Khosrow Hassandezah, 1963–2023
By Brynn Gordon
On July 2, Iranian artist Khosrow Hassanzadeh passed away at the age of 60. Known for his multimedia depictions of social issues in a pop-art style, Hassanzadeh died from poisoning after consuming counterfeit alcohol containing methanol, which induced a ten-day coma.
Born in Tehran to an Azerbaijani family in 1963, Hassanzadeh left school in 1980 when he served in the Iran-Iraq War in the Basij militia until 1988—experiences which would shape his future artistic career. In 1989, he joined the faculty of painting of the Mojtama-e-Honar University in Tehran, and studied Persian literature at Azad University from 1995–99 while training under painter Aydin Aghdashloo. Despite being advised to produce small-scale, marketable artworks, Hassanzadeh was determined to produce large, striking collages, silkscreen-prints and canvases, focusing on social topics and taboos including the Iran-Iraq war, prostitution, and Iranian wrestlers (pahlavans) in his mixed-media works reflecting the cultural life of Iran.
Hassanzadeh first earned international recognition for his War series (1998), shown in London at Diorama Arts Centre in 1999, which bluntly outlined his childhood memories of the 1979 Iranian Revolution and his haunting experiences in the Iran-Iraq war (1980–88), where more than 500,000 people were killed. His later series Terrorist (2004) satirizes stereotypical western views of the peoples, religions, and art of the Middle East by presenting portraits himself and his family as “terrorist threats.” In the Ya Ali Madad (2008–09) works, he paired Warhol-esque silkscreen-print images of Pahlavani wrestlers, dervishes, generals, mullahs, and intellectuals with rhythmic, brightly colored calligraphy to illustrate the beauty and strength of traditional Iranian culture. The series led him to be shortlisted for the Jameel Prize at the Victoria and Albert museum in 2009.
Iranshahr Gallery said in a statement on Instagram: “With regret and sorrow, we say goodbye to our dear Khosrow. Our lovely friend and artist with kind soul left us.” North African and West Asian art space Mathqaf also expressed condolences to his family and admiration of Hassanzadeh: “May you find peace amid this tragedy and may Hassanzadeh’s legacy continue to inspire and motivate us.”
Hassanzadeh’s work has been displayed in Amsterdam, Dubai, London, Phnom Penh, Tehran, etc. and is in the collections of renowned art intuitions such as the Tehran Museum of Contemporary Art, the British Museum in London, and the World Bank in Washington, DC.