Behjat Sadr in her studio, Tehran, 1967.
This autumn The Mosaic Rooms opens the first UK exhibition dedicated to Behjat Sadr (1924-2009), now regarded as one of Iran’s most influential and radical visual artists. The exhibition will bring together a selection of masterpieces by the artist never seen before in the UK. The display will reveal Sadr’s dramatic artistic journey against the backdrop of bitter political events and reveal her struggles as a woman fighting for recognition on a male dominated art scene.
Each of the three gallery spaces at The Mosaic Rooms will be dedicated to a city that was instrumental in shaping Sadr’s practice. Sadr’s own career path is evidence of a cosmopolitan modernity that was emerging in and between Tehran, Rome and Paris where the artist eventually settled after the 1979 Revolution.
The first room will use artworks and archive material to explore Sadr’s time in Italy which marked her first encounter with Western modernity. Alongside young Iranian artists including Bahman Mohasses and Mohsen Vaziri Moghaddam, she studied with professor Roberto Melli at the Academia in Rome in 1955. During this time Sadr developed her signature style informed by European modernism and the local experience of modernity in Iran.
Sadr’s time in Tehran, Iran, is the focus of the main room. Her practice developed significantly and Sadr earned her reputation as one of the first women artists and professors to appear in international biennales of the early 1960s. The display focuses on the artist’s remarkable kinetic works and paintings created solely using black paint with bold and dazzling results. Sadr is best known for her abstract paintings that blend expressionistic gestures inspired by natural forms with a hard-edged industrial aesthetic.
The third room explores the artist’s collages, most of which Sadr created whilst in exile in Paris. She felt excluded as a foreigner from Paris’ close-knit art scene and ill health prevented her from maintaining a painting practice. During this final period of her artistic life Sadr developed an introspective experimental practice through collage. The display also features numerous personal photographs, of her travels in search of modern and vernacular architecture worldwide, and her ‘atmospheric visual atlas’ of landscape photographs which she used in her cut outs.
Photo courtesy of the Mosaic Rooms.