Saira Wasim

Saira Wasim is a noted contemporary artist from Lahore, Pakistan. She currently lives in US. Wasim uses the miniature style of painting, pioneered by the Persians but extensively used in South Asia, to make primarily political and cultural art. Wasim's art has been showcased in a number of premiere museums including the Whitney Museum of American Art, Brooklyn Museum of Art, and Asian Art Museum.


Ms. Wasim was born in Lahore, Pakistan. She belongs to the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community. Ms. Wasim has recently noted that persecution as an Ahmadiyya, was key in shaping her artistic perspectives. She has as of yet hesitated to address the topic in her art.

Ms. Wasim went to National College of Arts (in Lahore), from where she graduated with a Bachelors in Fine Arts with focus in miniature painting in 1999.

Ms. Wasim has held positions as a Visiting Artist at numerous important places including

* 2003 Whitney Museum of American Art, New York
* 2003 University of Maryland, College Park
* 2004 Smith College, Massachusetts
* 2005 Oklahoma State University

Artistic Approach

Saira Wasim draws Persian Miniatures to make devastating political commentary. Using traditional art to make modern commentary has proliferated within the Asian contemporary art world with artists like Chottu Lal, and Rageshwar Singh using the folk and religious traditions to make art.

Saira's pet political topics are commenting on the vast chasm that exists between the West and the Islamic world, repression within Islamic world, and the new Western cultural imperialism.

"My work uses the contemporary miniature form to explore social and political issues that divide the modern world. This series, Battle for Hearts and Minds, illustrates the clash between imperialism in the west and fundamentalism in the east, and questions the underlying motivations and uneasy alliances that keep this conflict going.

My work offers a voice against this ignorance and prejudice. It pleas for social justice, respect, and tolerance through the use of caricature and satire."

New York Times describes her work as "exquisite political cartoons that conjure William Hogarth and sometimes borrow directly from Norman Rockwell."


Solo Shows:

* 2005. ‘Political Carousel’ South Western University, Texas.

Two-Person Shows

* 2004 Transcendent contemplations, green cardamom @ Hosain, London with Hasnat Mahmood (Catalogue)
* 2003 Rohtas 2 Gallery, Lahore with Waseem Ahmad

Selected Group Exhibitions:

* ‘Double Conscience’ at Mattress Factory Museum Pitsburg – 2007
* ‘One way or another Asian American art now’ at Asia Society New York -2006 (catalogue)
* ‘Karkhana’: a Contemporary Collaboration at Asian Art Museum San Francisco, USA-2006
* American Effect, Whitney Museum of American Art, New York (catalogue) - 2003
* 125th Celebrations of National College of Arts and Millennium exhibition in National College of Arts Gallery, Pakistan- 2000

Anna Sloan, art historian, writes:

“Teeming with figures captured in mid-action, paintings by Saira Wasim present grand narratives. If it weren't for their petite size and two-dimensionality, they might be mistaken for Greek mythology, Baroque opera, epic film, or other monumental genres. Yet, these small paintings represent a singular creation, one that transcends any individual medium or genre. In Wasim's hands, the centuries-old format of the miniature painting has been transformed into a stage for human drama, a jam-packed cinematic space that approaches the grandeur of Cecil B. DeMille and the glamour of Bollywood. Like the protagonists of such grand genres, Wasim’s characters gesticulate, prance, shoot, and fly in majestic style. They laugh and boast in hideous fashion, and morph into grotesque hybrid creatures that hint at transcendent themes of good and evil.”



Miniature Painting: