Born in 1976 in Tehran, Iran.
Lives and works in Brooklyn, New York, USA.


Ali Banisadr lived with his family in Tehran, Iran until the age of 12. Growing up during the Iranian Revolution and the Iran-Iraq War, Banisadr experienced sounds and sights (such as a bomb crater in his schoolyard) that had a lasting impact on his sensory foundations—events that had particular resonance on his aesthetic formation, given his experience of synaesthesia, in which he perceives visual forms as sounds, and vice-versa. Although Banisadr studied psychology in college as a means of better understanding his own sensory experience, he later became involved in the Bay Area graffiti scene before attending art school in New York, receiving his BFA from the School of Visual Arts in 2005, and his MFA from the New York Academy of Art in 2007.  

In Banisadr’s highly-detailed paintings, the artist coaxes characters and hybrid figures out of atmospheres of color and brushwork. Though his paintings appear from afar like intricate abstractions, closer inspection reveals that each painting is a world unto itself, rich with narrative suggestion and mysterious imagery. Mythic birds, menacing creatures, and costumed beings all float to the surface of the painting from within a vortex of marks, lines, shapes, and patterns. Appearing sometimes like sweeping landscapes and other times like stage sets, Banisadr’s painted scenes imagine unique realms, while also drawing on references ranging from ancient to futuristic. For Banisadr, each of his paintings is a world unto itself that weaves together history, mythology, autobiographical narratives, sonic memories, and global events, while offering the artist’s own reflections on the human condition.

A voracious reader and student of art history, Banisadr draws inspiration from artistic predecessors across multiple genres and time periods, stretching from Mesopotamian antiquities, to Persian miniatures, to alchemical, magical, and surreal imagery in 16th and 17th-century European painting, to the 20th-century movements of surrealism and abstract expressionism.  Key touch points include the artists Hieronymus Bosch, Leonora Carrington, Francisco Goya, Utagawa Hiroshige, Lee Krasner, Tintoretto, and Diego Velázquez, whose varied influences can be seen in Banisadr’s aerial perspectives, expressive strokes, rich tonal palettes, dream-like sequences, and dramatic atmospheric moods his paintings evoke. At the same time, Banisadr’s paintings bear the traces of contemporary cultural references ranging from the Adventures of TinTin to the early-90s graffiti scene of the Bay Area. Having grown up in the tumultuous conditions of war and revolution, his paintings are above all solemn ruminations on current events and the disjunctive conditions—both hopeful and dystopian—that can punctuate modern life.

view all


- MFA, New York Academy of Art

- BFA, School of Visual Arts, New York

solo shows

- Ali Banisadr: The Alchemist, Katonah Museum of Art, Katonah, New York, USA (forthcoming)

- Perrotin, Shanghai, China (forthcoming)

- Ali Banisadr: The Changing Past, Victoria Miro Gallery II, London, United Kingdom
- Return to Mother, organized by the Princeton University Art Museum, Mathey College, Princeton University, Princeton, New Jersey, USA

- Return to Mother, Galerie Thaddaeus Ropac, Paris, France

- These Specks of Dust, Kasmin Gallery, New York, New York, USA
- Beautiful Lies, Museo Stefano Bardini and Palazzo Vecchio, Florence, Italy

- Ali Banisadr / Matrix 185, Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art, Hartford, Connecticut, USA
- Ultramarinus-Beyond the Sea, Benaki Museum, Athens, Greece

- Ordered Disorders, Galerie Thaddaeus Ropac, Paris, France
- Bosch & Banisadr, Ali Banisadr: We work in shadows, Academy of Fine Arts, Vienna, Austria
- Foreign Lands: Ali Banisadr, Het Noordbrabants Museum, ’s-Hertogenbosch, Netherlands
- Micro–Macro: Ali Banisadr & Andrew Sendor, MOCA Jacksonville, Florida, USA

- The World Upside Down, BlainSouthern, Berlin, Germany

- Trust in the Future, Sperone Westwater, New York, New York, USA

- In Medias Res, Galerie Thaddaeus Ropac, Paris, France
- At Once, Blain Southern, London, United Kingdom

- Motherboard, Sperone Westwater, New York, New York, USA

- We Haven’t Landed on Earth Yet, Galerie Thaddaeus Ropac, Salzburg, Austria

- It Happened and It Never Did, Leslie Tonkonow Artworks + Projects, New York, New York, USA

- Evidence, Galerie Thaddaeus Ropac, Paris, France
- Paintings, Galerie Thaddaeus Ropac, Paris, France

- Paintings, Leslie Tonkonow Artworks + Projects, New York, New York, USA

group shows

- Print Project Space, Cristea Roberts Gallery, London, United Kingdom
- Summer Exhibition, Royal Academy of Arts, London, United Kingdom
- Au bout de mes rêves (I will follow my dreams to the end), Vanhaerents Art Collection, Lille 3000, The Tripostal, Lille, France
- Shades of Daphne, curated by Stephanie Cristello, Kasmin, New York, New York, USA
- Between before and after, Cristea Roberts Gallery, London, United Kingdom

- 100 Years, Gagosian and Jeffrey Deitch, Buick Building, Miami, Florida, USA
- Lindisfarne Gospels, Laing Art Gallery, New Castle, United Kingdom
- Don’t fuck with our human, Fabian Lang Gallery, Zurich, Switzerland
- Taxonomies of Imagination, curated by Andrew Sendor, Make Room LA, Los Angeles, California, USA
- Daphne without Apollo. Transformations from Richter to Lassnig from the Klöcker Collection, Opel Villas Rüsselsheim, Rüsselsheim am Main, Germany
- Soft Edge of the Blade, Frieze No 9 Cork Street with Dastan Gallery, London, United Kingdom

- Epic Iran, Victoria & Albert Museum, London, United Kingdom
- Rebel, Jester, Mystic, Poet: Contemporary Persians, Asia Society, New York, New York, USA
- Le Cinquiéme Printemps, Custot Gallery, Dubai, UAE
- The Sky was Blue the Sea was Blue and the Boy was Blue, Victoria Miro Gallery on Vortic [Online Viewing Room]
- 30 Years in Paris, Galerie Thaddeaus Ropac, Pantin, France
- A Boundless Drop to a Boundless Ocean, Orlando Museum of Art, Orlando, Florida, USA

- Artists for New York, Hauser & Wirth, New York, New York, USA
- Libro de Disegni, Galerie Isa, Mumbai, India
- Parley for the Oceans x Vortic, Kasmin Gallery [Online Viewing Room]
- Protean, Kasmin Gallery, New York, New York, USA
- New Editions, Print Project Space, Cristea Roberts Gallery, London, United Kingdom

- We Contain Multitudes, curated by Ali Banisadr, Galerie Isa, Mumbai, India

- Chaos and Awe: Painting for the 21st Century, The Frist Art Museum, Nashville, Tennessee, USA and Chrysler Museum of Art, Norfolk, Virginia, USA
- Doodles and Disegno, BlainSouthern, Berlin, Germany
- Acquisitions Recentes Du Cabinet D’Art Graphique, Centre Pompidou, Paris, France
- NGORO NGORO 2, Lehderstrasse 34, Berlin, Germany
- New on The Wall (N.O.W.), Pizzuti Collection, Columbus, Ohio, USA

- Rebel, Jester, Mystic, Poet: Contemporary Persians, The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, Texas, USA and Aga Khan Museum, Toronto, Canada

- Iranian voices: recent acquisitions of works on paper, The British Museum, London, United Kingdom
- My Abstract World, Me Collectors Room/Olbricht Foundation, Berlin, Germany
- A Question of Perspective, Grimm Gallery, Amsterdam, Holland

- Charity for the Refugees, Galerie Thaddaeus Ropac, Salzburg, Austria

- Eurasia. A view on Painting, Galerie Thaddaeus Ropac, Pantin, France
- Between Worlds, curated by Jane Neal, Galerie Isa, Mumbai, India
- “Love Me, Love Me Not”, Contemporary Art from Azerbaijan and its Neighbors, Heydar Aliyev Center, Baku, Azerbaijan

- “Love Me / Love Me Not”, Contemporary Art from Azerbaijan and Its Neighbors, The 55th International Art Exhibition, Venice Biennale, Venice Italy
- Expanded Painting, Prague Biennale 6, Prague, Czech Republic
- Cinematic Visions: Painting at the Edge of Reality, Victoria Miro Gallery, London, United Kingdom
- A Selection of Recent Acquisitions from The Permanent Collection, Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles, California, USA
- Safar/Voyage, curated by Fereshteh Daftari, Museum of Anthropology (MOA) at The University of British Columbia, Vancouver, Canada
- Frauen Liebe and Leben, The Klöcker collection at the Lehmbruck Museum, Duisburg, Germany
- Disaster: The End of Days, Galerie Thaddaeus Ropac, Pantin, France
- Tectonic, The Moving Museum, Gate Village DIFC, Dubai, UAE
- Dynasty, curated by Omar-Lopez Chahoud, Hotel Particulier, New York, New York, USA

- Contemporary Iranian art in the Permanent Collection, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, New York
- Peekskill Project V, curated by Livia Straus and Lilly Wei, Hudson Valley Center for Contemporary Art, Peekskill, New York, USA
- The Sound of Painting, curated by Margherita Artoni, Palazzo Saluzzo Paesana, Turin, Italy
- Lucie Fontaine: Estate Vernissage, Marianne Boesky Gallery, New York, New York, USA
- Hue and Cry, curated by Vladimir Restoin Roitfeld, Sotheby’s (S2 Gallery), New York, New York, USA
- Referencing History, curated by Jane Neal, Green Art Gallery, Dubai, UAE

- XXSmall, Gerneente Museum, The Hague, Netherlands
- East Ex East, curated by Jane Neal, Brand New Gallery, Milan, Italy 
- Visions, Monica De Cardenas, Milan, Italy

- Hareng Saur: Ensor and Contemporary Art, Stedelijk Museum voor Actuele Kunst (SMAK), Ghent, Belgium
- Contemporary Notes, curated by Vahid Sharifian, Assar Gallery, Tehran, Iran
- Ghosts, Luce Gallery, Torino, Italy

- Epic Painting (Ali Banisadr, Charles Browning, Robert Colescott, Julie Heffernan, Laurie Hogin, Nicky Nodjoumi), Samek Art Gallery, Bucknell University, Lewisberg, Pennsylvania, USA
- Raad O Bargh, Kunstraum Deutsche Bank, Salzburg, Austria
- Unveiled: New Art from the Middle East, The Saatchi Gallery, London, United Kingdom
- Raad O Bargh – 17 Artists from Iran, Galerie Thaddaeus Ropac, Paris, France

- Weaving The Common Thread, Queens Museum of Art, Queens, New York, USA
- Utopia/Dystopia, Leslie Tonkonow Artworks + Projects, New York, New York, USA
- Small is Beautiful (2), Flowers Gallery, New York, New York, USA
- Post Graduate Fellows Exhibition, New York Academy of Art, New York, New York, USA

- Small is Beautiful, Flowers Gallery, New York, New York, USA
- Homecoming, New York Academy of Art, New York, New York, USA
- CAA Exhibition, Hunter College/Time Square Gallery, New York, New York, USA

- Tribeca Ball, Skylight, New York, New York, USA
- Summer Painters, Château de Balleroy, Balleroy, France

- In Exile, Visual Arts Gallery, New York, New York, USA

public collections

Akademie der Bildenden Künste, Vienna, Austria
The Benaki Museum, Athens, Greece
Buffalo AKG Art Museum, Buffalo, New York, USA
The British Museum, London, UK
Centre Pompidou, Paris, France
Graphische Sammlung ETH Zurich, Zurich, Switzerland
Het Noordbrabants Museum, Den Bosch, Netherlands
Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Washington, D.C., USA
K11 Art Foundation, Hong Kong, Hong Kong SAR, China
Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Los Angeles, California, USA
The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, New York, USA
Museum der Moderne, Salzburg, Austria
Miniature Museum, The Hague, Netherlands
The Olbricht Foundation, Berlin, Germany
Orange County Museum of Art, Santa Ana, California, USA
Philadelphia Museum of Art, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA
Francois Pinault Foundation, Palazzo Grassi, Venice, Italy
The Saatchi Gallery, London, UK
Pizzuti Collection, Columbus, Ohio, USA
Sammlung Essl, Klosterneuburg, Austria
Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art, Hartford, Connecticut, USA
The Wurth Collection, Künzelsau, Germany
Vanhaerents Art Collection, Brussels, Belgium


- Honoree at Katonah Museum of Art

- Honoree at Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden

- New York Foundation for the Arts Fellowship in Painting

- Post–Graduate Research Fellowship, New York Academy of Art, New York

- Travel Grant to Normandy, France at the Chateaux Balleroy
- Prince of Wales / Forbes Foundation

  • May 1, 2024
    Elephant — 8 PAGES

  • November 15, 2023
    The Brooklyn Rail — 4 PAGES

  • May 24, 2023
    Grand Journal — 8 PAGES

  • September 10, 2022
    Le Monde — 1 PAGE

  • May 4, 2021
    Artnews — 5 PAGES

Excerpt from "A Vision of Pandemonium"

by John Yau

In an age dominated by the use of readymade images, Banisadr has defined a very different approach. Rather than sail in the wake of Andy Warhol and adopt images recycled from mass media, Banisadr's work has its roots in Abstract Expressionism and Surrealism and the possibilities engendered by free association. Eschewing appropriation, copying, citation, and parody—all of which have become commonplace practices–he engages in an unpredictable, open-ended dialogue with the past, which extends to images, marks, light, and color.

There are artists and writers who are able to create alternative worlds governed by their own ineluctable laws. This is the tradition that Banisadr has elected to become part of. I am thinking of the painters Piero di Cosimo, Hieronymus Bosch, and Pieter Bruegel the Elder; the jeweled details one finds in Gustave Moreau's fantastical, Symbolist world; Max Ernst, particularly his use of frottage (rubbing) and grattage (scraping); Joan Miró, in his luminous Constellations (1939-41); and Leonora Carrington's depictions of strange, crepuscular creatures. It is a tradition in which dreams and the imagination―signs of subjectivity—are prized more than objectivity and appearances.

I am also thinking of writers as diverse as Franz Kafka, Flann O'Brien, Anna Kavan, Ursula K. Le Guin, Samuel Delany, and Orhan Pamuk, whose novel My Name Is Red (1998) constructs a complete, self-sufficient world out of language. I feel that this statement by Delany illuminates what these writers and artists, including Banisadr, share: It looks like the writer is telling you a story. What the writer is actually doing, however, is using words to evoke a series of micromemories from your own experience that inmix, join, and connect in your mind in an order the writer controls, so that, in effect, you have a sustained memory of something that never happened to you.1

While Banisadr is connected to the visual branch of this hallucinatory tradition, I also want to stress that he has redefined it for himself. Banisadr does not attain the tight pictorial resolution we encounter in a Bosch, with each detail carefully worked out, nor does he want to. His paintings are not complete and closed off in that way; rather, they feel as if a metaphysical wind is moving through them, changing everything it touches[...]

The visual disturbances we encounter in Banisadr's paintings can be traced in part to the artist's biography. He was born in Tehran, Iran, in 1976, and in 1988 his family moved to San Diego, California. The artist has stated in interviews that he was shaped by his memories of two singular events in Iranian history: the Islamic Revolution (1979), which resulted in the overthrow of the shah of Iran and the Pahlavi dynasty, and the Iran-Iraq War (1980-88). Prior to his family's immigration to the United States, Banisadr's childhood was marked by the daily existence of unceasing conflict. To experience widespread turmoil as well as continual relapses into pandemonium in one's daily life, all before one learns to speak, could take on a far greater psychological significance than specific, nameable aspects of the chaos one lives though.

Banisadr has incorporated these formative perceptions into his work without turning them into anecdotes or verifiable events. It is what infuses his work with a dreamlike eeriness. His goal is neither the perfection of appearances, which is focused on describing an exterior world, nor the pictorial re-creation of an experience. He is not a narrative painter or a visual storyteller in that regard. His interest in narrative, rather, seems to be about the collision between the inability to tell what exactly happened and an overwhelming desire to do exactly that. For him, bodily memories and the stuff of dreams-the interior, inchoate world of visceral sensations-are among the most forceful contributors to what happens on the canvas [...] 

1 Samuel R. Delany, About Writing; Seven Essays, Four Letters, and Five Interviews (Middletown, CT: Wesleyan University Press, 2005, 43).

Read the full text here.




Worlds Within Worlds | Louisiana Channel

Worlds Within Worlds | Louisiana Channel