Born 1937, Tehran, Iran
Considered as the father of modern Iranian sculpture, Parviz Tanavoli was a central figure in the formation of the Saqqakhaneh movement – a neo-traditional style of art that derives inspiration from Iranian folk art and culture. Tanavoli has created works in bronze, ceramic, fiberglass, neon, textiles and scrap metal. His oeuvre displays a deep engagement with Persian folkloric traditions, poetry and literature, all expressed in a recurring series of subjects, including the calligraphic figure of Heech (Nothingness), Farhad the Mountain Carver, Lock, Poet, Prophet, Lovers, Walls, Hand, Lion and Bird. Additionally, Tanavoli is a painter and a prolific writer. He has authored numerous books and articles on the artistic culture of Iran.
Tanavoli graduated from the Fine Arts School in Tehran in 1956, after which he travelled to Italy, where he studied at the Accademia di Belle Arti in Carrara. Returning to Iran two years later, the artist exhibited his work at Farhang Hall, marking the first sculpture exhibition in Iran and gaining him critical acclaim. In 1959, after receiving a highly coveted scholarship, he returned to Italy to study at the Brera Academy in Milan, graduating with honours.
Upon his return to Tehran in 1960, Tanavoli helped establish the curriculum for the newly established College of Decorative Arts, where he also taught sculpture. A year later, after meeting the American art collector Abby Grey at a group exhibition in Saderat Bank, the artist travelled to Minnesota as an artist-in-residence at the Minneapolis College of Art, later accepting a teaching post there. In 1964, he returned to Iran, to teach sculpture in the Fine Arts Faculty of Tehran University.
In 1979, Tanavoli retired as head of the sculpture department at Tehran University and left Iran with his family to settle in Vancouver. During this time, he published extensively on the crafts traditions of Iran, travelling to the country regularly for research and continuing to exhibit his works and collections internationally.
Tanavoli’s works have been exhibited extensively all around the world, with a retrospective of his work held at Tehran Museum of Contemporary Art in 2003. 2017 saw the museum host another solo exhibition of the artist’s work, titled Lion’s of Iran. The artist’s work is held in numerous museum collections, including the British Museum, London; Guggenheim Museum, Abu Dhabi; Mathaf Museum, Qatar; Metropolitan Museum, New York; Museum of Modern Art, New York; Museum of Contemporary Art, Tehran; Olympic Park, Seoul, South Korea and the Tate Modern, London.