Baseera Khan Debuts Artwork Commissioned During MTV and Smithsonian Channel Television Docuseries, The Exhibit, May 4 at the Hirshhorn

Presentation Includes Artist Lecture and Conversation, May 25
May 1, 2023
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Promotional photo of artist Baseera Khan

Courtesy of Baseera Khan

The Smithsonian’s Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden announced today the exhibition of artist 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 6:30 p.m. in the museum’s Ring Auditorium. 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 Hirshhorn’s permanent collection, shared their art-making processes on camera and developed lasting camaraderie.” 

Khan’s artwork consists of a 3D-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 Smithsonian’s National Museum of Asian Art. For Khan, the Dakini is a woman entrusted to liberate other women. Khan incorporates locks of their own hair in this work and manipulated the figure, slicing through at the body’s chakras—the 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: Find 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 race, the pandemic and social media. Alongside lead judge 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 April 7 and the Smithsonian Network April 11. Of the three finalists—Kahn, Khan and Kambhu—the judges selected Khan’s “The Liberator” as the winning commission. The artwork will remain on view through July 16.

About the Artist 

Khan (b. 1980; Denton, Texas) is a New York-based performance, sculpture and installation artist whose work explores materials and their economies and the effects of these relationships on 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 in Colorado, New Orleans Museum of Art, Sculpture Center in New York and Wexner Center for the Arts in Columbus, Ohio. Khan’s performances have also premiered at the Brooklyn Museum and Whitney Museum of American Art. Their work is in the public collections of New York City’s Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, Whitney Museum and Brooklyn Museum; the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis; and the 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 programs on the art of our time—free to all. The museum is open daily (except Dec. 25), 10 a.m.–5:30 p.m. For more information, visit Follow the museum on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and YouTube.