Born in Iran, Farmanfarmaian is known for her mirror mosaics and geometric drawings. She studied at Cornell University, Parsons School of Design, and the Art Students League. As a fashion illustrator, she created the purple flower logo for Bonwit Teller Department Store and produced illustrations for Glamour magazine.
She returned to Tehran after marrying in 1957, and she began collecting indigenous Turkoman jewelry, pottery, and art paintings, that have influenced her work. In 1969, she created the first of her mirror reliefs, informed by the use of geometric shaped mirrors in ancient Iranian mosques.
In 1979, she and her husband were visiting New York when the Islamic Revolution broke out. Exiled for 26 years, she lost her studio, her early art works, and her prized Turkoman collection. Yet she continued to make art.
In 2004, she returned to Iran as a widow to restart her career. Her “First Family – Square” 2010 is a geometric work of mirrors and plastic on acrylic and wood. In 2011, her first monograph was edited. About “Lightening for Neda,” her largest installation to date, she said that she wanted the work’s reflective surfaces to have a liquefying effect: “Your own picture, your own face, your own clothing. If you move, it is a part of the art.”
Her work has been shown at New York’s Guggenheim Museum, MoMA, MOCA Tokyo, the Metropolitan Museum, the Victoria & Albert Museum, and others.