Shahzia Sikander

Medal of Arts 2012

Shahzia Sikander was awarded the Medal of Art for her longtime contributions to Art in Embassies and cultural diplomacy on November 30, 2012.

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Shahzia Sikander’s work is an exquisite fusion of the traditional and the contemporary. In drawing, large-scale wall installations, animation, and video, she blends the tradition of miniature painting from her native Pakistan with the momentum of our globalized world. Sikander seeks to debunk clichés and address specific issues that may resonate with others, without suggesting answers. Rooted in observation, her art highlights the perceptual distances between those cultures designated as “East” and “West,” an area of poignancy and flux, to transform, cultivate, and present new and challenging associations. Her inspirations range from American Pop culture and war to supermodels and fairy tales appearing in her complex compositions. Sikander was commissioned to create I am also not my own enemy for the new US Consulate in Karachi, Pakistan. The painting is a hybrid of Pakistani and American cultures, and as one critic noted, is “essentially optimistic.” As part of its Exchange program, AIE has commissioned Sikander and Pakistani-American artist Hamra Abbas to collaborate on a site-specific project for the newlybuilt embassy in Islamabad. The work will be inspired by both artists’ intimate knowledge of Pakistan and cross-cultural experiences living and working in the United States. Born in Lahore, Pakistan, and now based in New York, Sikander holds a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree from the National College of Arts in Lahore, and a Master of Fine Arts degree from the Rhode Island School of Design. She has been exhibited at venues worldwide, including the Irish Museum of Modern Art in Dublin, Ireland, and at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Sydney, Australia, both 2007, as well as the 1997 Whitney Biennial, New York City. Her work can also be found in the collections of the Museum of Modern Art, the Whitney Museum of American Art, the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, all in New York City, and the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, California, among many others.