Born in Lahore, Pakistan in 1969, Shahzia Sikander received her BFA in 1991 from the National College of Arts, Lahore, Pakistan, where she underwent rigorous training under master miniaturist Bashir Ahmed. The first student Ahmed invited to teach alongside him, she subsequently became the first artist from the Miniature Painting Department at the NCA to challenge the medium’s technical and aesthetic framework. Sikander’s breakthrough work, The Scroll (1989-90), received national critical acclaim in Pakistan, winning the prestigious Shakir Ali and Haji Sharif awards for excellence in miniature painting and launching the medium into the forefront of the NCA’s program. Sikander moved to the United States in 1993 to pursue her MFA at the Rhode Island School of Design, which she completed in 1995.
Sikander’s pioneering practice takes classical Indo-Persian miniature painting as its point of departure and challenges the strict formal tropes of the genre by experimenting with scale and various forms of new media. Informed by South Asian, American, Feminist and Muslim perspectives, Sikander has developed a unique, critically charged approach to this time-honored medium––employing its continuous capacity for reinvention to interrogate ideas of language, trade, empire, and migration. Sikander’s innovative work led to her meteoric rise internationally in the mid-nineties with survey exhibitions at the Renaissance Society at the University of Chicago (1998), the Kemper Museum of Contemporary Art (1998), the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden (1999), and the Whitney Museum of American Art (2000).
Sikander has had major solo exhibitions throughout the world, including most recently at the Asian Art Museum, San Francisco (2017); the Aga Khan Museum, Toronto (2017); MAXXI | Museo nazionale delle arti del XXI secolo, Rome (2016); the Asia Society Hong Kong Center, Hong Kong (2016); the Guggenheim Museum, Bilbao (2015); the Smithsonian American Art Museum, Washington D.C. (2012); the Museum of Contemporary Art, Tokyo (2010); the Irish Museum of Modern Art, Dublin (2007); the Museum of Contemporary Art, Sydney (2007); the Pérez Art Museum Miami (2005); and at the San Diego Museum of Art, California (2004). Sikander has also participated in significant international group shows such as Shehr-O-Funn, Lahore Biennale 01, Pakistan (2018); Witness, Karachi Biennale 17, Pakistan (2017); Our Land / Alien Territory, 6th Moscow Biennale of Contemporary Art, Manege, Russia (2015); Infinite Challenge, National Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art, Seoul (2014); Dhaka Art Summit, Bangladesh (2014); Mom, am I barbarian? 13th Istanbul Biennial, Turkey (2013); If you were to live here… 5th Auckland Triennial, New Zealand (2013); Re:emerge, Towards a New Cultural Cartography, Sharjah Biennale 11, Sharjah Art Foundation, UAE (2013); Future Pass: From Asia to the World, 54th International Art Exhibition of La Biennale di Venezia, Italy (2011); Taswir: Pictorial Mappings of Islam of Modernity, Martin-Gropius-Bau, Berlin (2009); Without Boundaries, Seventeen Ways of Looking, the Museum of Modern Art, New York (2006); Always a little further, 51st International Art Exhibition of La Biennale di Venezia, Italy (2005); and the Whitney Biennial, The Whitney Museum of American Art, New York (1997).
Amongst the numerous awards, grants, and fellowships Sikander has received are the KB17 Karachi Biennale Shahneela and Farhan Faruqui Popular Choice Art Prize (2017); the Religion and the Arts Award (2016); the Asia Society Award for Significant Contribution to Contemporary Art (2015); the National Medal of Arts Award presented by U.S. Secretary of State, Hillary Rodham Clinton (2012); the John D. and Catherine T MacArthur Foundation Achievement ‘Genius’ award, (2006), and Tamgha-e-Imtiaz, the National Pride of Honor Award presented by the Pakistani Government (2005).
Her work can be found in the permanent collections of many prestigious institutions worldwide, including the Art Gallery of New South Wales, Australia; Asian Art Museum, San Francisco; Blanton Museum of Art, The University of Texas, Austin; Brooklyn Museum, New York; DESTE Foundation for Contemporary Arts, Athens; Hammer Museum, Los Angeles; Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Washington D.C.; Linda Pace Foundation, San Antonio; MAXXI | Museo nazionale delle arti del XXI secolo, Rome; The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York; Museum of Fine Arts, Boston; Museum of Contemporary Art, Tokyo; Museum of Fine Arts, Houston; Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles; Museum of Modern Art, New York; National Portrait Gallery, Washington, D.C.; Philadelphia Museum of Art; Rhode Island School of Design Museum, Providence; Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York; Royal Ontario Museum, Toronto; San Francisco Museum of Modern Art; and the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, amongst others. In 2017, Sikander’s first major public art commission, a spectacular sixty-six-foot mosaic and a twenty-five-foot luminous multilayered glass painting, was installed in the Economics Department and Louis A. Simpson International Building at Princeton University. In the same year, MoMA Publications released a children’s book about Sikander entitled, Shahzia Sikander: My Life as an Artist.
Sikander lives and works in New York City.
The Art of Independence: Visions of the Future in India and Pakistan
A conference held at at the Ashmolean Museum on October 12, 2017 and the Courtauld Institute of Art on October 13, 2017, convened by Faisal Devji and Mallica Kumbera Landrus (University of Oxford) with Deborah Swallow and Zehra Jumabhoy (The Courtauld Institute of Art, London). The conference was co-organised by the Ashmolean Museum, the Courtauld Institute of Art—Sackler Research Forum, the Oxford Centre for Global History and the Asian Studies Centre of St Antony’s College, and co-funded by the Oxford India Centre for Sustainable Development of Somerville College, the John Fell Fund, the Radhakrishnan Fund, the University Engagement Programme (funded by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation), and the Oxford Research Centre in the Humanities.
Day 2, Futures Lost and Found: Citizenship and Contemporary Art (The Courtauld Institute of Art, London) Shahzia Sikander in conversation with Faisal Devji
Shahzia Sikander: Disruption as Rapture, Philadelphia Museum of Art, June 15, 2017
Drawing in Glass: Shahzia Sikander at Princeton University, Princeton University Art Museum, May 22, 2017
MAXXI Museum, Shahzia Sikander: Ecstasy As Sublime, Heart As Vector, July 12, 2016
Shahzia Sikander on Persian Miniature Painting, The Artist Project, Metropolitan Museum of Art, September 15, 2015
Shahzia Sikander at Sharjah Biennial 11, Artist to Artist, Art 21, October 11, 2013
SHORT: Shahzia Sikander: "The Last Post", Art 21 "Exclusive", January 25, 2013
Shahzia Sikander at the 13th Istanbul Biennial, Artist to Artist, Art 21, October 25, 2013