An Introduction to Iran's Saqqakhanah Art Movement

Iranian tiles in Shiraz
Iranian tiles in Shiraz | © dynamosquito/Flickr
Sahar Esfandiari

The visual arts are central to both contemporary and historical understandings of Iranian culture. The Saqqakhanah art movement, which originates from the 1960s, represents a very important era for modern art in Iran. Here is an introduction to the movement.
The term Saqqakhanah was first used to refer to a contemporary art movement in Iran which arose in 1962, and is largely acknowledged as the first culturally specific modernist art movement.

Parviz Tanavoli’s ‘Heech’

Works and artists belonging to the Saqqakhanah movement centre themselves around influences from traditional Iranian folk culture. This folk culture has its roots both in Shi’i folk traditions as well as from a pre-Islamic Persian standpoint.
In some ways, artists from this movement are seen to be the contemporaries of Iranian craftsmen such as miniaturists, illuminators, calligraphers and goldsmiths. Saqqakhanah artists took these much revered and respected forms of traditional arts and crafts, and employed them within a modern framework and artistic style.
The first period of the movement was primarily devoted to the use of motifs from Shi’ite folk art. Two leading artists from this period include Hossein Zenderoudi and Faramarz Pilaram, who used text and calligraphy as their starting point. Later as the movement developed, the term Saqqakhanah was broadened to include artists, painters and sculptors who incorporated traditional Iranian art forms of any kind as raw material for their work.


For this reason, the works which make up part of this movement are incredibly diverse in form and material, the common thread being the artists’ interest in tapping into the visual elements of Iranian popular culture. The aim was to re-interpret traditional art forms and incorporate traditional symbols and motifs such as talismans, amulets, props used in mourning processions, as well as artefacts such as the panjeh and elements of Persian calligraphy, painting and pottery.

landscape with balloons floating in the air


Connect with like-minded people on our premium trips curated by local insiders and with care for the world

Since you are here, we would like to share our vision for the future of travel - and the direction Culture Trip is moving in.

Culture Trip launched in 2011 with a simple yet passionate mission: to inspire people to go beyond their boundaries and experience what makes a place, its people and its culture special and meaningful — and this is still in our DNA today. We are proud that, for more than a decade, millions like you have trusted our award-winning recommendations by people who deeply understand what makes certain places and communities so special.

Increasingly we believe the world needs more meaningful, real-life connections between curious travellers keen to explore the world in a more responsible way. That is why we have intensively curated a collection of premium small-group trips as an invitation to meet and connect with new, like-minded people for once-in-a-lifetime experiences in three categories: Culture Trips, Rail Trips and Private Trips. Our Trips are suitable for both solo travelers, couples and friends who want to explore the world together.

Culture Trips are deeply immersive 5 to 16 days itineraries, that combine authentic local experiences, exciting activities and 4-5* accommodation to look forward to at the end of each day. Our Rail Trips are our most planet-friendly itineraries that invite you to take the scenic route, relax whilst getting under the skin of a destination. Our Private Trips are fully tailored itineraries, curated by our Travel Experts specifically for you, your friends or your family.

We know that many of you worry about the environmental impact of travel and are looking for ways of expanding horizons in ways that do minimal harm - and may even bring benefits. We are committed to go as far as possible in curating our trips with care for the planet. That is why all of our trips are flightless in destination, fully carbon offset - and we have ambitious plans to be net zero in the very near future.

Winter Sale Offers on Our Trips

Incredible Savings

Edit article