• Christies auction house James Christie logo

    Sale 7674

    International Modern and Contemporary Art

    30 October 2008, Jumeirah Emirates Towers Hotel

  • Lot 51

    Charles Hossein Zenderoudi (Iranian, b. 1937)


    Price Realised  


    Charles Hossein Zenderoudi (Iranian, b. 1937)
    signed 'Zenderoudi' (lower centre)
    pen and gouache on paper laid down on canvas
    65 x 39 7/8in. (165 x 100cm.)
    Painted circa 1960

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    Charles Hossein Zenderoudi found his mode of artistic expression in the late 1950s, inspired though his contact with images which belonged to a common cultural inheritance which surrounded him.
    He explains this in two autobiographical anecdotes which illustrate the concepts which form the basis of the Saqqa-khaneh school.
    "As a teenager I often visited the Iran Bastan archaeological museum in Tehran. There were two display cases in the museum showing shirts which warriors wore underneath their armour. These white cotton tunics were completely covered with calligraphic texts and with tables of numerology. I was studying astronomy and that time, and also the various scientific instruments used to measure time and space, such as astrolabes. I was absolutely fascinated. The density of the black graphics on the taut screen of white cotton caused an intense feeling to well-up within me, and made me reflect beyond these visible objects and led me to question the condition of the mankind within the cosmos ".

    In the second autobiographical account he talks about saqqa-khanehs themselves.
    "There is a thing which marked my childhood in Iran forever. In each cul-de-sac there were fountains built beneath small shelters which protected one from heat and sun. Any passer by could stop for a moment and drink a glass of water. These shelters were open to all, symbols of generosity and universality. Stuck randomly all over the wall of these small structures were stuck popular images often of a spiritual sort. In Iran at the time, production of this kind of popular image was very widespread. In France the equivalent would be the images of Epinal. These were images that everyone saw in its childhood and later bought their interiors, for decoration. The representations are very figurative and synthetic and were the equivalent of a comic strip. They are explicit in their narrative and visually striking thanks to a limited colour pallet and use of tone. As in the story of the archaeological museum that I mentioned earlier, what impressed me was the saturation of colour in these pieces, and I was moved by the random confluence of meaning, which was created in a haphazard way between these images gathered at random and in a closed space. What is more, this iconographic unit was in a constant state of flux, as it was forever modified by the constant additions and changes made by the passers by, with this kind of transitory artistic gesture making them creators for a day ".

    In his writings, Charles-Hossein Zenderoudi refers to a large number of experiments through which he developed his oeuvre. The above extracts help explain the spiritual development of Zenderoudi's work, in particular his search of the universal values, which almost certainly explains the impact of his work on the international artistic landscape and particularly on that of the countries of the Middle East from 1958/9 onwards. Zenderoudi knew instinctively how to avoid dogmatism in the traditional and how to extract from it that which belongs to the universal essence of humanity. With this in mind, his work is loaded with symbolic systems and signs, and spatial organization that while of Iranian heritage, are not derivative.
    Thus for Zenderoudi, the Saqqa-khaneh movement was much more than imitations and formal analogies. Saqqa-khaneh is a state of mind, removed from the traditional, keeping only its universal essence. The Saqqa-khaneh spirit, as practiced by Zenderoudi was a revolutionary act in the sense that each one of his works demonstrates a total intellectual independence with regard to the politics and to religion, and speaks directly to viewer.
    Formal and conceptual invariants recur throughout Zenderoudi's oeuvre, often used repetitively or rhythmically- figures , numbers and letters. For Zenderoudi, repetition and rhythms are the means to express mechanistic power in and energy production. Thus, for Zenderoudi, figures, letters and icons from various cultures both create the formal language of his paintings and give them their meaning.

    A similar work is in the Tehran Museum of Contemporary Art, illustrated in Pierre Restany, Charles-Hossein Zenderoudi, Tehran, 2001, p.98.

    Saleroom Notice

    This lot was sourced in the UAE and if bought by a UAE resident is duty exempt.

    Pre-Lot Text

    In the late 1950s and early 1960s a group of Iranian artists with broadly similar goals created what is now know as the Saqqa-khaneh school, the first movement in contemporary Iranian art. The term Saqqa-khaneh, coined by the journalist Karim Emami in 1962, describes certain characteristics within a larger neo-traditionalist trend, its artists engaged with symbols drawn from familiar Iranian religious and folk traditions and incorporated these elements into their works. Some of the best-known Iranian artists of the twentieth century passed through this phase in the 1960s, mainly experimental, before refining and reducing the number of elements so that their later works focus more exclusively on figural or calligraphic compositions. Nevertheless, it is their Saqqa-khaneh period, especially during first half of the 1960s which is considered as the seminal moment in twentieth century Iranian art.

    Saqqa-khaneh is the Persian phrase for "Drinking-Place" the traditional kind of drinking fountain typically located on many cul-de-sacs in old Tehran. They were often plastered with popular images, texts and such like, creating a patchwork of material. However, the characteristic motifs found in Saqqa-khaneh art comprise far more than just those found at drinking fountains, including elements as diverse as the numerical codes of talismanic shirts, the severed hand of Hazrat Abbas or the Hand of Fatima, and outlines recalling suns, haloes and the 'alams- the iron or bronze ceremonial standards carried during the Shi'ite festival of Ashura.

    An important 1977 retrospective exhibition of the group entitled Saqqaakhaneh was held at the Tehran Museum of Contemporary Art by its first director, Kamran Diba and chief curator, David Galloway. Looking back on many works made during the beginning of the previous decade, visitors to that exhibition could trace the key developments that had then recently transformed Iranian contemporary art. Seeing the Saqqa-khaneh works exhibited together revealed the striking similarities of theme and composition these artists shared during this brief period. Later their styles would diverge, but looking at this earlier phase provided additional insight into their subsequent work.

    In his introduction to the exhibition in the catalogue of the same name, Karim Emami cites Pariviz Tanavoli's description of his trip to Shahr-Rey with fellow artist Charles Hossein Zenderoudi. The pair were fascinated by the religious posters they saw on sale, with their simplified forms, repeated motifs and bright colours. Zenderoudi's first sketches based on these posters were the first Saqqa-khaneh works of art.
    Because of this use of popular symbols to create works of art relevant to the people at large, Saqqa-khaneh art is sometimes referred to as a kind of "Spiritual Pop Art". As explained in passage by Kamran Diba, the first director of the Tehran Museum of Contemporary Art, 'there is a parallel between Saqqa-khaneh and Pop Art, if we simplify Pop Art as and art movement which looks at the symbols and tools of a mass consumer society as a relevant and influencing cultural force. Saqqa-khaneh artists looked at the inner belief sand popular symbols that were part of the religion and culture of Iran, and perhaps, consumed in the same ways as industrial products in the West" (Kamran Diba, "Iran" in Contemporary Art from the Islamic World, Widjan Ali (ed.), London, 1989).

    The following lots form perhaps the strongest grouping of works from this period to be presented together since this exhibition. Two of the most important works shown in 1977 are present in the group, a powerful 1962 work by Faramarz Pilaram, and a rare early 1960s painting by Mansour Qandriz, together with works comparable to those in the exhibition by Charles Hossein Zenderoudi, Sadegh Tabrizi, Nasser Ovissi, and Massoud Arabshahi.