'Persepolis, to me, was like a temple to worship sculpture, a place where the whole site is sculpted out of marble and granite'.
(The artist quoted in F. Daftari, "Parviz Tanavoli" in Safar/Voyage, exh. cat., Vancouver, Museum of Anthropology, 2013, p. 21).
Christie's is proud to offer Oh, Persepolis II (1978-2008), a monumental and striking sculpture by the acclaimed artist Parviz Tanavoli that invites the viewer on a journey back to the triumphant civilisation of Ancient Persia. One of the pioneers of the neo-traditional Saqqakhaneh school since the 1960s, Tanavoli draws inspiration from his homeland's history and folkloric culture, creating his own distinctive style that combines twentieth century Modernism with elements that are reminiscent of the magnificent bas-reliefs of Persepolis.
As a sculptor, Parviz Tanavoli has worked with various materials during his career, namely copper, brass and mostly bronze - which he learned from the Italian sculptor Marino Marini during his time in Brera, Italy - a medium that he beautifully combined with traditional Persian motifs and objects that he found in bazaars or shrines. Along with the iconography of the Heech or nothingness for which he is known, Tanavoli produced a series of Wall sculptures inspired by Persepolis and by the legendary story of the first sculptor of all times, Farhad the Mountain Carver, yet remained essentially Modern.
Standing over six feet tall, Oh, Persepolis II is the sister piece to The Wall (Oh, Persepolis) that fetched the world's record price of $2.84 million for any Middle- Eastern artist at Christie's Dubai in April 2008. The present work, a polished bronze monolith, is covered with undecipherable signs and symbols that commemorate, as its title suggests, the ceremonial capital of the Achaemenid Empire (ca. 550-330 B.C), now a UNESCO world heritage site. Created between 1975 and 2008, the monumental sculpture presents a gleaming surface enlivened by multiple rows of invented pictographic elements that reference the cuneiform inscriptions on the distinguished Darius Cylinder, as well as the carved figures of the Immortals, discovered on the staircases of the great Apadana Palace.
More recently the highlight of the acclaimed Safar/Voyage exhibition at the Museum of Anthropology in Vancouver, Oh, Persepolis II stands as the revival of the cultural happenings that took place in Persepolis as a display of power of the erstwhile ruling monarchy. In modern times and before the Islamic Revolution, Persepolis welcomed a great number of international artists, namely Maurice Béjart, John Cage and Jean Tinguely and whereas the first version of the sculpture recalled this glorious past, the present version enclosed in a majestic frame expresses the artist's resentment of fear, perhaps hinting to the destiny of the monarchy or to the urge to protect the archaeological site of Persepolis.
Oh, Persepolis II is one of the most refined and striking works ever produced by the artist and undeniably a true masterpiece. Parviz Tanavoli is widely recognized today for his contributions to the development of Modern Iranian sculpture and as such, has influenced a great number of younger artists in the region.
His works are featured today in leading institutions around the world, such as the British Museum and the Metropolitan Museum of Art as well as in distinguished private collections internationally. Works from the Wall series can be found in important collections including the Museum of Modern Art, Vienna and Mathaf, Doha.