The highly distinguished contemporary artist, Monir Shahroudy Farmanfarmaian smoothly combines the use of geometrically-shaped mirror mosaics, a technique adapted from her Iranian heritage, with the rhythms of modern Western geometric abstraction, to develop dazzling and exquisite works of art that have charmed many and have been acclaimed internationally. Christie’s is honoured to be offering the present work from the esteemed collection of Dr. David Galloway, the former chief curator of TMoCA who was instrumental in the conception of the museum with Her Imperial Majesty Empress Farah Pahlavi in the 1970s. As a testament to the relationship of the curator with the artists at the time, Galloway amassed a personal collection of which the present work is a dazzling example.
Living in the swinging New York of the 1970s, Farmanfarmaian befriended popular artists Jackson Pollock, Mark Rothko, Alexander Calder, Barnett Newman and Andy Warhol - to whom she gifted one of her sought after Mirror Balls which he famously kept on his desk until his death. Moving back to her home country almost a decade later, Farmanfarmaian developed a fascination with Iranian traditions, especially after visiting the dazzling Shah Cheragh shrine, the inside of which is magically covered with tiny shimmering mirrors. To her, this experience was a pivotal moment in her artistic journey, positively affecting her work and style to a large extent. Not only did she reconcile the traditional with the modern in this composition, but she was also able to merge her eastern Persian identity with the western glittering disco balls found in the clubs of New York in the most fascinating way.
The artist’s fascination with the mirror balls goes back to when she still lived in the States; ‘In New York in the Sixties I saw children playing with a plastic ball. That was unimaginable for me. I brought the ball to the studio and asked a colleague to make a leather one. But that was impossible. He laughed and suggested designing one in fibreglass, which was a new material at the time. And out of that grew the idea of covering one with mirrors, a technique I have refined over the years.’ (The artist quoted in I. Steven Heydens, Dazzling geometry at Wiels, 12 June 2013, accessed online.)
The circular shape of the present work could be considered as an expression of a cyclical conception of spirituality, recurring indefinitely. This notion of infinity is further heightened by the side-by-side placement of countless pieces of mirror, covering the entirety of the ball, creating an enormous kaleidoscopic universe unto itself. Due to the spherical form of the art work, the parallel lines observed at the centre, which otherwise never meet, smoothly interconnect at the sides. This could possibly be referencing her exile from Iran, which lasted for over twenty years which was then followed by her long-awaited return to her native country.
Farmanfarmaian’s celebrated piece demonstrates a substantial amount of firmness and discipline that goes far beyond the intellectual exercise it seems to offer at first-sight, transporting the viewer into other realms that allow the mind to lose itself and the spirit to soar.