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Monir Farmanfarmaian (Iranian, 1924-2019)
These lots have been imported from outside the EU … Read more PROPERTY FROM A DISTINGUISHED PRIVATE COLLECTION
Monir Farmanfarmaian (Iranian, 1924-2019)


Monir Farmanfarmaian (Iranian, 1924-2019)
signed and dated in Farsi; signed and dated
‘Monir – Sh – Farmanfarmaian, 24th February 2008’ (on the reverse)
mirror, reverse-glass painting and plaster on panel in aluminium artist's frame
33½ x 70in. (85 x 178cm.)
Executed on 24 February 2008
The Artist's Studio.
The Collection of Fereydoun Ave.
Anon. sale, Sotheby’s, Alchemy: Objects of Desire, 26 April 2016, lot 88.
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. Christie’s is excited to present an awe-inspiring work that represents a seminal example of her distinctive and vibrant oeuvre. The work is a beautiful and rare masterpiece that reflects Farmanfarmaian’s artistic influences and curiosity, that of symbolistic geometry merged with Sufi cosmology. The work was executed in 2008 when she chose to open her own studio in Tehran upon her return, choosing not to return until then since the Iranian Revolution of 1979 suspended her rise to stardom in Iran.

The composition of the work is inspired by the wings of Faravahar, Zarathustra, which is an important symbol of the ancient Iranian religion of Zoroastrianism. The religion, regarded to be founded by the prophet Zoroaster (Zarathustra in ancient Persian), is considered to be the oldest religion of monotheistic faith. The grandiose and majestic wings that are iconic of Zarathustra’s appearance are a direct inspiration for the presented work created meticulously by Farmanfarmaian. The wings are also known as the Faravahar, one of the most iconic symbols of Iran and its primary religion before the Muslim conquest of Persia. As a young woman, Farmanfarmaian enrolled in the Zoroastrian high school of which she recounts as being an incredibly diverse and important educational period in her career. Her exposure to students from a wide range of backgrounds, which included Zoroastrians, informed her deeply on the ancient religion and sparked her interest further.

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.

As an Iranian who lived abroad for most of her life, Farmanfarmaian never let her attachment to her homeland fade away. In 1944, due to the Second World War, she had travelled to New York with her family where she settled for more than a decade. She had dreamt of working as an artist in Paris, primarily due to her French teacher Madame Aminfar, who introduced her to European masters and the many techniques they employed, recounting stories of her time working in Paris. However, Farmanfarmaian made New York her home, enrolling in art classes at Cornell University and fashion illustration courses at Parsons School of Design. When Abraham Chanin, writer and lecturer at MoMA, introduced her and her fiancée to the Tenth Street Club, Farmanfarmaian’s spirited personality lead to her befriending artists such as Mark Rothko, Jackson Pollock, Willem de Kooning, Frank Stella and Joan Mitchell. She also famously met Andy Warhol before his rise to stardom, and exchanged with him a few of his shoe illustrations in return for a mirror ball which he proudly kept on his desk in his Madison Avenue home.

When she returned to Iran in 1957, she focused on her craft of painting, as well as traveling around the country to collect traditional hand-made crafts and coffeehouse paintings from the Safavid era. She recounts a vivid moment in 1966 Shiraz, where she was awed by a shrine made in the 14th century Shah Cheragh that had an endless mirror mosaic pattern. This soon became a significant influence on her artistic craft and production for the rest of her life. The events she encountered on her return to Iran allowed her to focus solely on translating her heritage into modern and avant-gardist works. Each geometric shape and color reveals a different symbol of metaphysical values and ideas. She experimented with a wide and unique range of materials, such as wood and stainless steel. The result of her works capture the viewer within a refraction of the surrounding world and an experience that was ultimately ethereal.

The internationally-renowned Monir 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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