Monir Farmanfarmayian was born in Qazvin city in 1922. She moved to Tehran with her father at the age of eight, Mohammad Baqer Shahroudi, who was a representative of the National parliament. His father’s hobbies were carpet designing and running a carpet weaving workshop. Monir was interested in flower painting since he was a child. Then she studied at Tehran University of Fine Arts from 1944 to 1946.
During these years, an American art historian and archaeologist drew her attention to the beautiful and simple lines and drawings of ancient objects. After a short time, she decided to go to Paris, but making friend with some new people, including Manouchher Yektayi the painter and poet who later married to him, changed her life. During the Second World War in 1945, she went from Europe to New York, and from 1946 to 1949 she studied fashion illustration at Parsons School of Design and Cornell University from 1948 to 1951.
After her divorce Monir Farmanfarmaian married Abul Bashar Farmanfarmayian, a law student at Columbia University, and chose his last name as her artistic name. Monir and Manouchehr Yektayi have a daughter named “Nima Yektayi Farmanfarmaiyan”. Monir and Abul Bashar have also a daughter named “Zahra”.
She returned Iran in 1957 after 13 years. Some of her artworks were exhibited in Venice Biennale, in 1958. An abstract painting of hers, which was exhibited in the first biennial of Tehran in 1958, won a gold medal. During two decades after her marriage, she traveled to different places of Iran and these trips familiarized her with Iranian culture and traditional art. These trips are also the reason she collected a collection of more than 60 coffee house paintings, more than thousands pieces of glass paintings, Turkmen silver jewelry, a number of pearls, window frames and painted wall panels.
In the late 1961, she found her own special style, which was a combination of old methods of glass painting, mirror work, Khatam, geometry and architectural design. No one had presented this style as an independent work of art before her. Her style had emerged from strong and deep ties to her country and an internship in New York. Monir created several mirror works for public places. Examples of them are “large panels for Laleh Hotel”, “two large mirrors for Niavaran Cultural Center”, “a bedroom panel in Niavaran Palace”, “a sculpture for the garden of the Iranian Carpet Museum” and some artworks for private houses.
In 2014, Farmanfarmayian became the first Iranian artist whose works were displayed in a solo exhibition at the Guggenheim Museum in New York. On December 15, 2017, the permanent hall of Monir Farmanfarmayian in the garden of Negarestan Museum opened. Bahman Kiarostami made a documentary “Monir” about her.
Monir Farmanfarmayian’s artwork in the garden of Negarestan Museum
Infinite Possibilities, Guggenheim Museum New York 2015
Dubai Third Line Gallery 2013
Museum of Fine Arts Houston 2012
Life, Beirut 2011
Geometry of Hope, London 2008
Memories, Doha Qatar 2008
Iran Modern Arts Center, New York 2000
Jack Kaplan Gallery, New York and Washington, 1975
Faculty of Fine Arts, University of Tehran, 1963
Fiac, Paris 2013
Modern Iran, New York 2013
The Blue Way, Boghossian Foundation, Brussels 2013
Metropolitan Museum of New York 2012
Another half of Iran, Monaco 2012
Rose Jesus Project, London 2011
Sao Paulo, Brazil 2010
ING Bank Exhibition, Geneva 2007
Museum of Modern Art, New York, 1986-87
Iranian American Association, Tehran, 1976
The first Tehran biennial 1958
Monir Farmanfarmayian died at his home due to old age on April 31, 2018. According to her will, her body was buried in the artists’ plot of Behesht Fatemeh, Qazvin, between her relatives.