Fostering creative pursuit in neuroscience and the arts -

A collaboration between Columbia's Zuckerman Institute and School of the Arts, the Alan Kanzer Artist-in-Residence program enables visual artists opportunities to collaborate both formally and informally with scientists studying the brain, the senses, perception, learning and memory, and promotes engagement across the Institute and the surrounding community.

The 2023 Alan Kanzer Artist-in-Residence is painter Shahzia Sikander. In her role, Sikander will engage with artists and scientists in interdisciplinary pursuit to gain a deeper understanding of the mind and brain. She will work with a faculty host to define and achieve concrete outcomes, such as works of art that benefit her creative pursuit, Institute scientists and the community-at-large. By the end of the residency, Sikander, the scientists and members of the wider community will benefit from access to new knowledge and perspectives from these cross-disciplinary activities.  

About Shahzia Sikander  

Shahzia Sikander (b.1969) 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 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 Cincinatti 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 organised 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.

Shahzia Sikander's residency is hosted by Charles Zuker, PhD, professor of biochemistry and molecular biophysics and of neuroscience, principal investigator at Columbia's Zuckerman Institute and investigator at the Howard Hughes Medical Institute.

This program is made possible with the generous support of Alan Kanzer. Columbia University’s School of the Arts and Zuckerman Institute are grateful to Mr. Kanzer for his generosity and commitment to fostering interactions between the arts and neuroscience.

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