"Witness" (2023) by Shahzia Sikander (photo: Chris Roque)
"Witness" (2023) by Shahzia Sikander (photo: Chris Roque)

Shahzia Sikander erects figures of female power in Madison Square Park

Pace Prints congratulates Shahzia Sikander on her major new project Havah…to breathe, air, life, in Madison Square Park and the nearby Courthouse of the Appellate Division, First Department of the Supreme Court of the State of New York. The five-month exhibition marks the first collaboration between the Madison Square Park Conservancy and courthouse.

Sikander is renowned for creating work that transforms and updates the tradition of Indo-Persian miniature painting. This commission, her first major outdoor work, expands her practice into civic space. “Havah” means “air” or “atmosphere” in Urdu, and “Eve” in Arabic, Hebrew, and other languages. A towering skirted female figure, titled Witness (2023), is part of the commissioned work. The sculpture, a video animation, and an augmented reality (AR) experience are on view at Madison Square Park; a second sculpture, NOW (2023), also an allegorical figure, is installed on the courthouse rooftop on Madison Avenue and 25th Street and can be viewed from street level.

By opening the Snapchat app on their device, visitors scan a Snapcode to unlock Apparition (2023), an augmented reality (AR) experience that features a display of colorful particles and ghostlike images of the courthouse figure. Nearby on an adjacent lawn, Sikander’s video animation, Reckoning (2020), includes figures at once in accord and in conflict within a flowering, nurturing landscape.

Sikander has collaborated with Pace Prints on a 2016 suite of etchings Portrait of the Artist, as well as a 2022 benefit print to support the Rhode Island School of Design's Student Opportunity Fund. Hailed as “luminous,” the powerful female figures depicted in these monumental works connect to the central figure represented in Sikander’s print Pleasure Pillars. 

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