Raqib Shaw: Ballads of East and West

Nov. 16, 2024–March 3, 2025 | Raqib Shaw: Ballads of East and West is an invitation to see the world as Raqib Shaw sees it. The London-based artist, known for his opulent and fantastical works, blends Eastern and Western influences to create mesmerizing paintings that merge fable, history, and autobiography.

On view in the Huntington Art Gallery among the masterpieces in its historical art collection, seven works by Shaw bring the viewer into a lush fantasy world of landscapes and imagined interior spaces deeply influenced by and often directly responding to world-renowned Old Master artworks. Steeped in South Asian aesthetics, his work pays homage to the grand gestures and epic storytelling seen throughout Renaissance, Baroque, and Rococo Europe. Shaw’s intricately detailed paintings incorporate ornamental elements from Japanese prints and kimonos, Persian miniatures, and Indian textiles. He frequently incorporates self-portraiture, landscapes in peril, historic painting references, or moments from his own life into his work. His painting surface is luscious, glossy, and rendered in infinite colors and shades with a precise technique of enamel paint applied with porcupine quills to birch wood panels.

Born in Calcutta (now Kolkata), India, in 1974, Shaw spent most of his childhood in Kashmir, which he remembers as a paradise on earth encircled by Himalayan mountains. He left as a teenager when the region erupted in sectarian conflict. References to the beauty and trauma of his childhood appear throughout his work. He moved to London in 1998 to study art after becoming fascinated by Old Masters' paintings at the National Gallery.

An enamel artwork featuring a person and a dog looking at a glowing square on an ornate carpet.

Raqib Shaw, Ode to the Country without a Post Office, 2019-20. Acrylic liner and enamel on Birch wood, 31 4/8 x 33 4/8 in. | © Raqib Shaw. Private Collection. Photo © Raqib Shaw and (White Cube) Theo Christelis.

Raqib Shaw: Ballads of East and West is a nationally touring exhibition organized by the Frist Art Museum, Nashville, and the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, Boston. It was first presented at the Frist Museum from Sept. 15 through Dec. 31, 2023, followed by presentations at the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum from Feb. 15 through May 12, 2024; The Museum of Fine Arts in Houston, Texas from June 9 through Sept. 2, 2024; and The Huntington from Nov. 15, 2024, through March 20, 2025.

Raqib Shaw: Ballads of East and West is organized by the Frist Art Museum, Nashville, and the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, Boston with guest curator Zehra Jumabhoy.

Generous support for this exhibition is provided by Dorian Huntington Davis. Additional support is provided by the Cassat Art Endowment, the Douglas and Eunice Erb Goodan Endowment, the Pasadena Art Alliance, and the Philip and Muriel Berman Foundation.

Essay and catalogue entries by Zehra Jumabhoy with foreword by Seth Feman, CEO and Executive Director, Frist Art Museum and Peggy Fogelman, Norma Jean Calderwood Director, Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum.