11th Gwangju Biennale
2. 9. – 6. 11. 2016



Monir Shahroudy Farmanfarmaian

Monir Shahroudy Farmanfarmaian’s (b. 1924, Qazvin/Tehran) mirror works present a free play between surfaces laid on the wall and the space that unfolds therefrom. Small pieces of mirror, cut in numerous shapes and put together in angled patterns, compose crumpled reliefs that open into an infinite space and multiplicity of refractions. Choreographing reflective folds, the mirror works shrink their surrounding spatial dimensions in an evolving mise en abyme and rearrange their hold of the universe in an interdimensional world of their own.

Technically speaking, Farmanfarmaian’s works are informed by a well-established tradition of Persian decorative arts, including a group of master craftsmen seminal to the process of creating her works. In Iran, mosaic mirrors date back to the 16th century when large sheets of mirror, purchased from Europe to decorate palaces, arrived shattered. Master craftsmen cut and reused broken pieces of the precious material in the same way that they used to work with ceramic tiles, thus creating enchanting mosaic mirrors.

At first sight, these mirror works readily lend themselves to mystical and transcendental interpretations, as they invoke the interior design of a mosque or a Sufi temple, where this particular craft was historically most adopted – a technique with the symbolic function of shattering the image of the self in front of the omnipresence of god. These shiny surfaces project a reciprocal vision between the fragmented parts and the totality of a whole, while meticulously conceived geometrical shapes open up a celestial view into the cosmic order of the universe. Yet for Farmanfarmaian, reinterpreting these architectural structures, and the imaginative process of contemplation of geometric potentials, is also rooted in other contexts – such as her experience of moving to New York in the ’50s, and the seriality and repetition of forms in modern art as well as broader visual culture. AM


Monir was born in Qazvin, Iran, in 1924, where she studied Fine Arts at the Tehran University and completed her studies at Cornell University. Having graduated from Parsons School of Design in 1949, she became a Member of the New York Art Students' League (1950-53). Her works have been exhibited extensively in Iran, the United States, Europe, and the Middle East, including presentations at the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, NY; Museum of Modern Art, NY; Serralves Foundation, Porto; Sharjah Biennial 11; WIELS Contemporary Art Center, Brussels; Leighton House Museum, London; Haus der Kunst, Munich; 29th Bienal de Sao Paulo; and the Venice Biennale (1958, 1964, 1966 and 2009). Monir’s major commissioned installations include work for the Queensland Art Museum, Australia (2009), the Victoria & Albert Museum’s Jameel Collection (2006), the Dag Hammerskjöd building, NY (1981) and the Niyavaran Cultural Center (1977-78), as well as acquisitions by the Metropolitan Museum, NY; The Tehran Museum of Contemporary Art; The Museum of Contemporary Art Tokyo; The Tate Modern, London; The Sharjah Art Foundation; The Victoria and Albert Museum, London; The Louis Vuitton Foundation, Paris; amongst others and most recently the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, NY. Monir currently lives and works in Tehran, Iran.