View full screen - View 1 of Lot 40. MONIR FARMANFARMAIAN | GEOMETRY OF HOPE.





Property from the Distinguished Collection of Rose Issa, London


1922 - 2019


mirror, reverse glass painting, stainless steel and plaster on wood

128 by 128 cm. 50⅜ by 50⅜ in.

Executed in 1975.

Please note, Condition 11 of the Conditions of Business for Buyers (Online Only) is not applicable to this lot. 

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This work is in very good condition. Close inspection reveals some small and unobtrusive craquelure to the mirrors, more notably across the left and upper edges, which is in keeping with the age of the work. Further close inspection reveals some signs of wear, and some minor dents and very faint and light scratches to some parts of the aluminium, which is in keeping with the artist's working process. There are some scattered signs of aging to the plaster, which is part of the natural aging of the work. The wooden original frame has some wear and minor cracks, which is also in keeping with the age of the work.

The lot is sold in the condition it is in at the time of sale. The condition report is provided to assist you with assessing the condition of the lot and is for guidance only. Any reference to condition in the condition report for the lot does not amount to a full description of condition. The images of the lot form part of the condition report for the lot provided by Sotheby's. Certain images of the lot provided online may not accurately reflect the actual condition of the lot. In particular, the online images may represent colours and shades which are different to the lot's actual colour and shades. The condition report for the lot may make reference to particular imperfections of the lot but you should note that the lot may have other faults not expressly referred to in the condition report for the lot or shown in the online images of the lot. The condition report may not refer to all faults, restoration, alteration or adaptation because Sotheby's is not a professional conservator or restorer but rather the condition report is a statement of opinion genuinely held by Sotheby's. For that reason, Sotheby's condition report is not an alternative to taking your own professional advice regarding the condition of the lot.

Acquired directly from the artist by the present owner in 2004

Paris, Galerie Denise René, Monir Farmanfarmaian, April 1977

Porto, Museo Serralves; and New York, Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, Monir Shahroudy Farmanfarmaian: Infinite Possibility. Mirror Works and Drawings, 1974 - 2014, March - June 2015, p. 41, illustrated in colour 

Geometry of Hope is a prime exemplar of Monir Farmanfarmain’s inimitable cross-cultural style. The work was included in the artist’s landmark exhibition at the Solomon R. Guggenheim museum in 2015 and can be seen to emblematise the complexity of Farmanfarmain’s oeuvre whose work was both modern and traditional; who existed at the forefront of the international avant-garde and yet created work founded in the craft mores of her homeland. This dazzling art work recalls the words of Frank Stella: “Monir chose to make art from the imagery that surrounded her everyday life in Iran, and, just as importantly, she chose to make art with those artisans who have for centuries striven with their gift of ornament to beat back the desert blindness, the blank expression of nature. In Monir’s mirrored geometries we recognise a subtle self-defense, and we step aside to allow nature to confront its unknowable empty self (Frank Stella, ‘A Reflection’ in Hans Ulrich Obrist, Karen Marta, Ed., Monir Shahroudy Farmanfarmaian, Cosmic Geometry, Dubai 2011, p. 65).

In 1975, the year of the creation of the present work, Farmanfarmaian experienced an artistic epiphany. On a tour of her native Iran with American minimalists Robert Morris and Marcia Hafif, she visited the Shah Cheragh, a mosque in Shiraz whose interior is tessellated in a mosaic of tiny mirrored squares, triangles, and hexagons. The artist was struck: “The very space seemed on fire, the lamps blazing in hundreds of thousands of reflection… It was a universe unto itself, architecture transformed into performance, all movement and fluid light, all solids fractured and dissolved in brilliance in space, in prayer. I was overwhelmed.” (The artist cited in: Ariella Budick, ‘Where Prayer Hall meets Disco Ball’, Financial Times, 10 April 2015, online). This was a watershed moment for Monir’s practice: the moment upon which she embarked upon he mirrored series, of which the present work is a paradigmatic example. She collaborated with the artisan Hajj Ostad Mohammad Navid, who was well versed in the synthesis of cut mirrors, matt plaster, and painted glass, and for four years created works of dense conceptual content, and dazzling geometric aesthetic. Geometry of Hope shows how this mix could imbue artworks with a mood that combined the gaudiness of the ‘70s disco movement with the transcendental wonder of religious architecture. Monir’s works “spring from wells of minimalism and classical Persian mosaic. They merge time-honoured folk practice with the avant-garde cult of the bracingly new and the drug-induced nirvana. Warhol visited Tehran in 1976 and she presented him with a faceted reflective orb called ‘Mirror Ball’ which looks as though it could have been spinning on the ceiling at a 1970s bar mitzvah” (Ibid.)

Monir Farmanfarmaian was friendly with Warhol, as she was with Milton Avery, Louise Nevelson, Mark Rothko, and Willem de Kooning. She had lived in New York for twelve years in the immediate post-war years and maintainted close relations with many of its most important artistic practitioners. Thus, in the present work, we can observe as much influence from contemporary artists as we can from traditional Persian sources. Frank Stella provides an obvious counterpoint: his early paintings were similarly founded in geometric abstraction, and in the 1970s he turned towards a similar brand of refined gaudiness – deploying high-key colours and reflective surfaces into wall-mounted artworks that hovered between painting and sculpture. In the contemporaneous use of the mirrored surface, we are also reminded of the work of Michelangelo Pistoletto. Pistoletto was the pioneer of using mirrors and reflection to tie the viewer into the artworks. Throughout art history, the painting had acted as a pseudo-window, through which the viewer would view an illusory realm beyond. Pistoletto and Monir Farmanfarmaian inverted this concept and charged the gallery space with compositional import. Up to this point, paintings had been snapshots of the moment they had been created. Pistoletto and Farmanfarmaian created works that exist forever in the present, changing every time that they are viewed. As the artist’s grandson observed: “She arrives at her high math through pure aesthetics. Meditating on her work is like taking a shortcut to infinity” (Aziz Isham cited in, Hans Ulrich Obrist, Karen Marta, op. cit., p. 147).