An Iranian Artist’s Politically Charged Paintings Inspired by Persian Miniatures


Global/Local 1960–2015: Six Artists from Iran , opening today at New York University’s Grey Art Gallery, draws upon an impressive collection of more than 200 Iranian artworks founder Abby Weed Grey began to amass more than 50 years ago. The show includes 90 works, from painting to mixed-media installation, and is the first major museum exhibition in the US to include pioneering Iranian modernists and emerging artists working in Tehran and abroad.

A press release details why Global/Local is so essential: “Interest in modern and contemporary art from the Middle East and Iran has grown exponentially over the past few decades. This has been especially true in recent years, when turmoil in the region and the tense political relationship between Iran and the US have dominated the news. Yet sanctions have made it extremely difficult to see modern Iranian art outside that country.”

Featured in Global/Local is Shiva Ahmadi, whose paintings are informed by these events. “In my work I am always exploring what is going on in our world. There is always a battle between the good and the bad, there is always . . . a struggle,” Ahmadi told Grey Art Gallery. Inspired by the Persian miniature paintings she saw growing up in Iran — which she initially found “kitschy,” preferring the works of American painters like Jackson Pollock — Ahmadi’s “fantasyscapes of mythical creatures and enthroned figures are characterized by ornate patterns, rich textures, and vivid hues. Yet beneath this captivating world lies corruption and violence, a place where faceless abstract leaders inhabit war-ridden territories while minions, in the guise of monkeys and buffoons, juggle weapons.”

Click through our gallery to see more of Ahmadi’s work. Global/Local 1960–2015: Six Artists from Iran is on view through April 2.

Shiva AhmadiPipes, 2013Watercolor, ink, and acrylic on Aquabord, 40 3/4 x 60 7/8 x 2 1/2 in.The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Purchase, 2012 NoRuz at the Met Benefit, 2014. 2014.525

Shiva AhmadiUntitled 13 (from Throne), 2012Watercolor, ink, and acrylic on Aquabord, 20 x 16 in. Collection of Homaira Akbari and Roszell Mack III No. 12

Shiva AhmadiUntitled 14 (from Throne), 2012Watercolor, ink, and acrylic on Aquabord, 15 x 11 in. Collection of Marie and Harley Lippman, New York

Shiva AhmadiUntitled 8 (from Throne), 2012Watercolor, ink, and acrylic on Aquabord, 10 x 8 in. Courtesy the artist and Leila Heller Gallery, New York/Dubai

Shiva AhmadiUntitled, 2012Watercolor, ink, and acrylic on Aquabord, 22 x 30 in. Collection of Gayle and Andrew Camden, Detroit