Connect with us – Art History Stories

Siah Armajani – An Iranian Artist In the US

21st century

Siah Armajani – An Iranian Artist In the US

Here comes the second episode of my new cycle about art from the ‘banned’ countries. Today it’s time for Iran and its contemporary artist: Siah (Siavash) Armajani. His works are known across the United States, Europe and Iran, as he specializes in architecture and installation. He often draws inspiration from the traditions of Iran as well as European art history.


Siah Armajani, Shirt #1, 1959, The Metropolitan Museum

Siah Armajani, Shirt #1, 1958, The Metropolitan Museum

His first works were closely linked to his national heritage. In the Shirt from 1958, he completely covered his father’s suit jacket with inscriptions of talismanic texts, folk poetry, and verses by the Persian poet Hafez. The work was inspired by his trips through southern Tehran, where he observed the scribes and “spell-makers” at work. The freedom of this calligraphic scrawl is characteristic of his early works.


Siah Armajani, Olympic Torch, 1996. Photo: Sydney Morning Herald

Siah Armajani, Olympic Torch, 1996. Photo: Sydney Morning Herald

As Armajani emigrated to the US when he was 21 to attend college, his art turned more towards installation art and architecture. His first big commission was the Olympic Torch for the Olympic Games in Atlanta in 1996.

New York

Siah Armajani, Bridge and Lighthouse, 1996, New York. Photo:

Siah Armajani, Bridge and Lighthouse, 1996, New York. Photo:

In 1996 Armajani completed his commission for a lighthouse and a bridge for the Staten Island in North Shore Esplanade at St. George’s Ferry Terminal. The lighthouse and bridge are meant to redirect the viewer’s attention to the larger context of the neighborhood as they embrace the river, the plaza and the neighborhood and try to into a way of life by providing ornament and a “background mood” as the artist said.

Fallujah/ Guernica

Siah Armajani, Fallujah, 2004-2005

Siah Armajani, Fallujah, 2004-2005, The Met

Armajani’s projects often address social and political issues. The biggest controversy aroused around this work, Fallujah, which was a comment on the American intervention in Iraq, in particular the Second Battle of Fallujah in 2004 during the Iraq War, and subsequently was censored in the U.S. The rocking horse, light bulb and cut-out flames are directly inspired by the iconography of Pablo Picasso’s Guernica, which therefore make it a universal piece which refers to atrocities of war in general, as the remains of defunct furniture, and the house’s collapsing structure suggest the violence that has passed through, without explicitly showing it.

Magda, art historian and Italianist, she writes about art because she cannot make it herself. She loves committed and political artists like Ai Weiwei or the Futurists; like Joseph Beuys she believes that art can change us and we can change the world.


More in 21st century

  • 20th century

    Filmmaking is like Painting – Andrzej Wajda as a Painter


    Ladies and Gentlemen, and now I will speak in Polish… – the famous words Polish director Andrzej Wajda (1926-2016) said while receiving an honorary Oscar in 2000 for a lifetime achievement crowned WAJDA, an exhibition revealing Wajda as a painter. Andrzej Wajda is one of the...

  • 21st century

    Damien Hirst’s Butterflies- from Tea-trays to Mandalas


    Damien Hirst – a prominent Young British Artist (YBAs) and now a billionaire – creates sculptures, paintings and drawings. In all of these forms his work challenges the boundaries between art, science and religion. Mandalas is now open at the White Cube Mason’s Yard, London (20...

  • 21st century

    An Introduction to Lee Ufan


    Lee Ufan is a Korean born international artist, whose work is key to the Mono-ha movement. If you have ever been lucky enough to encounter a Lee Ufan in real life you will appreciate its power to bring calm and refresh your view of an object....

  • Foret Lumineuse Foret Lumineuse

    20th century

    TAKIS: the Greek Genius that Altered the Course of Post-war Sculpture


    After Takis’ passing away on 9 August 2019, and with his largest exhibition yet in the UK at Tate, it is important to know about the great Greek artist who changed everything about the way we conceive the sculpture of the second half of the 20th...

  • 21st century

    Nalini Malani – an Introduction


    Nalini Malani (b. 1946) is a brilliant contemporary Indian artist. She is both prolific and internationally acclaimed. “Over an extended career, Malani has been an unremitting voice for the silenced and the dispossessed, most particularly women globally. By alluding to a myriad of cultural references from...

To Top

Just to let you know, DailyArt Magazine’s website uses cookies to personalise content and adverts, to provide social media features and to analyse traffic. Read cookies policy