Shirin Neshat was born in Qazvin, Iran, a small city two hours from Tehran in 1957.
In 1974, at the age of seventeen, she was sent to the United States to complete her education; the Islamic Revolution in 1979 would prevent her from returning to her country of origin for close to twenty years.
After receiving a BA from the University of California at Berkeley in 1983, Neshat moved to New York, where she soon began working at the Storefront for Art and Architecture, an interdisciplinary alternative space in Manhattan.
Though Neshat had studied art in college, her arrival in New York commenced a hiatus from art-making until 1993, when she made her first trip back to Iran.
Collaboration has played an important role throughout Neshat’s career; singer and composer Sussan Deyhim and cinematographer Ghassem Ebrahimian have contributed to many of her works, while Passage was a joint project with the composer Philip Glass.
Since 2000, selected solo exhibitions include Shirin Neshat, Serpentine Gallery, London, 2000; Shirin Neshat: Two Installations, Wexner Center for the Arts, Columbus, 2000; Shirin Neshat, Contemporary Arts Museum, Houston, 2001; Shirin Neshat, Walker Art Center, Minneapolis, 2001; Shirin Neshat, Castello di Rivoli, Turin, 2002; Shirin Neshat, Museo de Arte Moderno, Mexico City, 2003; Shirin Neshat: Earlier and Recent Works, Hamburger Bahnhof, Museum für Gegenwart, Berlin, 2005; The Last Word, Museo de Arte Contemporáneo, León, 2005; Shirin Neshat, Stedelijk Museum CS, Amsterdam, 2006; Shirin Neshat, Galeria Filomena Soares, Lisbon, 2007; Women Without Men, National Museum of Contemporary Art, Athens, and Kulturhuset, Stockholm, 2009; Shirin Neshat, La Fabrica Galería, Madrid and Brussels, 2010; Women Without Men, Palazzo Reale, Milan, 2011.
In 2003 the Screenwriters Laboratory of the Sundance Institute helped Neshat to develop and begin production on the feature film Mahdokht (2004), an adaptation of Shahrnush Parsipur’s novel Women without Men; the screenplay is a collaboration between Neshat and the author, and the cinematography is by Darius Khondji, who also shot Tooba.
Since her first solo exhibition, at Franklin Furnace in New York in 1993, Neshat has been featured in solo exhibitions at the Whitney Museum of American Art (1998), the Art Institute of Chicago (1999), Dallas Museum of Art (2000), Kunsthalle Wien in Vienna (2000), National Museum of Contemporary Art in Athens (2001), Walker Art Center in Minneapolis (2002), Hamburger Bahnhof, Museum Für Gengewart in Berlin (2005), Stedelijk Museum (2006), and National Gallery of Iceland in Reykjevik (2008).
She has also participated in the Venice Biennale (1995 and 1999), Austrian Triennial on Photography in Graz (1996), Biennale of Sydney (1996 and 2000), Johannesburg Biennale (1997), Istanbul Biennial (1998), Carnegie International (1999), Whitney Biennial (2000), Moving Pictures at the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum (2002), Documenta 11 (2002), ICP Triennial of Photography and Video at the International Center of Photography in New York (2003), and Lights Camera Action at the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York (2007).
Her work has been included in all the significant international group shows, including the Venice Biennale, 1999; Whitney Biennial, New York, 2000; Documenta XI, Kassel, 2002; and Prospect 1, New Orleans Biennial, 2008.