Idris Khan

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Idris Khan

Self Portrait in the studio, 2017
Idris Khan

1 December 1978
EducationUniversity of Derby, RCA
Known forFine art, Photography, Painting, drawing, sculpture
AwardsAmerican Architecture Award

Idris Khan OBE (born 1978) is a British artist[1] based in London.[2]

Khan's work draws from a diverse range of cultural sources including literature, history, art, music, and religion. He creates densely layered imagery that is both abstract and figurative and addresses narratives of history, cumulative experience and the metaphysical collapse of time into single moments.

Early life and education[edit]

Khan is a Muslim by origin. His father is from Pakistan[3] and his English mother converted to Islam after meeting his father.

Khan graduated in photography from the University of Derby in 2001, he studied for an MA at the Royal College of Art in 2004.[4]


Khan's photographs or scans originate from secondary source material – for instance, every page of the Qur'an, every Beethoven sonata, every William Turner postcard from Tate Britain, or every Bernd and Hilla Becher spherical gasholder.[2][5] Khan's interest in Islam and layered imagery can be traced back to his upbringing: It was his father's idea that Khan – himself a non-practicing Muslim – photograph every page of the Qur'an.[6][7] His work and process have been described as "experiments in compressed memories"[8] and "all-encompassing composites."[9] As Khan describes: "It is a challenge to not define my work as a photograph but using the medium of photography to create something that exists on the surface of the paper and not to be transported back to an isolated moment in time."[9] He takes inspiration from Samuel Barber’s Adagio for Strings and Antonio Vivaldi's The Four Seasons and made a ballet with Wayne McGregor and Max Richter.[10]

Khan's visual layering also occurs in his videos, such as Last Three Piano Sonatas…after Franz Schubert, a three-channel video installation wherein he uses multiple camera angles to capture numerous performances of Schubert's last sonatas, composed on his deathbed.[11]

In 2012, Khan was commissioned by the British Museum in London to create a new wall drawing for the exhibition, Hajj: Journey to the Heart of Islam. In addition to the wall drawing, a sculpture was installed in the museum's Great Court.[12] Also in 2012, The New York Times Magazine commissioned Khan to create a new body of work that was published in their London issue,[13] focusing on iconic sites.[14]

In 2016, Khan was commissioned to build a 42,000 m2 (450,000 sq ft) memorial to the war dead of the United Arab Emirates. The sculpture is constructed from seven aluminium-encased steel tablets, cast with poems by emirs of the UAE.[15]


Khan was appointed Officer of the Order of the British Empire (OBE) in the 2017 Birthday Honours for services to art.[16]

Personal life[edit]

Khan works from a studio in Stoke Newington, London he shares with his wife, the British artist Annie Morris.[17] They have two children and a cockapoo called Pencil.[15]

Selected exhibitions[edit]


Khan's work is held in the following permanent collections:


  1. ^ O'Hagan, Sean (14 June 2015). "Gasworks wonders…". The Guardian. Retrieved 2 September 2016.
  2. ^ a b c Biography, Victoria Miro Gallery
  3. ^ "Idris Khan: Gof is Great". artnet. Retrieved 29 March 2013.
  4. ^ a b Archived 8 August 2016 at the Wayback Machine Idris Khan
  5. ^ Dan Hicks and Mary C. Beaudry 2006 Archived 8 July 2011 at the Wayback Machine. Introduction: the place of historical archaeology. In Dan Hicks and Mary C. Beaudry (eds) The Cambridge Companion to Historical Archaeology. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, pp. 8–9
  6. ^ "The Guardian, Between the lines, Geoff Dyer".
  7. ^ "Aesthetica, A Pilgrimage of Self-Discovery, Idris Khan: The Devil's Wall, Whitworth Art Gallery, Manchester, Carol Huston".
  8. ^ Sherwin, Skye (25 March 2010). "Artist of the week 80: Idris Khan". The Guardian. Retrieved 2 September 2016.
  9. ^ a b "AIdris Khan's multi-layered photos, Photo Slaves, Sep 28, 2009". Archived from the original on 4 July 2013.
  10. ^ Amadour (1 October 2022). "An Interview with Idris Khan". Riot Material. Retrieved 7 June 2023.
  11. ^ "Idris Khan: Last 3 Piano Sonatas . . . after Franz Schubert". Archived from the original on 2 February 2014.
  12. ^ "Hajj: Journey to the Heart of Islam at The British Museum".
  13. ^ "This Sunday: London in Pictures, The 6th Floor Blog, Kathy Ryan, March 3, 2012]". The New York Times. 3 March 2012.
  14. ^ "Pretty as a Thousand Postcards, The New York Times Magazine online, March 1, 2012]". 1 March 2012.
  15. ^ a b Rachel Spence (7 February 2020), Idris Khan on his spiritual heritage and the power of colour Financial Times.
  16. ^ "No. 61962". The London Gazette (Supplement). 17 June 2017. p. B12.
  17. ^ "Idris Khan on his politically infused Frieze show and how he 'fell into art'". ES Magazine, London Evening Standard. Retrieved 5 October 2017.
  18. ^ "Still Revolution: Suspended in Time". Museum of Contemporary Canadian Art. 28 April 2009. Retrieved 2 September 2016.
  19. ^ "Musée de l'Elysée: The Memory of the Future". 26 October 2021.
  20. ^ Saatchi Gallery Biography: Idris Khan
  21. ^ "Idris Khan, Homage to Bernd Becher". Guggenheim Museum. 2 February 2007. Retrieved 1 November 2017. Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York Purchased with funds contributed by the Photography Committee, 2007

External links[edit]