Lot 42
  • 42

Bahman Mohasses

60,000 - 80,000 GBP
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  • Bahman Mohasses
  • Untitled 
  • signed and dated B.Mohasses '73; signed and dated on the reverse 
  • oil on canvas 
  • 79.6 by 100.3cm.; 31 1/4 by 39 1/2 in.


Acquired directly from the artist by the present owner in 1974


Condition: This work is in very good condition. Some light abrasions alongside the bottom edge of the canvas. A light possible water stain on the upper top right edge. Upon closer inspection, few scattered pinhole size paint loss are noticeable. Colour: The colour in the catalogue illustration is fairly accurate, where the colours in the original work being softer. The overall grey background is closer to a darker grey as opposed to a purple grey. The reds at the base are richer and closer to a pigeon blood red. The reds under the stingray's left wing are closer to purple than red.
"In response to your inquiry, we are pleased to provide you with a general report of the condition of the property described above. Since we are not professional conservators or restorers, we urge you to consult with a restorer or conservator of your choice who will be better able to provide a detailed, professional report. Prospective buyers should inspect each lot to satisfy themselves as to condition and must understand that any statement made by Sotheby's is merely a subjective, qualified opinion. Prospective buyers should also refer to any Important Notices regarding this sale, which are printed in the Sale Catalogue.

Catalogue Note

Sotheby’s is delighted to offer a rare work by a pioneer figure in the Iranian art world, Bahman Mohasses. Mohasses was one of the greatest masters, paving the trail for a multitude of emerging contemporary artists.  It was his native town Lahijan, an area on the Caspian coast which initially inspired him to absorb and depict his surroundings gruesome, leading him to paint his iconic Fish Series comprising fish nets, the sea and sailors. A humanist and an animal lover, his works were often a metaphor of the Iranian society’s brutality and humanity’s mistreatment of nature, a very topical subject in today’s modern world. The artist  had an obsession of portraying still fish suggesting the brutality and destructive potential of oil spills and even over fishing in his region, often depicted with soulless shadows as if in an outcry. He used his sombre characters as illustrated puppets, a visual reflection of his personal disappointment in humanity.

Mohasses’s inspiration was wide ranging; both an artist and a poet, he admired Picasso, Henry Moore and Alberto Giacometti, interpreting them through the muscularity of forms seen in his works. He translated into Persian the works of Malaparte, Pirandello, Calvino, Ionesco and Genet and directed several plays. His artistic oeuvre highlights his interest in theatre, mythology, tragic heroes and cinema. The artist tried  several attempts to establish himself as an artist, however he thought his works were overlooked by the Italian milieu. Mohasses felt greatly restricted by his Iranian identity, this cultural constraint plagued his career and manifested itself in the isolated characters depicted in his works. In response to his cumulative frustration, similar to his British contemporary, Francis Bacon, often paralleled to Mohasses, methodically destroyed a large body of work after publishing an extensive Catalogue Raisonée which explains why his market is so restricted and availability of his works so scarce.

His early compositions followed the archetypal rules initiated by Cubist artists. However, when further developing his style, Mohasses began to abandon a formal perspective in his compositions, successfully creating more emotionally charged paintings. Untitled affords a window into the isolated nature of Mohasses' disposition with a rayfish, hanging morbidly on a fishing hook. It effectively presents the unique method of expression embodied in his works, a striking contrast between the rare vibrant colours under the ray’s fins against his characteristically subdued palette surrounding it. Mohasess never sought to create beauty; rejecting it, he believed in ugliness instead. He strived to revolutionise artistic trends, portraying a realistic and raw aesthetic. It is perhaps this rejection of the accepted norms which fuelled his imagination and inspiration, establishing him as a true master of Iran’s modern era.

The groundbreaking exhibition Unedited History, Iran 1960-2014  at the Tate Modern and the British Museum  in London, the Musée d’Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris and MAXXI National Museum of XXI Century Arts in Rome featured Mohasses’s paintings to great acclaim and were a testament to his strong influence on the history of Modern Iranian art.