Shirin Fakhim

Selected works by Shirin Fakhim

Shirin Fakhim
Tehran Prostitutes


Mixed media

Life size

Shirin Fakhim’s Tehran Prostitutes uses absurd and sympathetic humour to address issues surrounding the Persian working-girl circuit. In 2002 it was estimated that there were 100,000 prostitutes working in Tehran, despite Iran’s international reputation as a moralistic country with especially high standards placed on women. Many of these women are driven to prostitution because of abusive domestic situations and the poverty incurred from the massive loss of men during the war; in response to Iran’s strict religious laws, some even consider the profession as an act of civil protest.

Fakhim’s sculptures play on the duplicitous perceptions of streetwalkers, highlighting the hypocrisy surrounding the sex industry. Made from found materials, her assemblages are grotesque configurations, exaggerating rough-trade stereotypes of wig-wearing, melon-chested slappers contortedly stuffed into ill-fitting lingerie (in reality Tehran vice-girls wear hijabs and are identifiable through more covert and subtle signals). Fakhim farcically combines westernized hooker fashion with the codes of Islamic demur, torsos and heads made from cooking implements, adorned with make-shift veils and chastity belts.

Using ordinary objects and items of clothing, Fakhim exaggerates the less than flattering associations of floozy hygiene, her readymade materials driving home the punch lines of rude jokes. Blond wigs shoved down pants make for Sasquatch bikini lines, wayward bits of rope reveal pre-op transsexuals, and a carefully placed abacus reads more like a send up than evidence of financial acumen. Fakhim ironically stages this menagerie as a source of ridicule, provocatively placing items such as alms baskets and air fresheners to illustrate public scorn and social stigma.

Fakhim’s ladies of the night approach the naked body as a source of taboo. The discomfort of looking at them is displaced through a purile, intolerant, and scapegoat humour, revealing more about public attitudes and ignorance than about prostitutes themselves. Issues such as female genital mutilation, transgender orientation, homosexuality and cross dressing are all awkwardly broached through her vulgar approximations of stitched up crotches and mis-matched private bits, confusing the brutal, illicit, forbidden and desirous.

Fakhim’s life sized sculptures, Tehran Prostitutes, are strangely totemic, connoting a certain black-market power and ritual in their reference to the early 20th century fashion of ‘primitivism’. With hour-glass figures formed from portable stoves and adorned with cheap market-stall wares, Fakhim’s assemblages point to a commodification of necessity, their make-shift charm belied by associations to poverty, domestic violence, economic migration and human trafficking.

Approaching sculpture as an intrinsically tactile activity, Fakhim chooses her materials with a playful sensitivity. Crafted from the female stuff of fabric, clothing, and kitchen apparatus, her sculptures temper benign domesticity with a bawdy coarseness, creating a vaudevillian humour from over-stretched stockings, sickly green terrine masks, and exaggeratedly padded brassieres. Hardy practical tools such as stoves and pots create a physical contrast to the fussy adornments of lace and garters, creating an image of sexual prowess that’s conspicuously ill-fitting, painful, and tragic.


February 2011, Persianesque Magazine

The series is Fakhim’s first-ever solo show; she depicts the streetwalkers of Tehran, often driven to their trade by poverty or abusive domestic situations.
Exposing the hypocrisy of the sex industry with both a serious and humorous sensitivity, the new life-size assemblages are created of ready-made traditional terra cotta pots of various shapes and scales that are used as the body. The pots are then “dressed” with fabrics, wigs, jazzy high heel boots and different accessories bought from the public markets, second hand shops, and the baazaar.
Some of the life-sized sculptures are even dressed in the artist’s own clothes.
While colorful on the outside, one work from the series, Untitled 8, 2010 (shown above), has been painted entirely black inside and it appears that the woman is trying to pull herself out of the pot, and her own misery.
As Bakhtiari writes in the catalogue, “Almost all her characters lack hands, symbolizing social disability. The current series of sculptures have also lost their lower limbs symbolizing social restrictions. Literally, Shirin’s women cannot stand on their own. She is conveying the opinion that women in one way or another are kept as mistresses, dependant on men in a male dominated society. Shirin Fakhim’s body of work is an interpretation of her own personal life experience and observations. Married and divorced at a very young age, Shirin’s struggles with life and society came early and her bouts of depression and drug use complicated matters further.”
Shirin Fakhim was born in Tehran in 1973 and is a self-taught artist. She lives and works in Tehran, Iran: Her work has been exhibited in New York, London, Rome, Lille and Dubai, and is represented by the Devi Art Foundation, India.


LTMH Gallery, 2011

Shirin Fakhim was born in Tehran in 1973 and is a self-taught artist. Her work has been exhibited in New York, London, Rome, Lille and Dubai, and is represented in the Charles Saatchi Collection, UK and the Devi Art Foundation, India. She lives and works in Tehran, Iran.

Shirin Fakhim takes us to the inner world of the artist; a world full of complexity, fear, wonder, and observation. Shirin’s sculptures begin with assemblages of readymade traditional terra cotta pots of various shapes and scales, which are used as the body. They are then decorated with fabrics, wigs, jazzy coloured high heel boots, and different accessories bought from public markets, second hand shops, and the bazaar. In her work, we also find strong references to pop culture and language that are prevalent in Iran.