Image © Ricardo Barros, courtesy Princeton Alumni Weekly.
Image © Ricardo Barros, courtesy Princeton Alumni Weekly.

Shahzia Sikander's Monumental Glass Mosaic for Princeton University

Princeton University commissioned esteemed artist and Pace Prints collaborator Shahazia Sikander for two permanent, site-specific works: a glass painting for 20 Washington Road, the new Economics building, and a monumental glass mosaic for the atrium of its newly renovated Louis A. Simpson International Building. From Lisa Arcomano, Manager of Campus Collections at Princeton:

A spectacular, sprawling sixty-six-foot mosaic and a twenty-five-foot luminous multilayered glass painting by the acclaimed Pakistani-American artist Shahzia Sikander will join the Museum’s collections this fall. The two site-specific works will be permanently installed at the newly renovated 20 Washington Road, the former Frick Chemistry Laboratory and now the new home to the Economics Department and the Louis A. Simpson International Building at Princeton. Overlooking the building’s large open-lit common areas—the glass painting in the Economics Forum and the mosaic in the International Atrium—the works are Sikander’s first foray into glass.

Multivalent and interdisciplinary, Sikander’s work at Princeton will offer a lens to a practice built on critical thinking, creativity, and an inventive collabo-ration between form and meaning. “I have built my entire understanding of being an artist on a narrative that continues to investigate discourse styles, verbal and poetic language, migration patterns, cultural quarantine, interaction, and ultimately human identity,” states the artist.

One of Sikander’s points of departure for the commission was an encounter with the Princeton University Library’s late sixteenth-century Peck Shahnama during the Museum’s exhibition Princeton’s Great Persian Book of Kings. The manuscript is one of the finest intact Shahnamas in the United States and an archetype of the epic poem by the tenth-century Persian poet Firdausi. History and storytelling feature prominently in Sikander’s work, in which she digs into literary and visual canons across the proverbial East-West divide. Her diverse practice investigates the blurred boundaries between fiction and nonfiction, storytelling and history writing, calling into question issues around redaction, perception of authority, and independence.