Lot 72
  • 72

SHAHZIA SIKANDER | Untitled (Baraat)

40,000 - 60,000 USD
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  • Shahzia Sikander
  • Untitled (Baraat)
  • Signed in Urdu and dated ‘92’ lower left
  • Wash, ink and pencil on wasli paper with a textured border
  • 11⅝ x 25⅞ in. (29.7 x 66 cm.)
  • Executed in 1992


Acquired directly from the artist in the 1990s


There is minor rubbing in the work: Panel 1: along the left edge; Panel 2: top right corner; Panel 3: along the lower edge and upper right quadrant. There is a very minor spot of wear to the paper on the extreme top left corner. This work is in overall very good condition as viewed and is in a temporary frame. It has not been inspected outside its frame. Colors are lighter in reality.
In response to your inquiry, we are pleased to provide you with a general report of the condition of the property described above. Since we are not professional conservators or restorers, we urge you to consult with a restorer or conservator of your choice who will be better able to provide a detailed, professional report. Prospective buyers should inspect each lot to satisfy themselves as to condition and must understand that any statement made by Sotheby's is merely a subjective qualified opinion.

Catalogue Note

This triptych by Shahzia Sikander was painted in 1992, shortly after the artist completed her Bachelor of Fine Arts degree at the National College of Arts, Lahore (1991). Sikander began producing miniature paintings in the mid-1980s, embracing the dormant art form with the intention of creating something modern in spirit, but using techniques which had been long-forsaken by the modern art establishment. Under the British Raj, the miniature tradition had been relegated to the domain of craft and was further dismissed by Modernists for its frequently commemorative or courtly function. Sikander herself notes that ‘the medium was seen as fundamentally derivative and clichéd, incapable of intellectual rigor. It represented the “other” because it was regarded and insignificant dismissed for its inability to be avant-garde, enslaved by its association with the notion of excessive craft and no critique.’ (S. Sikander in ‘Time as Nemesis to Authority’, ed. C. Brandon, Apparatus of Power, Asia Society Hong Kong Center, Hong Kong, 2016, p. 273) The current lot is a tripartite depiction of a wedding procession or baraat, done in the Mughal nim-qalam technique of painting. Nim-qalam, meaning “half-pen”, describes a way of working which uses ink outlines and subtle washes of color to create a varied tonality. As seen here, certain parts across all three frames are singled out and depicted in this way, including the bride, the groom, the saddle-clothes and architectural features. Gradations of black and grey sweep over the hills in the background and cling to the folds of sarees, while the paler shade of paper-white is reserved for the majority of human and animal characters in the wedding party.

The artist uses the three-pane structure as a narrative device. There appears to be a development from left to right across the triptych; an impression given by certain repeated features which continue along the same axes. The horizon remains distant, hills follow the same undulations, and the diamond-patterned trim to the cloth partition is drawn across all three scenes. At first glance, the viewer sees the three windows in sequence. However, upon closer inspection, these moments do not tessellate. A female figure in one pane becomes male in the next, a saree changes color, characters disappear. This intentional quirk plays with perspective and narrative expectations to create rifts, and to highlight the possibility of spatial and temporal experimentation within the miniature format.

Thus far in her career, Sikander has revived the miniature style, changing it into a form of artistic expression that has the capacity to be fragmentary, playful, and commensurate with the language of contemporary art.

This seminal triptych serves as one of the earliest examples of Sikander’s artistry, which has since developed into animation, film and large scale formats.