Shahzia Sikander is widely celebrated for subverting Central and South-Asian manuscript painting traditions and launching the form known today as neo-miniature. Born in Lahore, Pakistan, Sikander earned a B.F.A. in 1991 from the National College of Arts (NCA) in Lahore. Sikander’s breakthrough work, The Scroll, 1989–90, received national critical acclaim in Pakistan and brought international recognition to this medium within contemporary art practices in the 1990s. Sikander received her M.F.A. at the Rhode Island School of Design in 1995. Over the subsequent twenty-plus years, Sikander’s practice - which has expanded to include paintings, media work, and most recently, sculpture, has been pivotal in showcasing the art of the South Asian diaspora as a contemporary American tradition.
Sikander’s Solo exhibitions include 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 MAXXI National Museum of 21st Century Art in Rome; the Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao, Spain; the Museum of Contemporary Art in Sydney; the Hirshhorn Museum in Washington, D.C.; and the Whitney Museum of American Art, among many others. Sikander has also been featured in group exhibitions at international venues, including the Sharjah Biennial 11; the 8th and 13th Istanbul Biennials; the National Portrait Gallery in Washington DC; the Museum of Modern Art in New York; the Museum of Contemporary Art in Tokyo; the 54th Venice Biennale in Italy; and the Whitney Biennale in 1997, among others. Sikander has been the recipient of many notable awards, including most recently the Pollock Prize for Creativity in 2023, the Fukuoka Arts and Culture Prize in 2022, 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. Sikander’s work is in the collections of all major national and international museums, and permanent site-specific public artworks include the University of Houston, Princeton University, the Cincinnati Art Museum and Johns Hopkins University. Sikander serves on the boards of Art21, the Rhode Island School of Design, and the Institute of Fine Arts, New York University, and is a member of the Asian American Arts Alliance’s artist council. In conjunction with her traveling exhibition, an extensive monograph examining Sikander’s work entitled Extraordinary Realities was published in 2021 by Hirmer Publishers and The University of Chicago Press.
Sikander's major new outdoor project, an 8-foot bronze female sculpture, is currently on the roof of the Appellate Courthouse in Manhattan. An accompanying 18-foot female sculpture was exhibited in Madison Square Park in 2023 and will travel to the University of Houston in 2024. Every midnight in September 2023, Sikander’s animation, Reckoning, unfolds across the screens of Times Square. Sikander’s forthcoming project with the Moynihan Train Hall Public Art Program will see her animation Singing Suns displayed across screens in Moynihan Train Hall from November 2023 to January 2024. A survey exhibition of Sikander’s work will be organized in 2024 by the Cleveland Museum of Art and Cincinnati Art Museum.
For over 30 years, Sikander has engaged with students across various different countries through lecturing and interdisciplinary teaching practices. Most recently in January of 2023, Sikander was an adjunct professor for Columbia’s Institute for Comparative Literature and Society in a seminar that developed approaches to the manuscript tradition today through new practices of experiment and innovation. Sikander’s seminar was situated with reference to the infrastructural contexts of training and apprenticeship through which South Asian art and aesthetics has typically approached the study of this form, and through a feminist lens, critically investigated art making as embodied labor, questions about the archive and its availability for creative repurposing, and the relationship between the artwork and museum. Sikander is the current Alan Kanzer Artist-in-Residence at Columbia's Zuckerman Institute of Mind, Brain and Behaviour, enabling visual artists opportunities to collaborate with scientists studying the brain, the senses, perception, learning and memory, and promoting engagement across the Institute and the surrounding community.
Sikander currently lives and works in New York.
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