Born in Tehran in 1937, Tanavoli studies at the Fine Art School of Tehran and later at the Brera Academy in Milan. In 1959, he won the Carrara prize for his sculpture, a year after having represented Iran at the 29th Venic Biennale. In 1961, he became a professor at the Minneapolis College of Art and Design until 1964, when he returned to Iran and began teaching at the Faculty of Fine Art of the Tehran University, wher he later became Head of the department of sculptor. During the early stages of his career, Tanavoli was both painter and sculptor and has gained international recognition and acclaim since. He has had numerous solo and group exhibitions all around the world, including his retrospective held at the Tehran Museum of Contemporary Art in 2003. His works are in the permanent collections of major museums such as the British Museum in London, the Metropolitan Museum in New York, the Museum of Modern Art in New York, the Ludwig Museum in Aachen, the Museum Moderner Kunst in Vienna and the Museum of Contemporary Art in Tehran. He now lives and works between Tehran and Vancouver.