Monir Shahroudy Farmanfarmaian, Iranian artist, dies

Best known for mosaics and glass paintings

By Artemis Moshtaghian, CNN
Chris J Ratcliffe/Getty Images for Sotheby's

A man looks at 'Three Graces' by Monir Farmanfarmaian at Sotheby's in London, England. 

(CNN) - Prominent contemporary Iranian artist Monir Shahroudy Farmanfarmaian died at age 97 in her home in Tehran due to natural causes on Saturday, according to the semiofficial Iranian Students' News Agency.

Farmanfarmaian is best known for her mirror mosaic sculptures and glass paintings which exemplify the intersection of modern expressionism and traditional Persian craftsmanship.

Born in 1922 in Qazvin, Iran, Farmanfarmaian studied fine arts at the University of Tehran before moving to the US in 1945 to pursue a degree in fashion at the Parsons School for Design in New York. She became a mainstay of the evolving art scene in New York in the 1950s and 1960s, and counted Willem de Kooning, Joan Mitchell and Andy Warhol among her friends, according to Parson's New School.

In 2015 she became the first Iranian artist to have a solo exhibit at the Guggenheim Museum. The retrospective, "Monir Shahroudy Farmanfarmaian: Infinite Possibility," featured large-scale mirror sculptures the artist referred to as "geometric families," as well a series of mosaic mirror balls which were her homage to a disco ball, inspired by the glitz of the 1970s American pop culture, according to Sotheby's international auction house.

"I'm not intellectual whatsoever," Farmanfarmaian told CNN in 2016 about the inspiration for her art. "Whatever it is, it is from my observation from outside. From the nature, from the beautiful paintings and art."

After living in New York for over two decades, Farmanfarmaian returned to Iran in the 1960s and traveled extensively throughout the country, further developing her "artistic sensibility through encounters with traditional craftsmanship," according to the Guggenheim. It was during this time that she learned the technique of reverse-glass painting and was galvanized by Persian tiling and architecture to create some of her most iconic works.

Farmanfarmaian was inspired by the Shah Cheragh mosque in Shiraz to create the mirrored mosaic pieces she uses in her sculptures, according to her namesake museum, the Monir Museum in Tehran.

The Monir Museum, opened under the auspices of the University of Tehran in 2017, is the first museum in Iran dedicated to celebrating the artwork of a female artist.

Farmanfarmaian was mourned throughout the international art community.

"The many stages of her life correspond to the many dimensions, aspects, and inventions of her work," friend and artist Hans Ulrich Obrist says in an Instagram post dedicated to Farmanfarmaian.

Art galleries in Iran posted tributes to her on social media. One called her one of "the most humble Iranian artists," another said "mirrors are now motherless."

The German Ambassador in Tehran tweeted about Farmanfarmaian, saying that he visited her museum for the first time on Saturday.

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