• Christies auction house James Christie logo

    Sale 7477

    International Modern and Contemporary Art

    31 October 2007, Jumeirah Emirates Towers Hotel

  • Lot 137


    Beyond the Lines

    Price Realised  


    Beyond the Lines
    signed and dated in Farsi (lower right)
    oil and aluminium on canvas
    90½ x 78¾in. (230 x 200cm.)
    Executed in 1978

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    Just as the present is a confluence of the past and future, Massoud Arabshahi's work is a juxtaposition of the ancient and the futuristic. For over thirty years his work has encompassed large-scale sculpture, relief architecture and murals, in a wide array of techniques. His creativity and perception maintain the simple geometric shapes of antiquity, infusing them with elaborate delineation and texturing, conveying a sense of the finite and producing an aesthetically balanced whole.

    Geometric shapes carry meaning in Arabshahi's oeuvre. The circle is the symbol of the universe, wholeness, and original perfection. In Islamic art the circle represents the vaulted sky and divine light; the square manifests the earth and perfect stability. A square inside a circle or a circle inside a square represents a transformation of the spherical form of the sky on a rectangular Earth or vice versa. In Mandela, circle mainly delineates the whole nature and square shapes indicate recognition of this wholeness in the consciousness. The cross has been a universal symbol ever since antiquity. It manifests the center of the world; a point where the earth and heaven meet; a cosmic axis. The cross also represents an archetype of man capable of expanding infinitely and harmoniously in both horizontal and vertical planes. In Islam it signifies the union of all states of being, sublime identity and horizontal and vertical expansion. The vertical line is the celestial, spiritual, subjective, positive and active aspects, whereas the horizontal line demonstrates earthly, logical, passive and negative aspects. The spiral has long been utilized in arts: solar and lunar powers, universal revolution, the Sun's orbit, seasons, and rotation of the Earth and creative powers. Double spirals represented rhythms of nature.

    Application of these elements attaches a geometric sense to Arabshahi's works, and also brings his art closer to modernism. This is particularly true when his latest conception of space (from the point of view of modern architecture or cosmic dimension) is brought to light. At this stage, the elements of the third group gather force and significance. We might have seen arrows, scales, numbers, parabolic lines, hatching and graffiti in the artistic creations of many 20th-century artists. Their presence in Arabshahi's paintings, however, denotes a different concept, which is to beckon the mysterious spirit of ancient times into the dynamic world of today.


    "Pioneers of Iranian Modern Art; Massoud Arabshahi", 2001, catalogue of exhibition held at the Tehran Museum of Contemporary Art.

    "A Spiritual Vision", 2003, catalogue of exhibition held at the Tehran Museum of Contemporary Art, p. 106.

    Venetia Porter, 2006, "Word into Art-Artist of the Modern Middle East", London, the British Museum Press, P.93.


    1. Museum of Sacred Arts, Paris, 1967.
    2. Grand Palais, Paris, 1973.
    3. American Institute of Architecture, Costa Mesa, California 1996.
    4. Barbican Center, London, 2000.
    5. Museum of National, Folk & Popular Art, Rome, 2000.
    6. Meridian International Center, Washington DC. 2001.
    7. Tehran Museum of Contemporary Art, A Retrospective, 2002.
    8. Christies, Iranian Contemporary, London, 2002.
    9. Tehran Museum of Contemporary Art, A Spiritual Vision Tehran, 2003. 10. The British Museum, Word into Art, 2006.