Persian Artist Monir Farmanfarmaian Guggenheim Exhibit

Persian Art Exhibit Of Artist Monir Farmanfarmaian at the Guggenheim Museum

“I was a pretty Persian rug, an exotic find, so people invited me to things”  – Farmanfarmaian Monir on her popularity in post-war American artists’ circles.

Persian artist Monir Farmanfarmaian, now over 90 years old, is celebrating a milestone in her life and artistic career: Her work is on view at the Guggenheim Museum through June 3rd, marking her first comprehensive solo exhibition in the United States.

Persian Artist Monir Farmanfarmaian by nazmiyal

Persian Artist Monir Farmanfarmaian inspects the installation of one of her mirrored artworks at the Guggenhim Museum in NYC.

Persian artist Monir Farmanfarmaian was born in Qazvin, Iran, in 1924. She attended the Fine Arts College of Tehran before moving to New York City in 1945, to continue her studies at Cornell University and Parsons School of Design. Early in her career, she worked as a graphic designer and illustrator at such New York institutions as Vogue Magazine. During her time in New York, she met and befriended many high-profile post-war artists such as Willem de Kooning, Andy Warhol, and Barnett Newman.

Although she spent much of her time in New York immersed in the world of abstract-expressionism and Pop Art, her work, which takes the form of mirrored sculptures and drawings, remained uniquely rooted in Middle Eastern artistic tradition, with an emphasis on repeating pattern and geometry, rather than figurative subjects.

Persian Art: Geometry of Hope Nazmiyal

Persian Art: Geometry of Hope, 1976, by Monir Farmanfarmaian, on view now at the Guggenheim Museum

In 1957, Farmanfarmaian moved back to Iran, and began a journey across the country which would further develop her artistic style. She met with craftspeople and Persian art makers from all different fields, including indigenous jewelry and clothing makers, traditional Persian rug weavers, as well as coffee house painters. During this time period, she created a strong body of work that garnered her praise and exhibitions both in Iran, Europe, and the USA.

In 1979, the artist fled the turmoil of the Islamic Revolution and returned to New York, where she would remain for the next 26 years. While in America, Farmanfarmaian continued working with sculpture and drawing, but also created textile and carpet designs. She finally returned to Tehran in 2004, where she has continued to live, working with some of the same traditional artists she studied under in the 1970’s.

What is the history of Persian Artist Monir Farmanfarmaian?

Monir Farmanfarmaian was an Iranian artist known for her innovative work in the realm of contemporary art, specifically in the field of geometric abstraction and mirror mosaic. Her life and career were marked by a blend of traditional Persian art and modern Western influences.

Here’s an overview of Monir Farmanfarmaian’s history:

Early Life and Education:

Monir Shahroudy was born on December 23, 1922, in Qazvin, Iran. She grew up in a culturally rich environment and was exposed to Persian art and architecture from an early age. In 1944, she moved to the United States to study at the Fine Arts College in New York City. She pursued a degree in fashion illustration and was exposed to Western modern art during her time in New York.

Return to Iran:

Monir Farmanfarmaian returned to Iran in 1957 after completing her studies in the United States. Upon her return, she became deeply interested in the traditional art forms of her homeland, including Islamic geometry, mirror mosaics, and the Iranian art of reverse glass painting known as “aqsaqaloo.” She began to incorporate these traditional techniques and designs into her own work, blending them with her modern artistic sensibilities.

Influence of Geometric Abstraction:

Throughout the 1960s and 1970s, Farmanfarmaian developed her distinctive style, drawing inspiration from the geometric abstraction movement. She experimented with various materials, including glass, mirror fragments, and reverse glass painting. Her works often featured intricate geometric patterns and arrangements that reflected both her Persian heritage and her exposure to Western modernism.

Exile and Return:

In 1979, the Iranian Revolution led to a change in Farmanfarmaian’s circumstances. She left Iran and lived in New York for about 26 years. During this time, she continued to create art, exhibit her works internationally, and gain recognition in the art world.

Reconnection with Iran:

In 2004, Farmanfarmaian returned to Iran permanently. She reconnected with her cultural roots and the traditional artisans of Iran, collaborating with local craftsmen to realize her artistic visions. Her work began to receive increased attention and acclaim both in Iran and on the global stage.


Monir Farmanfarmaian’s art is celebrated for its unique fusion of modern abstraction and traditional Persian craftsmanship. Her use of geometry and reflective surfaces created mesmerizing visual effects that engaged viewers on multiple levels. She passed away on April 20, 2019, in Tehran, leaving behind a legacy that continues to influence contemporary artists and resonate with art enthusiasts around the world.

Farmanfarmaian’s story highlights the intersection of cultures and the power of art to transcend boundaries, creating a bridge between tradition and innovation. Her contributions to the art world have solidified her as a prominent figure in both Iranian and global contemporary art history.

This art and design blog about Persian Art and Artist Monir Farmanfarmaian was published by Nazmiyal Antique Rugs.

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