a woman with blonde hair wearing a black turtle neck and pants alongside her work of art, a red sculpture with long rectangular sheets in-between the sculpture's figurative body.

May 1, 2023

Baseera Khan Debuts Artwork Commissioned During MTV and Smithsonian Channel Television Docuseries, The Exhibit,  May 4 at the Hirshhorn Museum
Presentation Includes Artist Lecture and Conversation, May 25

The Smithsonian’s Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden announced today the exhibition of Baseera Khan’s sculpture, The Liberator from Bust of Canons (2022) supported with a lecture by, and conversation with, the artist, Thursday, May 25 at 6pm. Khan’s sculpture was awarded the final commission in the six-episode television series, The Exhibit: Finding the Next Great Artist, featured on MTV and the Smithsonian Channel, produced in collaboration with the Hirshhorn.

“Baseera Khan’s The Liberator poignantly depicts a human struggle that could not be more relevant today,” said Melissa Chiu, Hirshhorn director. “The perspectives of artists like Baseera Khan show in-person visitors and national television audiences why artists are fundamental to society. It was a privilege to engage with seven rising artists throughout The Exhibit as they responded to prompts related to the Hirshhorn’s permanent collection, shared their art-making processes on camera and developed lasting camaraderie.”

Khan’s artwork consists of a 3-D printed acrylic bust rendered after digitally manipulating a scan of their own body, created in response to Naro Dakini, an 18th-century sculpture of a Buddhist deity in the permanent collection of the National Museum of Asian Art. For Khan, the Dakini is a supreme being in female form entrusted to liberate women. Khan incorporates locks of their own hair in this work, and manipulated the figure, slicing through at the body’s chakras—traditional ayurvedic energy centers—to convey the physical, mental and spiritual difficulties that accompany liberation and feminine power. The Liberator touches on many themes present in Khan’s larger artistic practice, including the relationships between objects and their related economies, between desire and belonging, witnessing and surveillance, and larger connections between politics and culture.

The artist composed this work for the final episode of The Exhibit: Finding the Next Great Artist, which aired on MTV and the Smithsonian Channel this spring. Over the course of six weekly episodes, Khan and their cohort, Jamaal Barber (Atlanta), Frank Buffalo Hyde (Northfield, Minnesota), Misha Kahn (Brooklyn, New York), Clare Kambhu (Queens, New York), Jillian Mayer (Miami) and Jennifer Warren (Chicago) were tasked with creating original commissions in response to pressing topics of our time such as the pandemic and social media. Alongside lead judge Melissa Chiu and host MTV’s Dometi Pongo, guest judges represented the diversity of the artworld: artists Adam Pendleton and Abigail DeVille, artist and critic Kenny Schachter, sociologist Sarah Thornton, arts educator Samuel Hoi, digital museums strategist JiaJia Fei and Hirshhorn trustee and collector Keith Rivers.

The final episode of The Exhibit was filmed partly onsite at the Hirshhorn and aired on MTV on April 7 and the Smithsonian Network on April 11. Of the three finalists—Kahn, Khan and Kambhu—the judges endorsed Khan’s work, The Liberator as the winning commission. The artwork will remain on view at the Hirshhorn through July 16.

About the Artist
Baseera Khan
(b. 1980; Denton TX), is a New York-based performance, sculpture, and installation artist whose work explores materials and their economies, and the effects of these relationships upon labor, family structures, religion, and spiritual well-being. Khan was the subject of a solo exhibition at the Brooklyn Museum in 2021 and has presented work at other institutions across the country, including the Aspen Art Museum; New Orleans Museum of Art; Sculpture Center in New York; and Wexner Center for the Arts in Columbus, OH. Khan’s performances have also premiered at the Brooklyn Museum and Whitney Museum of American Art. Their work is in the public collections of the Solomon R. Guggenheim; Whitney Museum; Brooklyn Museum; Walker Art Center, Minneapolis, MI; and New Orleans Museum of Art.

About the Hirshhorn
The Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden is the national museum of modern and contemporary art and a leading voice for 21st-century art and culture. Part of the Smithsonian, the Hirshhorn is located prominently on the National Mall in Washington, D.C. Its holdings encompass one of the most important collections of postwar American and European art in the world. The Hirshhorn presents diverse exhibitions and offers an array of public programs on the art of our time—free to all. The Hirshhorn Museum is open Tuesday–Sunday, 10 a.m.–5:30 p.m. The outdoor Sculpture Garden is temporarily closed for revitalization. For more information, visit hirshhorn.si.edu. Follow the museum on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and YouTube.

Photo credits: L: Portrait of Baseera Khan. Courtesy of the artist. R: The artist pictured standing next to their sculpture, The Liberator, from Bust of Canons (2022) on the Hirshhorn plaza during the finale of The Exhibit: Finding the Next Great Artist. Courtesy of Paramount.

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