Shahzia Sikander: Extraordinary Realities

June 21, 2021

The Morgan Library & Museum is presenting Shahzia Sikander: Extraordinary Realities. This exhibition is organized by the RISD Museum, in Providence, Rhode Island, where it will be on view through January 2022.
Born and raised in Lahore (b. 1969), acclaimed Pakistani American artist Shahzia Sikander is known for bringing Indo-Persian miniature painting traditions into dialogue with contemporary art practice. This exhibition includes nearly 60 works and traces the first fifteen years of her artistic career, from her formal training in miniature painting as a student at the National College of Arts in Lahore to her early years in the United States. In her work, she explores cultural identity, racial narratives, colonial and postcolonial histories, and addresses issues of gender and sexuality.

The exhibition begins with the works Sikander made while studying miniature painting when, working under the mentorship of Professor Bashir Ahmad, she created her first significant work, The Scroll (1989–1990), which was striking for the originality of its subject and execution. This work demonstrated the tradition’s potential for experimentation and relevance to contemporary art.

Upon moving to America, she took up new materials as she confronted the “cultural dislocation”. Her work during this period reflects a new openness in the United States toward artists working outside of commonly accepted models as well as a dramatic shift in the perception of Muslims following the events of 9/11.
The vocabulary of Sikander’s early work still permeates her oeuvre, and her subjects have become even more relevant to contemporary discourse.


Photo: Fragmented Disorder, 1996