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b. 1969

Shahzia Sikander - Artists - Sean Kelly Gallery

Photo by Vincent Tullo

Pioneering Pakistani American, Shahzia Sikander, is one of the most influential artists working today. Sikander is widely celebrated for expanding and subverting pre-modern and classical Central and South-Asian miniature painting traditions and launching the form known today as neo-miniature. By bringing traditional and historical practice into dialogue with contemporary international art practices, Sikander’s multivalent and investigative work examines colonial archives to readdress orientalist narratives in western art history. Interrogating ideas of language, trade, empire, and migration through imperial and feminist perspectives Sikander’s paintings, video animations, mosaics and sculptures explore gender roles and sexuality, cultural identity, racial narratives, and colonial and postcolonial histories.

Sikander earned a B.F.A. in 1991 from the National College of Arts in Lahore, Pakistan. Her seminal thesis work, The Scroll (1989–1990), which initiated the start of the neo-miniature movement, garnered awards, exhibitions and press, and led to increased enrollment in the NCA’s miniature painting department. Subsequently, Sikander was appointed lecturer in miniature painting at the school. The artist moved to the United States to pursue an M.F.A. at the Rhode Island School of Design from 1993 to 1995; from 1995 to 1997, she participated in the Glassell School of Art’s CORE Program at The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston. A recipient of a MacArthur Fellowship (2006) and the State Department Medal of Arts (2012), Sikander’s innovative work has been exhibited and collected internationally.

Shahzia Sikander’s work was the subject of a traveling exhibition titled Shahzia Sikander: Extraordinary Realities. The exhibition opened at The Morgan Library, New York in June 2021 and traveled to the RISD Museum, Rhode Island in November 2021, and MFA Houston, Texas in March 2022. To commemorate these exhibitions, a major monograph was printed. Extraordinary Realities, is an exhaustive examination of Sikander’s work from 1987 to 2003, charting her early development as an artist in Lahore and the United States, and foregrounding her critical role in bringing miniature painting into dialogue with contemporary art. Edited by Jan Howard and Sadia Abbas, with contributions by Gayatri Gopinath, Faisal Devji, Kishwar Rizvi, Sadia Abbas, Jan Howard, Vasif Kortun, Dennis Congdon, Bashir Ahmed, Rick Lowe, and Julie Mehretu.

In April 2024, Collective Behavior, Shahzia Sikander's major survey opened at the Palazzo Soranzo Van Axel in Venice during the Biennale Arte 2024. A Collateral Event of the 60th International Art Exhibition – La Biennale di Venezia, Shahzia Sikander: Collective Behavior is the most comprehensive presentation of the artist’s work to date, together an exemplary selection of artwork from across the artist’s career, illustrating her distinctive iconography and continuous reinvention through the adoption of new mediums. Co-organized by the Cincinnati Art Museum and the Cleveland Museum of Art, Collective Behavior is on view in Venice from April 20 - October 20, 2024.

Sikander currently lives and works in New York. 


A profile of multimedia artist, Shahzia Sikander. Born in Lahore, Pakistan, Sikander moved to the United States in the 1990s. Over the subsequent years, her practice--which has expanded to include paintings, video installations, prints, and sculpture -- has been pivotal in showcasing the art of the South Asian diaspora as a contemporary American tradition.

Neil Koenig, former BBC Producer/Director and now ideaXme board advisor interviews artist Shahzia Sikander.

“Shahzia Sikander: Extraordinary Realities” | An Overview, The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, March 25, 2022

In Conversation: Shahzia Sikander NA and Chrissie Iles, National Academy of Design, February 24, 2022

Art+ | Mapping Queerness: Gender and Sexuality in South Asian Diasporic Art, Asian Society, February 23, 2022

PBS NewsHour, Sep 24, 2021.

Shahzia Sikander: Extraordinary Realities at the The Morgan Library & Museum

Shahzia Sikander: Unbound – Khilvat Series

Julie Mehretu and Shahzia Sikander In Conversation, Moderated by Gayatri Gopinath

In conversation: Shahzia Sikander and Glenn Lowry, June 24, 2021

In conversation: Shahzia Sikander and Jeffrey Grove, December 3, 2020

Breaking Binaries: Thinking About Art in the Covid Age - Shahzia Sikander and Vishakha Desai, Pera Müzsei

Shahzia Sikander in conversation with Sadia Abbas and Ayad Akhtar, September 30, 2020


On the occasion of her forthcoming exhibition, Weeping Willows, Liquid Tongues, which will take place at the gallery from November 5 through December 19, 2020, Shahzia Sikander will be in conversation with Sadia Abbas, writer and professor at Rutgers University-Newark and the Stavros Niarchos Center for Hellenic Studies at Simon Fraser University and Ayad Akhtar, Pulitzer Prize–winning playwright and author. They will discuss Sikander’s exhibition, Sadia Abbas' forthcoming publication, Shahzia Sikander: Extraordinary Realities and Ayad Akhtar’s much acclaimed new book Homeland Elegies.

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