Monday, June 3, 2024

Iranian artists donate over 100 artworks to Mexican NGO Mano Amiga

In 2022, Iranian artists Shadi Yousefian and Ardalan Payvar began to spend time in central Mexico, quickly falling in love with the art and the people. In a gesture of extraordinary generosity, they are now donating nearly their entire art collection — over 100 pieces — to Mano Amiga, a Mexican NGO that financially empowers women. The organization provides business and personal finance education, mentoring and interest-free microloans to women who lack access to affordable credit, enabling them to build successful small businesses. This support provides the opportunity to improve their families’ financial prospects and strengthen their communities. 

The opportunity to secure a piece of this exclusive collection will take place on Jan. 17 from 5-8 p.m. at Casa Europa in San Miguel de Allende. This unique event offers a chance to invest in the works of up-and-coming Iranian, Mexican and American creators as well as to buy works from more established artists, all priced quite low in an effort to inspire as many donations as possible to the charity.

VIP tickets for first access to the art from 5-6 p.m. are available for 500 pesos. During the VIP hour, guests will enjoy delicious hors d’oeuvres generously provided by a renowned local establishment, The Restaurant, and wine will flow freely all evening. Contact Mano Amiga at [email protected] to reserve your VIP tickets.

Entrance is free after 6 p.m., and any pieces still available after the event will remain on display at Casa Europa through the end of January. Interested readers who cannot be in San Miguel on January 17 are encouraged to inquire about participating in the event remotely.

Payvar shared the couple’s motivation:

In a healthy community, everybody helps each other to the best of their ability. With Mano Amiga, we have found a way to help, with the hope that this will encourage others to contribute as well. Not only through financial support but [also] through education and mentorship, this organization truly empowers female microentrepreneurs, which can have an enormous positive impact on their families’ futures. My wife and I have been interested in finding the best way to help the local community. Through dear friends, we learned about Mano Amiga. We decided that this was the perfect opportunity to get involved and help to the extent of our ability. As the 13th-century Persian Poet, Sa’adi, beautifully put it:

Human beings are members of a whole,
in creation of one essence and soul.
If one member is afflicted with pain,
other members uneasy will remain.
If you have no sympathy for human pain,
the name of human you cannot retain.

Some pieces in the couple’s collection were created by notable Iranian artists currently living in Iran whereas others were made by exiles living in Europe and the United States. For example, Yousefian and Payvar are donating three works by Reza Abedini, who is often referred to as “the father of Iranian contemporary graphic design.” 

Other award-winning artists in the collection include Najva Erfani, an artist and illustrator whose work is influenced by ancient Iranian literature, mythology, art and culture; and Hesam Rahmanian, who has held solo exhibitions in London and Dubai and was a finalist for the MOP CAP prize awarded to emerging Iranian visual artists. Also available are works by ICY and SOT, New York-based street artists whose stencils first became famous in the streets of Tabriz, in northern Iran.

Fairy Cinema by Najva Erfani

“We are artists who love supporting other artists, so we have been collecting art for many years and have also received pieces as gifts from artist friends,” noted Yousefian. “Now it is time for us to give back to a deserving community. We see this event as an open invitation to everyone to support this impactful organization, Mano Amiga—and in appreciation for their support, people will take home a gift, a work of art.” 

Siah Mashq by Reza Abedini

Payvar and Yousefian have also begun to collect works from artists based in Mexico. The couple seem to have unerring eyes for emerging talent, as they recently purchased several pieces by young Mexican artists which were subsequently selected for museum shows in both Mexico and the United States. 

Among the Mexican artists to be featured at the event are Danilo Filtrof and René Torres, who are currently showing work at the Museo de Arte e Historia de Guanajuato in León; Armando de la Riva, whose painting entitled “Woman” is shown above; and Joaquín Piñeiro, an abstract artist whose beautiful art all Sanmiguelenses will know from his galleries at Fabrica la Aurora. Argentinian artist Lucas Rise and his wife, American artist Giuliana Vastarella, collaborated on a piece to be included in the show alongside works by Cory Swenson, an American portrait artist.

Shadi Yousefian is herself an award-winning artist whose mixed media work addresses universal themes such as loss, dislocation, alienation and reinvention. Her work engages personal and social issues of contemporary life, particularly cultural identity and the immigrant experience. 

Her work has been acquired by the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, and one of her installations is currently on display at the San Diego Museum of Arts. Raised in Iran, she received her Bachelor’s and Master’s of Fine Arts in Photography from San Francisco State University.

Hejran Diptych by Ardalan Payvar

Born in Tehran in 1976, Ardalan Payvar is an artist and musician. At seventeen, he migrated to the United States, where he studied Graphic Design and Fine Arts at Cal Poly University. Ardalan was a member of the Iranian rock band, Kiosk, from 2006 to 2016. In 2009, he and Yousefian co-founded a band named Eendo. Payvar currently works as a music producer for films.

To learn more about this couple and about the important work of Mano Amiga, visit, and Yousefian, Payvar and the women of Mano Amiga hope to see you at the event on January 17 from 5-8 p.m. at Casa Europa in San Miguel de Allende. 

Ann Marie Jackson is a member of Mano Amiga’s board of directors. Based in San Miguel de Allende, Ann Marie Jackson is a writer and NGO leader who previously worked for the U.S. Department of State. Her novel “The Broken Hummingbird” will be out in October. Ann Marie can be reached through her website,


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