returned to settle in Tehran in 1957, where she developed a practice inspired in equal parts by the geometric traditions of non-figurative Islamic art and those of European and American modernism.
Inspired by a visit to an Iranian shrine in 1975, Farmanfarmaian started the series of mirror mosaics – dazzling minimalist sculptures constructed of shards of reflective glass organised into patterns inspired by Islamic geometric art – that would come to define her practice. Forced out of Iran by the 1978 revolution, she returned to New York with her second husband, only returning to her native country in 2004. This homecoming, for all that it happened in the artist's eighties, sparked the most productive period of her career, and she started in the final two decades of her life to gain wider recognition, notably with her first US solo museum exhibition at the Guggenheim in New York in 2015. In 2017, the University of Tehran opened the Monir Museum, the country's first museum dedicated to a female artist.
Her work is held in the collections of museums including the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York; the Metropolitan Museum, New York; the Victoria and Albert Museum, London; The Queensland Art Gallery, Australia; The Tehran Museum of Contemporary Art, Iran; and Sharjah Art Foundation.
23 April 2019