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b. 1978

Idris Khan - Artists - Sean Kelly Gallery

Photo: Vikram Kushwah, 2023.

London-based artist Idris Khan was born in the UK in 1978. Since completing his Master’s Degree with a Distinction in Research at the Royal College of Art in London in 2004, he has received international acclaim for his minimal, yet emotionally charged photographs, videos and sculptures and is without question one of the most exciting British artists of his generation.

Drawing on diverse cultural sources including literature, history, art, music and religion, Khan has developed a unique narrative involving densely layered imagery that inhabits the space between abstraction and figuration and speaks to the themes of history, cumulative experience and the metaphysical collapse of time into single moments. 

Whilst Khan’s mindset is more painterly than photographic, he often employs the tools of photomechanical reproduction to create his work. Photographing or scanning from secondary source material–sheet music, pages from the Qur’an, reproductions of late Caravaggio paintings–he then builds up the layers of scans digitally, which allows him to meticulously control minute variances in contrast, brightness and opacity. The resultant images are often large-scale C-prints with surfaces that have a remarkable optical intensity.

Khan’s oeuvre has expanded to include sculpture and painting. For sculptural works, using materials such as steel plates, cubes and horizontal stone slabs, Khan sandblasts the surface with templates of musical scores or prayers, continuing his investigation into the ways in which cultural, visual, cinematic and temporal memories coalesce into a dense, synesthetic whole.

In 2012, Khan was commissioned by the British Museum in London to create a new wall drawing for the exhibition, Hajj: Journey to the Heart of Islam. In addition to the wall drawing, Khan’s stunning floor sculpture, Seven Times, was installed in the museum’s majestic Great Court. In March of the same year, The New York Times Magazine commissioned Khan to create a new body of work that was published in their London issue.

In 2017, Khan was awarded the American Architecture Prize for his design of Abu Dhabi’s Wahat Al Karama. Commissioned for the United Arab Emirates in, the memorial park pays tribute to members of the UAE who lost their lives in military service was unveiled in November 2016. In 2018, Idris Khan was commissioned to create the British Museum’s first site-specific artworks as part of the new Albukhary Foundation Gallery of the Islamic World. He was also commissioned by The New York Times Magazine to create the cover for their Winter Olympics issue. In this series Khan utilizes his unique approach to creating densely layered imagery that inhabits the space between abstraction and figuration, collapsing time and cumulative experience into a single moment.

In 2024, Idris Khan had his first solo American museum exhibition at the Milwaukee Art Museum. Khan has also had solo exhibitions at international venues including The New Art Gallery Walsall, Walsall, England; Whitworth Gallery, University of Manchester, England; the Museum of Contemporary Canadian Art, Toronto, Canada; K20, Dusseldorf, Germany; and Gothenburg Konsthall, Sweden. He has also been featured in numerous group exhibitions at venues including the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York; Tate Britain, London, England; Hayward Gallery, London, England; The Saatchi Gallery, London, England; Espace Culturel Louis Vuitton, Paris, France; Baibakov Art Projects, Moscow, Russia; the Institute of Contemporary Arts, London, England; the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art; and the Helsinki Kunsthalle, Finland. In 2017 Idris Khan was appointed an OBE for services to Art in the Queen’s Birthday 2017 Honors List.

His work is in the permanent collections of many institutions worldwide such as The Saatchi Collection, London, England; the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art; the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York; the Tel Aviv Museum of Art, Israel; the Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney, Australia; the Philadelphia Museum of Art; the de Young Museum, San Francisco; and the Centre Georges Pompidou, Paris, France.

Idris Khan lives and works in London, England.


Deutsche Bank
Idris Khan – The Seasons at Deutsche Bank, Columbus Circle, New York

IDRIS KHAN: Blue Rhythms, May 4 – June 22, 2019, Sean Kelly, New York

UAP Company: Artist Idris Khan

Hirshhorn Museum, Meet the Artist: Idris Khan, May 31, 2018


Idris Khan Combines the Poetic and the Political at Sean Kelly Gallery, Oct. 22, 2015

Blouin ArtInfo: In the Studio: Idris Khan "Beyond the Black", Sep. 19, 2013