Samira Abbassy

Born in 1965 in Ahwaz, Iran

Lives and works in Jersey City, NJ


1987           BA with Honors, Fine Art/Painting, Canterbury College of Art

Awards and Collections

2022          Acquisition: Permanent Collection of the Los Angeles County Museum, CA

2022          Yaddo Fellowship, Saratoga Springs, NY

2018          Nomination: Anonymous Was A Woman Award

2018          New York Foundation for the Arts (NYFA) Painting fellowship

2016 -17   Byrdcliffe Summer Resident Program - Woodstock, NY

2016          Acquisition: Grey Art Gallery, New York University Collection

2016          Fellowship: Saltonstall Foundation, Ithaca, NY

2014          The Pollock-Krasner Foundation Award

2013          Acquisition: Permanent Collection of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, NY

2012          University of Virginia: Artist in residence fellow, Virginia

2011          Acquisition: Omid Foundation, Tehran, Iran

2010          Joan Mitchell Foundation Award for Painting/Sculpture, NY NY

2010          Acquisition: The Burger Collection, Hong Kong

2009          Acquisition: The Farjaam Art Collection, Dubai, UAE

2008          Acquisition: Permanent Collection of the British Museum, UK

2008          Acquisition: The Donald Rubin Foundation (Rubin Museum) NY NY

2008          Acquisition: The Devi Foundation, India

2007          New York Foundation for the Arts (NYFA) Fellowship

2006          Yaddo Fellowship, Saratoga Springs, NY

2002          Acquisition: Permanent Collection of the British Government, UK

1997          M&G Purchase Prize – Royal Academy of Art, London, UK

Samira Abbassy was born in Ahwaz, Iran in 1965 and moved to London, UK as a child. After graduating from Canterbury College of Art, she began showing in London. She moved to New York in 1998, where she helped to set up the Elizabeth Foundation for the Arts, and the EFA Studio Center.

Her work has been included in shows at the Metropolitan and the British Museum and is in private and public collections worldwide, including the Metropolitan Museum, British Museum, the British Government Art Collection, the Grey Art Gallery at NYU, the Burger Collection, the Donald Rubin collection (Rubin Museum, NY), the Farjaam Collection, Dubai, the Los Angeles County Museum and the Afkhami Collection.

During Abbassy’s thirty-year career, her work has been the subject of twenty gallery solo shows in London, Dubai, and New York. Her fellowships include the Yaddo fellowship in 2006 and 2022 and Saltonstall in 2017. She has been awarded two NYFA awards in 2007 and 2018, a Joan Mitchell award in 2010, and a Pollock-Krasner in 2014. Abbassy was also nominated for the Anonymous Was a Woman award in 2018.

In 2019 her work was included in the 26th Venice Biennial presented by Heist gallery London. Abbassy has also worked as an educator in many educational institutions in the UK and the USA, some of which are: Hunter College, Penn State, and the University of Virginia, where she was the artist in Residence in April 2012. In 2023 her work will be included in Women Defining Women in Contemporary Art in the Middle East and Beyond, Curated by Linda Komaroff, Los Angeles County Museum.

The subject of much of the work evolves out of the question: How do I
create a figure that embodies the metaphysical aspects of the figure? The
work is an inquiry into how to reveal the figure as a psycho/emotional being, encountering its various internal states: the violence, ecstasy, and
epiphany within.

The key to my approach in painting the figure lies in an idea taken from Dante’s Inferno; that figures are“contorted according to their sin.” This
implies an embodiment of psychological states, where the physical states
mirror psychological dilemmas. Rather than portraits, the figures are archetypes, revealing themselves from the inside out; showing how it feels
to be human, and their specific identities help uncover elements of a
more universal Self. At times, the figure is represented as many selves,
or many aspects of one unified Self, expressing an array of psychodynamic and existential realities. This multiplicity is part of Hindu iconography, and can also be found in the figure of the Many-Headed Angel in
Mohamad's Night Journey MS.

The study of Qajar Court paintings(19th C) has been central to my work
for three decades, and my interest lies specifically in how the Qajar
artists translated their visual language in such a short space of time and
adjust to the paradigm shift from the manuscript to large scale oil paintings. Their intriguing appearance is due to a ‘misinterpretation’, and a
slippage of language. Just as the Iranian artists were translating into the
language of European painting, I find parallels in my own biography and
my efforts to translate myself back into my indigenous culture, adapting
western painting techniques to the language of Persian painting.
From an interview in Cultural Politics (Deb Frizzell, date , issue #….)
I’m quoted: “We all are products of cross-cultural pollination. Maybe in
my life it’s more obvious and recent, but the very idea of culture is that
it’s a growing, living thing that feeds on cross-pollination. A stylized
Chinese cloud floating into compositions relates to the influence of Chinese painting on Persian art, conveying the idea of the porous nature of
cultural influence and migration, both historically and in contemporary
times. After a European art education, I decided to focus on art outside
the Western canon, starting with Indian and Persian miniatures. I was
then led to Hindu iconography and viewed it in parallel to that of Christian and Muslim to find common motifs. I also took Jung’s theory of “the
collective unconscious” as a premise to uncover common and divergent
ideas instilled in the human psyche.”

Group shows at Ceysson Gallery
Body Full of Stars , New York
June 21 - July 28, 2023

Solo Exhibitions


Embodied Mythologies, Advocartsy, Los Angeles, CA 


A Night Sea Journey, XVA Gallery, Dubai, UAE


Redemptive Narratives, Migrating Patterns - XVA Gallery, Dubai, UAE 


Leaping the Void, Grey Art Gallery, NYU and Pomegranate Gallery, NY NY 


Love & Ammunition, Rossi & Rossi gallery, London 


Narratives: Hearts, Minds & Mythologies, Bernstein Gallery, Woodrow Wilson School, Princeton University, NJ 


An Autobiography & Other Confessions, XVA Gallery, Dubai 


Conflicting Narratives, B2OA Gallery, NY 


Anthony Giordano Gallery, Dowling College, NY 


Mirror of Inclusion, Vernacular Press, New York 


Veiled Icon, Skoto Gallery, New York 1993997/95/93

One Person Show, Mercury Gallery, London, UK 

Expositions du Musées


(Title TBD) - Brattleboro Museum, Vermont


Real Families, Curated by Susan E. Golombok, Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge University, UK 


Women Defining Women in Contemporary Art in the Middle East and Beyond, Curated by Linda Komaroff, Los Angeles County Museum, CA 


Reflections: Contemporary Art of the Middle East and North Africa, From The British Museum Collection, The British Museum, London, UK 


The Human Image : Masterpieces of Figurative Art From The British Museum, International Touring Exhibition: The National Museum of Korea 


Bazm O Razm, Curated by Maryam Ekhtiar, (Kevorkian Room, Islamic Dept.) Metropolitan Museum of Art, NY 


Azadi va Edalet: Stories Retold by Contemporary Iranian Women Artists, Oglethorpe University Museum of Art, Atlanta, GA 


Her Stories Curated by Jaishri Abichandani, Queen Museum of Art, NY 2009 Iran Inside Out, curated by Sam Bardaouil - Chelsea Art Museum, New York 

Group Exhibitions


Unanchored, Two person show with Simonette Quamina, Curated by Billy Frank, Moss Galleries, Portland, Maine 

Carrying the Effigy, Three person show, Candice Madey Gallery, NY, NY 


Future Fair, with Nyama Fine Art, Chelsea, NY NY 

Mostly New: Selections from NYU Art Collection. Grey Art Gallery, New York University, NY NY 

Dread in the Eyes, Curated by Deric Carner, The Elizabeth Foundation for the Arts, NY, NY 


“Defied Logic” Curated by Nina Divani, Ivy Brown gallery NY 


“She Persists”, Heist Gallery at the 58th Venice Biennale, Italy 


Apres Coup, Transforming Trauma into Art, Curated by Hallie Cohen, Hewitt Gallery of Art at Marymount Manhattan College, NY 


Facial Profiling, Curated by David Terry & NYFA at C24 Gallery, New York 

Outcasts: Women in the Wilderness at Wave Hill, Bronx, NY 


Persian Color, Curated by Bill Carroll, Shirin gallery NY 


Artistic Weapons of Mass Communication, Curated by Souhad Rafey - FiveMyles gallery, Brooklyn, NY 


Istanbul Art Fair with Todd Hosfelt Gallery, San Francisco 


The Body is Present, Curated by Deborah Frizzell, Ramapo College, NJ 

Women Redrawing the World Stage, SOHO20 Gallery, NY 


Salam Bombay Curated by Jasmine Wahi, Art Asia Miami, FL. 

Fertile Crescent, Rutgers University, NJ 

Fabian Walters Gallery (Zurich) Presents at New Delhi Art Fair, India 


Shapeshifters & Aliens, Curated by Jaishri Abichandani, Rossi & Rossi Gallery, London UK 

Fluidity Layering & Veiling, Curated by Deborah Frizzell, CT University, CT 


Tough Love Curated by Shaheen Mirali, Platforma Revolver, Lisbon, Portugal 

Tehran, New York, Leila Heller Gallery, NY NY


The Promise of Loss, Curated by Shaheen Mirali, Galleri Ernst Hilger, Vienna, Austria, (Traveled to Arario Gallery, NY) 

Movers & Shakers, Leila Heller gallery, New York 

Incheon Women Artists' Biennale, Korea 

798 Beijing Biennale, Beijing, China 

Artists In Exile, Arario gallery, New York 

Tehran biennale, Urban Jealousy, Tehran, Iran 


Two person show, England Gallery, London, UK


Cultural Politics - Ghosts of Migration; An Interview with Samira Abbassy, by Deborah Frizzell - Duke University Press ( 

British Museum Events (on Youtube): Music to stir the soul - interview with Venetia Porter 


Boston Globe, Review of “Echo” Curated by Azita Moradkhani at Gallery Kayafas, Boston, MA 


Financial Times Lifestyle section interview by Nisa Qasi 


Art Asia Pacific Magazine: Interview by Jaishri Abichandani