Monir Shahroudy Farmanfarmaian


Born in Qazvin, Iran in 1922, Monir Shahroudy Farmanfarmaian’s distinguished career has spanned more than five decades. Incorporating traditional reverse glass painting, mirror mosaics and principles of Islamic geometry with a modern sensibility, her sculptures and installations defy easy categorization.  


Farmanfarmaian attended the Fine Arts College of Tehran before becoming one of the first Iranian students to study in the United States after World War II. She graduated from Parsons School of Design in 1949 and then became a Member of the New York Art Students' League (1950-53). Engulfed in the epicenter of the modern art world, it was here that she worked alongside many iconic contemporary American artists including Jackson Pollock, Frank Stella, Louise Nevelson and Andy Warhol, all who had an influence on her work.  


Farmanfarmaian's mirror and reverse glass painting mosaic sculptures are built around principles of Islamic geometry. Through wall-based panels and free-standing works, she presents both a detailed craft and contemporary abstraction that employs an interaction of surface texture, light and reflection, color and form. The characteristic mirror mosaic of Farmanfarmaian's work is an Iranian decorative form known as aineh-kari. The technique dates back to the sixteenth century, when glass was imported from Europe and would often arrive broken. In Farmanfarmaian's work, the intricate mirror mosaic and reverse-glass painting moves beyond a craft to explore the forms of the medium in a contemporary way. Along with drawings in felt marker, pen and ink, Farmanfarmaian has also used Plexiglas to combine her exploration of geometric forms with her long-standing interest in architecture in layered works of colored lines that explore the forms of nomadic tents, minarets, and models for architectural sculptures.  


Farmanfarmaian has exhibited internationally in a number of solo exhibitions, including but not limited to; Monir Farmanfarmaian: A Mirror Garden, High Museum of Art, Atlanta, GA, USA (2022); Sunset Sunrise, Irish Museum of Modern Art, Dublin, Ireland (2018) which travelled to Sharjah Art Foundation, Sharjah, UAE (2019); Mirror Variations: The Art of Monir Shahroudy Farmanfarmaian, Grand Rapids Art Museum, MI (2018); Lineages, Savannah College of Art and Design Museum of Art, Savannah, GA (2017); Monir Shahroudy Farmanfarmaian: Infinite Possibility. Mirror Works and Drawings1974-2014, Serralves Museum of Contemporary Art, Porto, Portugal (2014), which travelled to Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York, NY (2015); and Chrysler Museum of Art, Norfolk, VA (2017); Monir Shahroudy Farmanfarmaian: Convertibles and Polygons, The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, TX, USA (2013); Monir Shahroudy Farmanfarmaian: Mirror Mosaics, Victoria and Albert Museum, London, United Kingdom (2007).


Farmanfarmaian's work has been included in several prominent group exhibitions including; Perpetual Inventory, Volume 1: An Exercise in Looking, The Third Line, Dubai, UAE (2022); Women in Abstraction, Centre Pompidou, Paris, France (2021); Epic Iran, Victoria and Albert Museum, London, UK (2021); A Boundless Drop to a Boundless Ocean, Orlando Museum of Art, Orlando, FL, USA (2021); Less Is a Bore: Maximalist Art & Design, Institute of Contemporary Art, Boston, MA, USA (2019); We Are Here, Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago, IL, USA (2017); SUR/FACE: Mirrors, Museum Angewandte Kunst, Frankfurt, Germany (2017); Rebel, Jester, Mystic, Poet: Contemporary Persians, Aga Khan Museum, Ontario, Canada (2017); travelled to Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, TX, USA (2017); to name a few. 


Farmanfarmaian participated in the 2009 and 1964 Venice Biennales, and represented Iran in the 1958 Venice Biennale, where she was awarded the Gold Medal for her contribution. Other recent biennials include; Bruges Triennial 2018, Belgium (2018); the 11th Gwangju Biennale, South Korea (2016); the 2015 Vienna Biennale, Austria (2015); Sharjah Biennial 11: Re:emerge, Towards a New Cultural Cartography, Sharjah Art Foundation, United Arab Emirates (2013); and the 29th Bienal de São Paulo, Brazil (2010). 


In 2011, Farmanfarmaian launched her artist’s monograph titled Cosmic Geometry at the Royal College of Art in London. Published by Damiani and The Third Line, and edited by Hans Ulrich Obrist and Karen Marta, Cosmic Geometry is the first substantial survey of Farmanfarmaian's acclaimed geometric works, and features an in-depth interview by Obrist; critical essays by Nader Ardalan, Media Farzin, and Eleanor Sims; warm tributes by Farmanfarmaian's friends Etel Adnan, Siah Armajani, caraballo-farman, Golnaz Fathi, Hadi Hazavei, Susan Hefuna, Aziz Isham, Rose Issa, Faryar Javaherian, Abbas Kiarostami, Shirin Neshat, Donna Stein, and Frank Stella; an excerpt from The Sense of Unity: The Sufi Tradition in Persian Architecture by Nader Ardalan and Laleh Bakhtiar (1973); and an annotated timeline of Farmanfarmaian's life by Negar Azimi.


Farmanfarmaian's work is housed in several major public collections including; the Alfond Collection of Contemporary Art, Cornell Fine Arts Museum, Rollins College, Winter Park, FL, USA; The Andy Warhol Museum, Pittsburgh, PA, USA; the Barry Art Museum, Norfolk, VA, USA; Grand Rapids Museum of Art, Grand Rapids, MI, USA; Guggenheim Museum, Abu Dhabi, UAE; High Museum of Art, Atlanta, GA, USA; Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Washington, DC, USA; Louis Vuitton Foundation, Paris, France; M+ Museum, Hong Kong; McNay Art Museum, San Antonio, TX, USA; Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, NY, USA; Monir Museum, Negarestan Museum Park Gardens, Tehran, Iran; Museum of Contemporary Art, Tokyo, Japan; Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago, IL, USA; Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, MA, USA; Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, TX, USA; Museum of Modern Art, Tehran, Iran; Niavaran Cultural Center, Tehran, Iran; Queensland Gallery of Contemporary Art, Queensland, Australia; Sharjah Art Foundation, Sharjah, UAE; Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York, NY, USA; Tate Modern, London, UK; Tehran Museum of Contemporary Art, Tehran, Iran; Toledo Art Museum, Toledo, OH, USA; Victoria and Albert Museum, London, UK.


In December of 2017, the Tehran University inaugurated the Monir Museum; Housed in the historic Negarestan Museum Park Gardens, the institution pays homage to her life and work.