Born 1937, Tehran, Iran
Parviz Tanavoli is one of Iran's foremost artists, considered as the country's first significant modern sculptor. A central figure in the formation of the Saqqakhaneh School – a neo-traditional style of art that derives inspiration from Iranian folk art and culture – Tanavoli has created works in bronze, ceramic, fiberglass 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, featuring in publications such as Hali, Tavoos and Oriental Rug Review.
He has held solo exhibitions in Iran, Europe, United States and Canada and participated in numerous biennales and group exhibitions including, Contemporary Art from the Islamic World, Barbican Centre, London, 1989; 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 University Collection; Esfahan City Center; Museum of Modern Art, New York; Museum of Modern Art, Vienna; DIFC, Dubai; and Royal Society of Fine Arts, Amman.
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, Tanavoli 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, Tanavoli 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.
In 2003, Tehran Museum of Contemporary Art held a retrospective exhibition devoted to the art of Parviz Tanavoli.