Art world mourns for Monir
Monir Shahroudy Farmanfarmaian has passed away at the age of 96. To all that met and knew her as well as innumerable others, Monir was an inspiration and a true artist. She worked across a wide range of media and genres but continually returned to the mirror, a material which paid reference to traditional Persian art as well as being forever contemporary due to its qualities to reflect all that surrounds it.
The first time I spoke to Monir was in 2013, when I was working at The National. The line was bad and crackling but she sparkled, even then. “Mirror, mirror on the wall, who is the prettiest of them all," she lilted down the phone line. She told me about the mirror mosaic art of Persia, her native Iran. An art called "Aneyneh Kari", which developed in Iran in the 17th century when reflecting glass was imported from Europe in great quantities, places small pieces and slivers of mirror in plaster to make patterns. But we also talked about her use of cosmic geometry and about she explored concepts of infinity through her prolific and life long practice. "The mirror reflects the sky, water and every colour," she told me. "It is a symbol of light and life and when you stand in front of my mirror work and see the reflections, you are a part of the work itself."
Monir studied at the Fine Arts College of Tehran, before moving to the United in 1945, where she worked alongside artists such as Jackson Pollock, Louise Nevelson, and Andy Warhol. Following the Islamic Revolution in Iran in 1979 she and her husband, the lawyer and academic Abolbashar Farmanfarmaian, remained in New York but after her husband’s death, Monir cautiously began to visit Tehran in the 1990s. In 2004, she moved back to Tehran permanently to set up her home and studio and last year, the Monir Museum opened the first museum in Iran to be dedicated to a female artist.
She was widely exhibited throughout her career with a show of reverse glass paintings in the Iranian Pavilion at the 26th Venice Biennale in 1958 and solo shows at the Galerie Denise René in Paris and New York. In 2007 The Third Line invited her to Dubai and hosted a number of solo shows including The Breeze at Dawn Has Secrets to Tell You, featuring her most recent body of work. While they continue to draw from Islamic cosmology, mathematics and Sufi mystic philosophies, Monir’s mixed-media installations defined a new step in the artist’s ever-evolving practice: experiments with kinetic art. Also on display in that show were 2018 iterations of her famed 1970s Mirror Ball works—spherical sculptures comprising hand-cut mirror elements inspired by the sight of children playing football in the streets of Tehran.
Monir was a sparkling spirit, with a brilliant mind and a fascinating output. This picture, taken from Dr Shiva Balaghi’s instagram shows her wonderful energy and brightness that shined until the end. News of her passing began to appear on social media on April 21, 2019 with tributes flowing in from all over the world. Wherever they are and whoever is looking at them, the mirrors in Monir’s work continue to take on new meaning. In this way, then, her work will continue to live long after the artist herself has gone.
Monir Shahroudy Farmanfarmaian. December 16, 1922 - April 21, 2019. May she rest in peace