Monir Shahroudy Farmanfarmaian (Iranian, 1922-2019)
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Monir Shahroudy Farmanfarmaian (Iranian, 1922-2019)

Mirror Ball

Monir Shahroudy Farmanfarmaian (Iranian, 1922-2019)
Mirror Ball
mirror-mosaic and reverse glass painting on plaster base
diameter: 8 1/2in. (21.5cm.)
Executed in 1974-1977
Private Collection, New York.
Private Collection (by whom acquired from the above in 2008).
Anon. sale, Christie's Dubai, 16 March 2016, lot 156.
Acquired at the above sale by the present owner.
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Lot Essay

‘The three of us sat for hours in a high domed hall that was covered entirely in a mosaic of tiny mirrors cut into hexagons, squares and triangles...The very space seemed on fire, the lamps blazing in hundreds of thousands of reflections. I imagined myself standing inside a many-faceted diamond and looking out at the sun.’
(The artist quoted in M. Farmanfarmaian & Z. Houshmand, A Mirror Garden: A Memoir, New York 2007).

At the forefront of modern and contemporary Iranian art, Monir Shahroudy Farmanfarmaian’s long-standing career has been celebrated for her unique, pioneering style of mirror-mosaics and reverse-glass painting. The present work is a beautiful example from her Mirror Ball series - a rare 1970s piece that reflects Farmanfarmaian’s artistic influences and curiosity, that of symbolistic geometry merged with Sufi cosmology.

Born in Iran in 1924, Monir dreamt of the Parisian art scene during her teenage years, but as the war started, she was unable to reach the French capital. At the end of the war, in 1945, she boarded an American battleship to California via Mumbai. From California, she soon travelled to New York where she settled for more than a decade. While she attended art classes at Cornell University and at Parsons School of Design to study fashion illustration, her evenings would be spent at the Tenth Street Club where she mingled with contemporary Western artists. In fact, she met Andy Warhol, then a young commercial illustrator and acquired from him a few of his coloured illustrations of shoes in exchange of one of her famous Mirror Balls, another example in which he famously kept on his desk in his Maddison Avenue home until his death. Monir was inspired to produce the ball shape after seeing a group of children playing soccer in the streets of Tehran. In 1957, Monir moved back to Iran and exhibited at the 29th Venice Biennale, winning the gold medal in 1958. She travelled across the country to explore each region's traditions and culture, discovered handicrafts and folk art, coffeehouse paintings that she collected as well as the fascinating architecture of her homeland. It is in 1966 during a short stay in Shiraz, that her life as an artist changed forever as she entered the 14th century Shah Cheragh shrine and was mesmerised by its endless mirror mosaics. Since, Monir has dedicated her artistic production to recreating the infinite reflections throughout her works, in variations of colour and form.

As a depiction of her own identity, the piece speaks to her glamorous lifestyle and hard-working demeanor, “that beautiful Persian girl”, as renowned composer John Cage would call her. Kaleidoscopic in its magnificent form, the work is composed of a series of triangular mirrors repeated in a satisfying arrangement, reflecting light in every which way. Standing in front of the work can help the viewer admire the sheer detail of their abstracted reflection, as Farmanfarmaian has taken her love for traditional Iranian craft and has broken it down to its foundational essence.

Farmanfarmaian has exhibited globally, with her first solo show that took place in Iran in 1963. During the 29th Venice Biennale, she represented the Iranian Pavilion and had won the gold medal prize. She was commissioned to create works for the Victoria and Albert Museum, London (2006) and the Queensland Art Museum in Brisbane (2009), among many others.

In 2015, her first comprehensive retrospective took place in the noteworthy Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum in New York City, showcasing her mirror works and drawings between 1974-2014. The Monir Museum, which opened in Tehran in 2017, showcases over six decades of her works.

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