Shahzia Sikander’s major new work Havah… to breathe, air, life, in Madison Square Park, New York, and the nearby courthouse marks the first collaboration between the Conservancy and courthouse—both located in the Flatiron District of New York.
Opening this winter in the park and at the Courthouse of the Appellate Division, First Department of the Supreme Court of the State of New York, the exhibition features two new large-scale sculptures—one within the park that can be transformed with Snap AR technology and another on the Courthouse rooftop, visible from the street and the first female figure to adorn one of its ten plinths. A video animation by Sikander will be on view in the park, visually intertwining the distinct elements. The exhibition is a culmination of Sikander’s exploration of female representation in monuments and marks her first major, site-specific outdoor exhibition in sculptural form. Havah…to breathe, air, life is co-commissioned by Madison Square Park Conservancy and Public Art of the University of Houston System (Public Art UHS). The exhibition will be on view in New York from January 17 through June 4, 2023, before traveling to Houston.
“Through luminous allegorical female figures, Shahzia’s project asks who is historically represented and who wields power in the justice system, both symbolically and actually,” said Brooke Kamin Rapaport, Deputy Director and Martin Friedman Chief Curator of Madison Square Park Conservancy. “Shahzia continues to innovate artistic forms, and Havah, meaning ‘air’ or ‘atmosphere’ in Urdu and ‘Eve’ in Arabic and Hebrew, is a transformative project. The work conceptually and physically unites the park and the courthouse through dialogue amongst monumental sculptures, video, and augmented reality.”
“With Havah…to breathe, air, life, Shahzia demonstrates how justice is conceptually and actively vibrant across cultures and genders,” said Dr. Maria C. Gaztambide, Executive Director and Chief Curator of Public Art UHS. “And yet, while the necessity of justice is universal, it is often blindly applied. Shahzia brings to the fore the imbalances of gender and race through this exceptional work. We are proud to join forces with Madison Square Park in bringing it to fruition, while amplifying its reach beyond New York City.”
“While our existing art is beautiful and meaningful, it has remained static,” said the Court’s Presiding Justice, Rolando T. Acosta. “Theories of justice have gradually expanded to include previously marginalized groups, and we want to invite voices from such groups into our courthouse to gather new perspectives on our system of justice.”