Exhibition design for Soheila Sokhanvari at the Barbican Centre
Barbican Centre Curve Gallery, London
Started in 2019 and completed in 2022
Artist: Soheila Sokhanvari
Client: Kristin Hjellegjerde Gallery
Client: Barbican Centre
Curator: Eleanor Nairne
Star and Monolith design: Design and concept, Soheila Sokhanvari; technical design, Jflemay Architecture and Design
General contractor: Central Leisure
Mural contractor: Many Hands
In October 2019, Kristin Hjellegjerde Gallery asked Jflemay to assist their artist Soheila Sokhanvari in designing a “Star Sculpture”. An Iranian-British artist, Soheila had an idea for a three-dimensional Star which would glow with projections of actresses from the golden age of Iranian cinema. The Star would feature in her solo exhibition “Rebel Rebel” (Pdf) at the Barbican Centre along with 28 of her paintings.
The Covid-19 pandemic delayed Soheila’s exhibition by two years, which gave us ample time to design the sculpture and review it with Soheila, Kristin and the curator Eleanor Nairne.
We found that Soheila’s concept could be realised by starting with an icosidodecahedron and replacing each of its twelve pentagonal faces with a five-pointed star. We designed its structure to be repetitive, flat-pack and economical. We then made two 50 cm models which Soheila approved and used to seek funding.
Although Soheila’s vision was for a 5-metre star, we subsequently reduced it to 3 metres to meet the museum’s budget. We drew it with an aluminium structure, and then a plywood structure which proved to be more economical. In 2022 we made a one-metre Star which helped us to design the 3-metre’s internal projection.
At the request of Soheila and the curator, we also drew the “Monolith”, a second sculpture at the entrance of the exhibition. Soheila realised the Monolith by painstakingly sticking its thirty thousand facets on a frame made by the general contractor.
Finally we drew plans, perspectives and patterns in Cad to document the green floors and walls for the mural contractor. The paint was donated by Little Greene.
The exhibition was open and free to visit from 7 October 2022 to 26 February 2023. It was a major success with reviews including:
- ★★★★☆ The Guardian, Jonathan Jones, 7 October 2022, “Soheila Sokhanvari: Rebel Rebel review – vivacious paintings of liberated Iranian womanhood”. (Article in Pdf)
- ★★★★☆ The Times, Laura Freeman, 6 October 2022, “Soheila Sokhanvari: Rebel Rebel review — fabulous women of old Iran”. (Article in Pdf)
- Financial Times, Jackie Wullschläger, 12 October 2022, “Iranian women show joyful defiance in Rebel Rebel at the Barbican”. (Article in Pdf)
- British Vogue, Soheila Sokhanvari as told to Harriet Shepherd, 5 October 2022, “My Art Celebrates Iran’s Feminist Rebels; The Protests In The Country Are Giving Me Hope”. (Article in Pdf)
Among the Barbican team who made this exhibition possible, we had the chance to work with curator Eleanor Nairne, assistant curator Hilary Floe, curatorial trainee Tobi Alexandra Falade, exhibition organiser Kate Fanning, production managers Peter Sutton and Maarten van den Bos, lighting technician Margaret Liley, projection technician Bruce Stracy and health and safety technician Laura Ransome.
Special thanks go to Michael Wurzel and to Soheila’s husband Steve Swanton.