Parviz Tanavoli


Critically acclaimed and widely acknowledged as the “father of modern Iranian sculpture,” Tanavoli’s trajectory has spanned east and west as he has innovated ambitiously across media. Best known as a sculptor, his expansive oeuvre also includes painting, printmaking, ceramics, rugs, and jewelry. As well, he is a highly regarded collector, scholar, and poet.  This exhibition shares the breadth and richness of his work from the 1960s to the present.

Based in Tehran and Vancouver, Tanavoli (b.1937) was a leading influence among a generation defined by its commitment to artistic practices that are both modern and distinctly Iranian. Over decades, he has refined a complex system of symbols and motifs into a distinctive visual lexicon, fusing Persian traditions with pop sensibility. As well, his work entwines profound sensitivity to language, formal clarity, and conceptual engagement into a forcefully original artistic practice.  

Tanavoli returns again and again to the Poet, the Prophet, and the Lovers, to walls and windows, locks, and birds— figures that stand on metaphorical borders, and exist aesthetically between traditions of realism and abstraction. Among his many long-standing projects, heech—initiated in February 1965, and set to mark a fiftieth anniversary with the opening of the Davis exhibition—perhaps best exemplifies Tanavoli’s work. The artist treats the calligraphic script for “heech,” the Farsi word for “nothing” or “nothingness” to multiple expressions in three dimensions and variable materials—from delicate jewelry to polished bronze and hi-gloss fiberglass sculpture. The concept of heech, as Tanavoli explains, is abstract, philosophical, and celebratory; he says,  "Heech is not nothing. It has a body, a shape, but also a meaning behind it.”

Internationally recognized as one of Iran’s foremost artists, Tanavoli’s work has been presented around the world, and has recently been featured in exhibitions at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the British Museum, Asia Society and the Grey Art Gallery at New York University. His work is held in numerous public and private collections, including: Tate Modern and the British Museum, London; the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Museum of Modern Art, New York; the Minneapolis Institute of Arts and the Walker Art Center, Minneapolis; Museum Moderner Kunst, Vienna; the National Museum of Scotland, Edinburgh; the Museum of Contemporary Art, Tehran; Mathaf Museum, Qatar; Royal Society of Fine Arts, Amman; and the Guggenheim Museum, Abu Dhabi.


1964-79    Head of the Sculpture Department at Tehran University
1960-63    Taught sculpture at the Minneapolis College of Arts and Design
1958-59    Studied sculpture at the Accademia di Belle Arti di Brera, Milan, Italy
1956-57    Attended Accademia di Belle Arti in Carrara, Italy
1956          Graduated from Tehran School of Arts

Solo Exhibitions

2013 Exhibition in Tehran
2011 Exhibition in London
2009 Exhibition in Dubai
2006 Elliott Louis Gallery, Vancouver, Canada
2003 Retrospective, Tehran Museum of Contemporary Art
1989 Rudolf Mangisch Galerie, Zurich
1988 Hirschberg Galerie, Koln- Galerie Am Rosenberg, Graz
1980 Galleria Greminger, Genova
1978 Aachen Neue Galerie/Samlung Ludwig, Aachen
1976 Grey Art Gallery, New York University, New York- Iran-America Society,Tehran
1972 Goethe Institute, Tehran
1971 Martin Gallery, Minneapolis
1970 Iran-America Society, Tehran- Shiraz University, Shiraz
1967 Seihoun Gallery, Tehran
1965 Borghese Gallery, Tehran
1962 Minneapolis Institute of Arts, Minneapolis- K. B. Gallery, Minneapolis
1961 Atelier Kaboud, Tehran
1960 Farhang Hall, Tehran- Iran Club, London
1958 Reza Abbassi Hall, Tehran
1957 Tehran University- Farhang Hall, Tehran

Group Exhibitions

2013 Asia Society, New York
2013 Museum of Anthropology ( MOA ), Vancouver
2012 Metropolitan Museum, New York
2009 “Art Dubai,” Dubai
2008 “Routes,” London
2006 The British Museum, London, UK
2004 Persian Garden, (installation ), Tehran Museum of Contemporary Art
2002 Iranian Contemporary Art, Christie’s, London- Picturing Iran Art, Society and Revolution,
Grey Art Gallery, NY University
2001 Iranian Cotemporary Art, Barbican Center, London
2000 Continental Shift, Aachen, Maastricht, Heerlen and Liege- 7th International Shoebox Sculpture,
The University of Hawaii Art Gallery
1999 Atrium Public Gallery, Vancouver
1989 Contemporary Art from Islamic World, Barbican Centre, London
1988 Olympiad of Art, Seoul,
1977 Tehran Museum of Contemporary Art
1975 Grey Art Gallery, New York University
1967 Quadriennale of Rome
1964 Venice Biennale
1962 Musee d’Art Moderne, Paris- Musee d’Ixelles, Brussels- Third International Biennale of Sculpture,
Carrara-Walker Art Center, Minneapolis
1960 Venice Biennale


British Museum, London
Dakar, Senegal, Outdoor Sculpture
Forum Ludwig, Aachen
Grey Art Gallery, New Yourk University
Guggenheim Museum, Abu- Dhabi
Haft Chenar Park, Tehran
Hamline University, St. Paul, MN
Iowa University Art Museum
Jahan Nama Museum, Tehran
Mathaf Museum, Qatar
Mellat Park, Tehran
Metropolitan Museum, New York
Minneapolis Institute of Arts
Museum of Modern Art, New York
Museum of Contemporary Art, Tehran
National Museum of Scotland, Edinburgh
Nelson Rockefeller Collection, New York
Nour Foundation, London
Olympic Park, Seoul, South Korea
Sammlung Ludwig, Museum Moderner Kunst, Vienna
Saint John University, Collegeville, MN
Shiraz University
Tate Modern, London
The City Theater, Tehran
Walker Art Center, Minneapolis