1924 – 2019
Born in Iran, Farmanfarmaian was known for her mirror mosaics and geometric drawings. Her work connected traditional Iranian mathematical patterns with Western minimalist shapes to create decorative and unique sculptural pieces. She reinvented the traditional art of “Ayeneh Kari,” the cutting of mirrors into small pieces and placing them in decorative shapes over plaster, by bringing this art form into the modern age.
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. In 2012, her reverse painted glass and mirrored glass wall sculpture “Mugarnas One” enlisted mirrors in reference to the forms found in mosques.
Her largest installation, “Lightening for Neda,” 2009, is a massive six-panel mirrored mosaic made up of more than 4,000 mirror shards. She created this piece as a tribute to a young woman who was killed in a pro-democracy protest in Tehran. She said that she wanted the work’s reflective surfaces to have a liquefying effect. This piece – as well as her other works – shimmer as tiny portions of a viewer’s mirrored reflection become part of the artwork itself: “Your own picture, your own face, your own clothing. If you move, it is a part of the art.”
She recently had a retrospective in New York’s Guggenheim Museum, and her work has also been shown at MoMA, MOCA Tokyo, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Guggenheim, the Irish Museum of Modern Art, the Victoria & Albert Museum, and others. She has participated in Biennials in Sao Paulo and Venice.
Her work is in the public collections of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, MOCA Chicago, Museum of Fine Arts Houston, and and Tate Modern. In 2017 the Monir Museum was opened in Tehran in her honor and features her work.