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b. 1978, United Kingdom

Idris Khan Biography

British artist Idris Khan OBE is known for his multi-layered photographs, paintings, and sculptures that take on a variety of source material, ranging from musical scores to theological texts.

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Khan was born in 1978 in Birmingham, England. In 2000, he received a BA in Photography from the University of Derby. He went on to receive his MFA with a Distinction in Research from the Royal College of Art, London in 2004.

Khan was appointed as an Officer of the Order of the British Empire for his contributions in the art field in 2017. In the same year, he was awarded the American Architecture Prize for his design of Abu Dhabi's Wahat Al Karama, a monument at the centre of a new memorial park to commemorate soldiers of the United Arab Emirates. In 2018, he was commissioned by the British Museum for their first site-specific artwork entitled 21 Stones.

Idris Khan Artworks

Through a variety of media such as sculpture, painting, and photography, Idris Khan's work explores the layering of methods, experience and meaning. Drawing from a variety of source material ranging from art and music to theology and philosophy, Kahn creates new forms and concepts through superimposition and augmentation.

While the artist sees his practice as been situated in the medium of painting, he often uses photomechanical techniques of reproduction. He often scans and photographs his source material and meticulously manipulates their qualities to achieve a certain intensity, sometimes creating ethereal C-prints in the process.

In the past, he has photographed or scanned secondary source material to create works such as every... page of the Quran (2004), Struggling to Hear.... After Ludwig van Beethoven Sonatas (2005), and every... William Turner postcard from Tate Britain (2004). The source material is as reflected in the title of these works.


Khan has also branched into sculpture, sometimes sandblasting texts, prayers, and scores onto steel plates and slabs to interrogate how cultural and historical material can be joined together through objects.

His honeycomb and carbon sculpture Cell (2017) takes inspiration from Saydnaya, Syria's most brutal prison. This towering four-metre tall sculpture reflects on solitary confinement and the spaces that inmates occupy. Composed of 15 columns, Khan's sculpture looks almost impenetrable, but upon closer inspection, the viewer catches a glimmer of hope as light is allowed to pass through its cracks.

Public commissions

In 2016, Khan designed the 42,000 m2 memorial sculpture at Abu Dhabi's most prominent landmark, Wahat Al Karama. This massive sculpture, designed to reference unity and honour soldiers of the UAE, is composed of 20,000 cubic meters of concrete, over 5,000 tonnes of steel, and over 120km of cables. It contains seven aluminum-encased steel tablets etched with poetry written by emirs of the country.

In 2019, Khan completed a public sculpture project in London by St. George City Ltd in collaboration with London Borough of Southwark. The eight-metre aluminium sculpture, 65,0000 Photographs, is composed of stacks of metal sheets in the same size as photographic prints increasing in size.


Idris Khan has held solo exhibitions and participated in group exhibitions at important art institutions, including at the British Museum, London; K20, Düsseldorf; Kunsthaus Murz, Austria; and The Whitworth Art Gallery, Manchester.


Kahn's work has been collected by major institutions such as LACMA, Los Angeles; Saatchi Gallery, London; Solomon Guggenheim Museum, New York; and Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney.

Arianna Mercado | Ocula | 2021

Idris Khan Featured Artworks

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Rooms Are Never Finished by Idris Khan contemporary artwork painting
Idris KhanRooms Are Never Finished, 2015Ink on white gesso and aluminium
233.7 x 229.9 cm
Sean Kelly Contact Gallery
The Rhythms of life, interrupted by Idris Khan contemporary artwork painting
Idris KhanThe Rhythms of life, interrupted, 2021Oil based ink on gesso, on aluminium
141 x 130 cm
Victoria Miro Enquire
A Sense of Light by Idris Khan contemporary artwork painting
Idris KhanA Sense of Light, 2021Oil based ink on gesso and aluminium panel
132.2 x 162.2 x 5 cm
Galerie Thomas Schulte Contact Gallery
The World of Perception by Idris Khan contemporary artwork print
Idris KhanThe World of Perception, 2010Chromogenic print
228.3 x 177.5 cm
Fraenkel Gallery Contact Gallery
Time Signature by Idris Khan contemporary artwork painting
Idris KhanTime Signature, 2020Oil based ink on gesso and aluminium panel
252 x 175 x 2.5 cm
Sean Kelly Contact Gallery
My Mother by Idris Khan contemporary artwork sculpture
Idris KhanMy Mother, 2019Jesmonite, pigment, fixings
21 x 10 x 8 inches
Victoria Miro Enquire
A Field of Dust by Idris Khan contemporary artwork mixed media
Idris KhanA Field of Dust, 2015Digital bromide mounted on rag board and aluminium
50.8 x 61 cm
Victoria Miro Enquire
Disappearing Line by Idris Khan contemporary artwork mixed media
Idris KhanDisappearing Line, 2015Silver Gelatin Print mounted on rag board and aluminum
59 x 69.1 x 5.1 cm
Victoria Miro Enquire

Idris Khan Recent Exhibitions

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Idris Khan Represented By

Sean Kelly contemporary art gallery in New York, USA Sean Kelly New York, Taipei
Victoria Miro contemporary art gallery in Wharf Road, London, United Kingdom Victoria Miro London, New York, Venice

Idris Khan In Ocula Magazine

Idris Khan In Related Press

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Idris Khan In Video & Audio

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