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Parviz Tanavoli: Poet In Love

Exhibition and Panel Discussion
21st September to 29th October 2011
Lecture and Panel Discussion:
22nd September 2011

Parviz Tanavoli is one of the most influential and pioneering artists of the Middle East. An artist–fabricator, teacher and collector, he was born in 1937 and lives and works between Iran and Canada. Tanavoli is a founder member of the Saqqakhaneh School (a school of art that derives inspiration from Iranian folk art and culture), a school that has been described as a 'spiritual Pop Art' and is now considered the inspiration for progressive modern Iranian art. His key work is the calligraphic figure of Heech (Nothingness), a recurring theme in his sculptural repertory which contains reference to the human figure, evident both in the upright sculptural forms and their titles.

The exhibition at Austin/Desmond Fine Art, his first solo show in Britain since 1960, distinguishes him as one of the finest draughtsmen of his generation. The works on display feature over thirty–five pieces including ceramics, fibreglass and bronze sculptures, paired with contemporary drawings, emphasising his abiding and joyful love for Persian architecture, culture and poetry.

To mark this event, Tanavoli will participate in panel discussion held at The British Museum on 22nd September 2011, organized with the help of Iran Heritage Foundation and The British Museum.

Key works include: Prophets, Poets, Lovers, Wall, Lock, Hand and Bird along with calligraphic figure of Heech (Nothingness). These recurring themes in Tanavoli’s sculpture consistently contain references to the human figure, evident both in the upright sculptural forms and their titles. Tanavoli progressively replaces any descriptive figurative features with cultural symbols. This fusion of human and cultural emblems is an enduring characteristic of Tanavoli’s powerful sculptural statements.

Each work imbues special meaning like Persian poetry, which is more concerned with subjective interpretation of reality than with its external manifestations. It is this quality that is embraced in a wide range of works and revealed in Lovers, Beloved, Prophet and Poets. His signature series 'Heech' has found its place in various prestigious museums and galleries worldwide. Red Heech (below) is in the British Museum, London.

Tanavoli, at 74, is as productive as ever. The exhibition is drawn entirely from the artist’s collection and features a number of works never seen before.

He has taken part in several international group exhibitions and is one of the most popular artists at auctions. His work The Wall (Oh Persepolis) set an unbroken world auction record of 2.8 million dollars, for the sale of a work by a Middle Eastern artist at Christies Dubai, 30 April 2008.


Parviz Tanavoli is an Iranian sculptor now residing in Canada. He was born in 1937 in Tehran where he remained until he graduated from Tehran’s School of Fine Arts in 1955. He then travelled to Italy where he continued his studies in Carrera and Milan. He later worked in Milan under Italian artist Marino Marini.

Upon graduating from the Brera Academy of Milan in 1959, he returned to Iran and won the Royal Awards in the 2nd Tehran Biennale in 1960. In the same year he founded his first studio, the Atelier Kaboud, which acted as both a studio space for him to work in as well as an exhibition space for him and other contemporaries.

Tanavoli taught sculpture for three years at the Minneapolis College of Art and Design. He then returned to Iran and assumed the directorship of the sculpture department at the University of Tehran, a position he held for 18 years until 1979, when he retired from teaching.

He has held solo exhibitions in Iran, Europe, Dubai, United States and Canada and participated in numerous biennales and group exhibitions including, Contemporary Art from the Islamic World, Barbican Centre, London, 1989; Continental Shift, Museums of Aachen, Maastricht, Heerlen and Li├Ęge, 2000; Picturing Iran: Art, Society and Revolution, Grey Art Gallery, New York, 2002; and Word into Art, British Museum, London, 2006.

His works are housed in international private and public collections, including The British Museum, London; Grey Art Gallery, New York Uni- versity Collection; Hamline University, St. Paul, Minnesota; Esfahan City Center; Museum of Modern Art, New York; Nelson Rockefeller Collection, New York; Museum of Modern Art, Vienna; Olympic Park, Seoul; DIFC, Dubai; and Royal Society of Fine Arts, Amman.

Heech and Cage V 2006, Edition of 6, Bronze, 38 x 14 x 13 cm; Literature: Parviz Tanavoli 'Monograph', 2009, illustrated p.307;  Exhibited: Meem Gallery 2009, Dubai.

Lovers II, 2011, Unique, Bronze, 35.5 x 14 x 10 cm.

Poet turning into Heech, 1973-2007,  Edition of 6, Bronze, 228 x 70 x 58 cm; Literature: Parviz Tanavoli 'Monograph', 2009, illustrated p.188; Exhibited: Meem Gallery 2009, Dubai.

Horizontal Heech Lovers, 2008,  Edition of 6, Bronze, 53 x 72 x 43 cm; Literature: Parviz Tanavoli 'Monograph', 2009, illustrated p.319.

 Via Iran Heritage Foundation and Austin/Desmond Fine Art
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