01 Jul 2023 - 19 Nov 2023

Poets, Locks, Cages

Vancouver Art Gallery


The Vancouver Art Gallery is proud to announce the highly anticipated exhibition, Parviz Tanavoli: Poets, Locks, Cages. This landmark exhibition marks the first major presentation of works by Iranian-born, Vancouver-based artist Parviz Tanavoli in Canada. Renowned for his unique ability to merge sculpture and poetry, Tanavoli’s exhibition will captivate audiences and ignite a new appreciation for his extensive contributions to modern sculpture.

With more than 100 works spanning six decades of Tanavoli’s career, Poets, Locks, Cages delves into the artist’s exploration of the poet, the lock and the cage as recurring themes. The exhibition displays the full breadth of Tanavoli’s artistic practice, focusing on sculpture while surveying painting, printmaking and mixed media. As one of the foremost contemporary Iranian artists and a member of the highly influential Saqqakhaneh school, Tanavoli draws inspiration from Iran’s rich history and cultural traditions.

Tanavoli’s sculptural works symbolically exemplify the interplay between Iran’s pre-Islamic and Islamic cultural identities. His ability to capture the duality of these identities sets him apart as one of the foremost contemporary Iranian artists who have achieved such a remarkable feat. Poets, Locks, Cages sheds light on this crucial integration of sacred and secular histories in Tanavoli’s art, offering a rare opportunity for North American audiences to engage with the concept of modernism in Iran.

“The poet is the artist’s self-portrait,” said Pantea Haghighi, independent curator. “The poet, Farhad the Mountain Carver and the artist become interchangeable and reincarnate as Tanavoli maneuvers through Iran’s cultural shifts over the six decades represented in this exhibition. Tanavoli becomes the symbol of persistence and resistance similar to the Mountain Carver.”

A highlight of the exhibition is the inclusion of Tanavoli’s rarely seen and intimate “Wonders of the Universe” series. This remarkable body of work consists of lyrical paintings inspired by Vancouver’s scenery on the unbound pages of antique books, first discovered by the artist in a Tehran bazaar. Visitors will have the privilege of experiencing the largest selection of “Wonders of the Universe” ever shown, marking its first-ever presentation in Canada. The exhibition also showcases a small number of antique sculptures from the artist’s personal collection.

“This is a highly significant exhibition, not only for Vancouver and the Vancouver Art Gallery, but for the world. We are contextualizing a lifelong career of art making and thinking,” said Anthony Kiendl, CEO and Director of the Vancouver Art Gallery. “This is the first time that people in [Parviz’s] adopted city of Vancouver will get to see a comprehensive exhibition of his work brought together in one place at one time. We look forward to sharing it with everyone.”

The exhibition invites audiences to explore Tanavoli’s sculptural language and his belief in sculpture as a form of poetry. Through fascinating combinations of motifs, the exhibition brings to life the artist’s unique visual symbology, often embodying literary concepts.

Accompanying the exhibition is a significant English-language publication published on the occasion by Vancouver Art Gallery, featuring essays by renowned experts in the field. Pantea Haghighi, Venetia Porter, Fereshteh Daftari, Lynn Gumpert and Colin Browne provide fresh perspectives on Tanavoli’s interdisciplinary practice, enriching the visitor’s understanding of his artistic journey.

Press release from Vancouver Art Gallery

Vancouver, Canada