One of the most influential artists working today, Pakistani-American Shahzia 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 from a feminist perspective. Sikander’s paintings, video animations, mosaics and sculpture explore gender roles and sexuality, cultural identity, racial narratives, and colonial and postcolonial histories through a blending of traditional motifs and contemporary imagery.
Born in Lahore, Pakistan, Sikander earned her BFA from Pakistan’s National College of Arts (NCA) in 1991. Her ground-breaking thesis work, entitled The Scroll (1989–1990), 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 MFA at the Rhode Island School of Design (RISD) 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. While drawing remains central to Sikander’s practice, her work has expanded to include videos, and, since 2015, painstakingly assembled glass mosaics. These works continue the rigorous attention to craft of Sikander’s miniatures while translating her recurring motifs into new mediums.
Sikander has been the recipient of many notable awards, including most recently the Fukuoka Arts and Culture Prize in 2022, as well as the Asia Society Award for Significant Contribution to Contemporary Art in 2015, a Medal of Art by the U.S. Department of State in 2012, and a MacArthur Fellowship in 2006. In 2021, in conjunction with her major traveling exhibition, an extensive monograph on the artist was published. Entitled Extraordinary Realities, the publication is an examination of Sikander’s work from 1987 to 2003.
Sikander's work has been exhibited and collected internationally, including solo exhibitions at the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston in Texas; the Morgan Library and Museum in New York; the RISD Museum in Providence, Rhode Island; Jesus College in Cambridge, United Kingdom; the Aga Khan Museum in Toronto, Canada; and the Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao, Spain. Sikander has also been featured in several group exhibitions at international venues, including the National Academy of Design in New York; the Smart Museum of Art in Chicago, Illinois; the Tahir Cultural Center in Cairo, Egypt; the Pera Art Museum in Istanbul, Turkey; the Asia Society in New York; the Cincinnati Art Museum in Ohio; the Smithsonian Museum, National Portrait Gallery in Washington, DC; and the Museum of Modern Art in New York; the Fukuoka Asian Art Museum in Japan; and the 54th Venice Biennale in Italy. Her work is in many major public collections including the Asian Art Museum, San Francisco, the Brooklyn Museum, the Deutsche Bank collection, Germany, the Hammer Museum, Los Angeles, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, the Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles, the Museum of Modern Art, New York, the Sharjah Art Foundation Collection, United Arab Emirates, and the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York.
Sikander currently lives and works in New York.
“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