Tags for: Shahzia Sikander: Collective Behavior
  • Special Exhibition
  • Featured

Shahzia Sikander: Collective Behavior

Friday, February 14–Sunday, June 8, 2025
Location:  010 Focus Gallery
Julia and Larry Pollock Focus Gallery
Free; no ticket required

About The Exhibition

Shahzia Sikander: Collective Behavior premiered at the Palazzo Soranzo van Axel in Venice where it is on view April 20–October 20, 2024. Co-organized by the Cleveland Museum of Art and the Cincinnati Art Museum, Collective Behavior is a Collateral Event of the 60th International Art Exhibition—La Biennale di Venezia. This is the most comprehensive presentation of the artist’s work to date, bringing together nearly 40 pieces made over the past 35 years, including new site-specific drawings and glass works created for the exhibition. After Venice, complementary iterations of Collective Behavior travel to the Cleveland Museum of Art and the Cincinnati Art Museum.

For more than three decades, Shahzia Sikander (born 1969, Pakistan) has been animating South Asian visual histories through a contemporary perspective. Her work reimagines the past for our present moment, proposing new narratives that cross time and place. Working in a variety of mediums—paintings, drawings, prints, digital animations, mosaics, sculpture, and glass—Sikander considers Western relations with the global south and the wider Islamic world, often through the lens of gender and body politics. Her work is rooted in a lexicon of recurring motifs that makes visible marginalized subjects. At times turning the lens inward, Sikander reflects on her own experience as an immigrant and diasporic artist working in the United States. 

In Venice, Collective Behavior reveals the evolution of Sikander’s practice since The Scroll, including new site-specific works that respond to the architecture and history of the Palazzo Soranzo Van Axel, the city of Venice, and its global impact on trade and artistic exchange. Rather than proceeding chronologically, this exhibition follows Sikander’s primary ideas and inquiries as they have taken form throughout her work, gaining power over time.

In Cleveland, the CMA presents Sikander’s art in relation to South Asian objects from the museum’s collection that have inspired her. This exhibition offers a narrative that the CMA is uniquely suited to share: it carries forward in time the rich histories that are encompassed in the museum’s renowned South Asian collection. Simultaneously, it situates contemporary artistic practice in relation to the global history that precedes it. The Cincinnati Art Museum concurrently offers a comprehensive presentation of the artist’s career to date. 

Unfolding across continents, these three exhibitions—in Venice, Cleveland, and Cincinnati—offer multiple vantages for engaging with Sikander’s remarkable career. Shahzia Sikander: Collective Behavior is accompanied by a vividly illustrated catalogue featuring scholarly and poetic responses to the artist’s work.

Sikander’s artistic training began in Lahore, Pakistan, where she studied historic manuscript painting at the National College of the Arts (NCA). Following her acclaimed undergraduate thesis project, The Scroll (1989–90), she became the first woman to teach in the NCA’s prestigious miniature painting department. In 1993, Sikander moved to Providence, Rhode Island, to pursue graduate studies at the Rhode Island School of Design (RISD). After completing her MFA, Sikander moved to Houston, Texas, to participate in the Core Residency Program at the Museum of Fine Arts Houston’s Glassell School of Art from 1995 to 1997. She then moved to New York City, her primary base to date.


This exhibition is made possible by the Junaid Family Foundation.

This exhibition is supported by an indemnity from the Federal Council on the Arts and the Humanities.

All exhibitions at the Cleveland Museum of Art are underwritten by the CMA Fund for Exhibitions. Principal annual support is provided by Michael Frank and the late Pat Snyder, the Kelvin and Eleanor Smith Foundation, the John and Jeanette Walton Exhibition Fund, and Margaret and Loyal Wilson. Generous annual support is provided by two anonymous supporters, Gini and Randy Barbato, the late Dick Blum and Harriet Warm, Gary and Katy Brahler, Cynthia and Dale Brogan, Dr. Ben and Julia Brouhard, Brenda and Marshall Brown, Joseph and Susan Corsaro, Richard and Dian Disantis, the Jeffery Wallace Ellis Trust in memory of Lloyd H. Ellis Jr., Leigh and Andy Fabens, the Frankino-Dodero Family Fund for Exhibitions Endowment, Florence Kahane Goodman, Janice Hammond and Edward Hemmelgarn, Marta Jack and the late Donald M. Jack Jr., Carl T. Jagatich, Eva and Rudolf Linnebach, William S. and Margaret F. Lipscomb, Bill and Joyce Litzler, the Roy Minoff Family Fund, Lu Anne and the late Carl Morrison, Jeffrey Mostade and Eric Nilson and Varun Shetty, Tim O’Brien and Breck Platner, William J. and Katherine T. O’Neill, Michael and Cindy Resch, William Roj and Mary Lynn Durham, Betty T. and David M. Schneider, Paula and Eugene Stevens, the Womens Council of the Cleveland Museum of Art, and Claudia Woods and David Osage.