The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston

Rebel, Jester, Mystic, Poet: Contemporary Persians—The Mohammed Afkhami Collection

Saturday, Jul. 1, 2017 – Sunday, Sep. 24, 2017


Rebel, Jester, Mystic, Poet: Contemporary Persians illuminates the multifaceted histories and identities of Iranians today. Through works of art by Iranian-born artists across three generations, the exhibition sheds light on the rich heritage—as well as the trials and triumphs—of the Iranian people during a period of social and political unrest.

Drawing from the collection of financier and philanthropist Mohammed Afkhami, Rebel, Jester, Mystic, Poet highlights the unique evolution of contemporary art both in Iran and by Iranian artists who have left their native country. Paintings, sculptures, photographs, and videos by 23 artists express four interwoven themes that transcend standard chronologies.

The mystic current—perhaps the most familiar aspect of contemporary Iranian art—is introduced by two calligraphic works: Mohammad Ehsai’s painting Mohabbat (Kindness) and Parviz Tanavoli’s sculpture Blue Heech (Blue Nothingness). Opposing currents of satire and rebellion are encapsulated in Shirin Aliabadi’s Miss Hybrid 3, a staged photograph exploring the global self-consciousness that characterizes the generation of Iranians who came of age in the Internet era.

Ali Banisadr’s epic We Haven’t Landed on Earth Yet expresses the terror and chaos of war through painterly abstraction, and Farhad Moshiri’s Flying Carpet displays silhouettes of fighter planes cut into traditional carpets, reflecting on the threat of global conflict. Ultimately, an elegiac mood is established through the poetic vistas photographed by Shirin Neshat and Abbas Kiarostami.

Rebel, Jester, Mystic, Poet also features established artists such as Monir Shahroudy Farmanfarmaian and Shirazeh Houshiary, as well as emerging talents. The Houston presentation—the exhibition’s U.S. premiere—introduces the work of contemporary artists from Iran into fresh dialogues with new audiences and the wide-ranging MFAH collections.

Accompanying the exhibition is an illustrated catalogue, available through the MFA Shop (713.639.7360) and the Museum’s Hirsch Library (713.639.7325).


  • Tuesday - Wednesday, 10:00 am - 5:00 pm
    Thursday, 10:00 am - 9:00 pm
    Friday - Saturday, 10:00 am - 7:00 pm
    Sunday, 12:15 pm - 7:00 pm
    Monday: Closed (Except Monday Holidays). Closed Thanksgiving Day and Christmas Day.
  • General Admission

    • MFAH Members FREE
    • Adults $15
    • Seniors (65+ with ID) $10
    • Military (with ID) $10
    • College Students (19+ with ID) $7.50
    • Youth (13–18) $7.50
    • Children (12 & younger) FREE
    • Certain special exhibitions are ticketed, with an additional charge.
    On Thursday, general admission is free for everyone.

Directions & Parking

  • Free Parking
  • Paid Parking
  • Street Parking
  • Make visiting a snap! Visit mfah.org/parking for complete parking info, including a map you can download.

    Two Parking Garages        

    Parking Garage Hours

    Open daily from 6 a.m. to 11 p.m.

    Parking Garage Fees

    • Parking payments may be made only with major credit cards, or with MasterCard and Visa debit cards.
    • The first 30 minutes are always free. On Thursday, parking is free for visitors who enter the Museum between 5 p.m. and 9 p.m.
    • For hourly rates, go to mfah.org/parking
    Recommendation for guests with limited mobility: Use the covered drop-off lane at the Main Street entrance to the Beck Building, or use wheelchair-accessible parking in the garage at 1144 Binz Street.

Special Offers / Dining

Paolo Fronza, from Fellini Caffè, runs this sophisticated dining operation. Enjoy an array of Italian-inspired fare with a Texas flair, a European-style coffee bar, a kids menu, and much more at the MFA Café, located on the lower level of the Beck Building.

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