Ali Banisadr - 20th Century and Contemporary Art Evening Sale New York Thursday, July 2, 2020 | Phillips

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  • In Short

    “For me, paint translates into sound. In Motherboard, I heard a sound like an old modem dial-up. The bottom zone became the natural world, the next zone represented civilization, the third the digital, and the last zone was the ether, everything disappearing into it” – Ali Banisadr

  • One Painting, Three Histories

    Weaving together his own narratives using the language of abstraction, Ali Banisadr's monumental canvases such as Motherboard coalesce sight and sound in carefully-constructed worlds of astonishing complexity. For the artist, painting is a means of meditating on individual and collective pasts, capturing memories that are both crystal-clear and fuzzy. Banisadr has declared that his works are grounded in “three things: the history of myself, the history of our century, and the history of art. These things aren't going to change much.”[i]

    The History of Myself

    Max Ernst, The Barbarians, 1937. The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, Image copyright © The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Image source: Art Resource, NY, Artwork © 2020 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York / ADAGP, Paris    Born in Tehran in 1974, Ali Banisadr witnessed both the eight-year-long Iran-Iraq War and the Islamic revolution as a child before moving to America at age 12. His experiences both in the Middle East and in the United States are palpable in his work, which is deeply informed by the displacement and violence that permeated his youth. Banisadr’s oeuvre speaks to the reality of partaking in two cultures at once, both western and that of his homeland.

    In grappling with this chasm of the self, his monumental paintings are multisensory experiences: they are meant to be both seen and heard, a reflection of the artist’s synesthesia, a neurological phenomenon in which senses are  enigmatically traiggers and combined (in Banisadr's case, the ability to "see" sounds)
    . In
    the chaotic violence of Motherboard, auditory expressions of the sounds of combat resonate and its kaleidoscopic palette is evocative of stained glass. Banisadr elucidated that “remembering the vibrations and shattering glass during the bombings led me to the idea of translating these sounds into images in my work.”[ii]

    The History of Our Century

    Though Banisadr’s work is primarily grounded in his personal history, he has also become preoccupied with the digital age in which we exist today. Pondering the roles that technology and internet algorithms have played in our everyday lives, Motherboard juxtaposes blurred digital imagery with natural land.  “I was trying to find a digital zone [in Motherboard],” Banisadr explained. “It was sound that was the driving force behind the painting. For me, paint translates into sound. In Motherboard, I heard a sound like an old modem dial-up. The bottom zone became the natural world, the next zone represented civilization, the third the digital, and the last zone was the ether, everything disappearing into it.”[iii] 

    [left] Hieronymus Bosch, The Garden of Earthly Delights, 1490-1500 (detail, center panel, bottom left). Museo del Prado, Madrid, Photo credit: Erich Lessing / Art Resource, NY
    [right] Pieter Brueghel, The Fall of the Rebel Angels, 1562. Royal Museums of Fine Arts of Belgium, Brussels, Photo credit: Scala / Art Reasource, NY

    The History of Art 

    These histories are told through a unique iconography pulled from the history of art, and his canvases are replete with references to diverse visual languages as medievalism and Abstract Expressionism. At the bottom of Motherboard, a Hieronymus Bosch-eque scene of chaos and commotion erupts, viewed from a high vantage point present in the works of Pieter Bruegel the Elder. Moving up the canvas, the apocalyptic episode disintegrates into an expanse of vigorous brushstrokes redolent of Willem de Kooning’s gestural paintings and Gerhard Richter’s squeegee abstractions. 

    Motherboard’s brilliant color and amorphous shapes simultaneously recall those of Max Ernst and a Persian miniature; in this sense, it is a portrait of not only the multiple facets of Banisadr’s identity but also of the complex, global history of art overall. 

    [i] Ali Banisadr, quoted in Jonathan Beer, “Conversation with the Unnamed: Ali Banisadr,” Art-Rated, January 2012.
    [ii] Ali Banisadr, quoted in Media Farzin, “Profile: Clamour and Colour Ali Banisadr,” in Canvas Magazine, September 2011, p. 139.
    [iii] Ali Banisadr, quoted in Lilly Wei, “Ali Banisadr: interview,” studio international, June 2, 2014, online.

    Gerhard Richter, Abstraktes Bild [890-6], 2004. Private Collection, Artwork © Gerhard Richter 2020 (0093)
  • Banisadr on Motherboard

    • Provenance

      Sperone Westwater, New York
      Acquired from the above by the present owner

    • Exhibited

      New York, Sperone Westwater, Ali Banisadr: Motherboard, March 1 – April 19, 2014, pp. 7, 47 (illustrated, pp. 30-31; detail illustrated, pp. 32-33)
      Jacksonville, Museum of Contemporary Art, Micro-Macro: Ali Banisadr and Andrew Sendor, February 2 – July 28, 2019

    • Literature

      Lilly Wei, “Ali Banisadr: interview”, studio international, February 6, 2014, online (illustrated)
      Emily McDermott, “How Ali Banisadr Holds Memory”, Interview, February 28, 2014, online (illustrated)
      David Cohen, “Brueghel Meets Mughal: Ali Banisadr at Sperone Westwater”, artcritical, April 11, 2014, online (illustrated)
      Graham Southern, Robert Hobbs and Boris Groys, Ali Banisadr: One Hundred and Twenty Five Paintings, London, 2015, p. 237 (illustrated, pp. 190 – 191; detail illustrated, pp. 192-193)

    • Artist Biography

      Ali Banisadr

      Ali Banisadr is an Iranian-American contemporary artist working in New York. Taking influence from the annals of art history as well as from memories of his childhood during the Iran-Iraq War, Banisadr creates harrowing whirlwinds of chaos and color on the surface of his canvases. He frequently describes his work in terms of tone, volume, and temperature; each canvas begins as Banisadr, who has synesthesia, reflects on the sounds and vibrations of his wartime childhood and develops the chaos until he has calmed the composition to a state of intelligibility.  

      Banisadr borrows equally from Persian miniature painting, Old Masters, and Abstract Expressionists alike. His dynamic Boschian compositions exist in a state of hazy uncertainty between abstraction and figuration, recreating the frenzied sensory traces of war. His work is represented in the collections of major museums including the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, the British Museum, London, and the Centre Georges Pompidou, Paris.  

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Property from a Private Collection



signed, titled and dated "Ali Banisadr 2013 "Motherboard"" on the overlap
oil on linen
82 x 120 in. (208.3 x 304.8 cm)
Painted in 2013.

Full Cataloguing

$400,000 - 600,000 

Sold for $572,000

Contact Specialist

Amanda Lo Iacono
Head of Evening Sale
New York
+1 212 940 1278

20th Century and Contemporary Art Evening Sale

New York Auction 2 July 2020