12 March - 30 May 2018


Meem Gallery presents Saqqakhaneh, an exhibition of works by Modern Iranian masters, Massoud Arabshahi, Faramarz Pilaram, Sohrab Sepehri, Sadegh Tabrizi, Parviz Tanavoli and Charles Hossein Zenderoudi. Selected for their exceptional quality and rarity - with a particular focus on highlighting the breadth of styles within the Saqqakhaneh movement, this collection of 30 works, previously unseen by the public were created between 1959 -1964.


Credited with the establishment of a modernist approach to a national artistic identity, the 'neo-traditional' Saqqakhaneh movement was formed in the early 1960s. The style that initially applied to painting, sculpture and repurposed visual elements from votive Shiite art quickly came to be more generally identified with artists whose work was rooted in traditionally Iranian, decorative pre-Islamic and Islamic elements, and folk art. From the formal, stylised motifs present in courtly art to vernacular handicrafts, many forms were explored and reinterpreted, including calligraphy, miniature painting, textiles, and architectural elements. 


Affiliated in some capacity with the Tehran College of Decorative Arts (later known as the Faculty of Decorative Arts), the artists created a modern idiom by realising the affinity between aspects of these indigenous forms and modern Western art movements, most notably twentieth-century abstract art. 


The term, Saqqakhaneh was first used to refer to the emergence of the group of young artists in 1963 by art critic, Karim Emami. Borrowing the name of commemorative public water fountains traditionally decorated by pilgrims with symbolic objects, Emami recognised connections between the diverse stylistic characteristics of the group that he argued were united by a uniquely Iranian identity.


From Charles Hossein Zenderoudi and Faramarz Pilaram who along with Parviz Tanavoli and Sadegh Tabrizi initially took much of their inspiration from the conservative practice of Persian calligraphy, to Massoud Arabshahi's fascination with Achaemenid and Babylonian cultures, and Sohrab Sepehri's pure abstraction based on nature, the Saqqakhaneh movement encompasses an extraordinary variety of innovative artwork which set the standard for future generations of Iranian artists.