Exhibition design for Soheila Sokhanvari

  • Star conceived by the artist and technically designed by Jflemay
  • Light reflects off the Star and illuminates the far end of the Barbican Curve
  • The exhibition featured Soheila’s paintings set in dazzling Islamic patterns
  • A view approaching the Star with its fuchsia cushions
  • The Barbican designed the Star lighting to oscillate between dark...
  • ...and light moments, thus varying the visibility of the internal projection
  • A closer view of the Star at the end of the Barbican Curve
  • The Star with ambient lights at their lowest, revealing the internal screen
  • The video projection is visible from both sides thanks to a translucent screen
  • Internal view of the star during construction, showing its plywood structure
  • The star’s facets are held together by 3d-printed and CNC-milled brackets
  • Actresses from Iran’s golden age of cinema play inside a silver-golden star
  • A 3d-printed bracket is silhouetted by the internal cinema screen
  • The Monolith sculpture at the entrance of the Barbican Curve
  • Visitors of the exhibition take in the detail of Soheila’s miniature paintings
  • The Monolith and “The Lor Girl (Portrait of Roohangiz Saminejad)”
  • Light reflects on the Monolith’s thirty thousand mirror facets
  • Soheila’s paintings are set in a rich decor painted for the exhibition
  • The curved space gives a perspective on Soheila’s 28 miniature paintings
  • Credits for Soheila Sokhanvari’s “Rebel Rebel” exhibition
  • First 50 cm model of the star made by Jflemay in November 2020
  • The model illustrated the light patterns which would reflect off the Star
  • Second model of the star made by Jflemay to show its plywood structure
  • Closer view of the 50 cm model of the Star’s plywood structure
  • Animation prepared by Jflemay to illustrate the Star

Exhibition design for Soheila Sokhanvari at the Barbican Centre

Location Barbican Centre Curve Gallery, London
Duration 2019 — completed 2022
Client artist Soheila Sokhanvari
Client gallery Kristin Hjellegjerde Gallery
Client museum Barbican Centre
Architect Jflemay Architecture and Design
Curator Eleanor Nairne
Star and Monolith Design and concept, Soheila Sokhanvari
Technical design, Jflemay Architecture and Design
General contractor Central Leisure
Mural contractor Many Hands
Photography All photos © Jflemay Architecture and Design

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:

It was commissioned by the Barbican and generously supported by the Bagri Foundation, Arts Council England, the Soheila Sokhanvari Circle and Kristin Hjellegjerde Gallery.

Its soundtrack was mixed by Marios Aristopoulos and its fuchsia cushions were made by Jenna Nicole Designs.

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.

The exhibition catalogue can be viewed here and in Pdf.