db Magazine July 31, 2023

Idris Khan: layered with meaning

Celebrating Deutsche Bank’s 20 years as Global Lead Partner of Frieze art fairs with a series of 20 articles on 20 featured artists.


Idris Khan was born in Walsall, near Birmingham, in 1978, the son of a Welsh nurse and a surgeon of Pakistani origin. His work draws inspiration from literature, history, art, music, and religion, creating layered works with images, text, calligraphy, and musical scores that condense form and colour to create a ghost of the image or meditative abstractions. 

In his artistic practice, Khan combines the history of painting in post-war modernism, the notions of Minimal and Conceptual Art, and the influences of Islamic and Far Eastern spirituality. This is evident in his Koran paintings, his Sufi-inspired philosophical-mystical stamp paintings, and his ongoing exploration of calligraphy and meditative repetition. 

His photographic and video works, sculptures, and works on paper and glass reflect on transience, memory, philosophical, and theoretical ideas and often have a social or political background, dealing with migration, cultural identity, trauma, and loss.

Idris Khan and Deutsche Bank

Khan is represented in the Deutsche Bank Collection with numerous important works. These include a large site-specific work in the entrance of Deutsche Bank's Birmingham office and a commissioned work for the lobby area of the bank's Americas' headquarters at Columbus Circle, New York. In 2021, his work was presented in the Deutsche Bank Wealth Management Lounge at Frieze London. The previous year, he was the first artist to design a unique facemask in support of the Frieze x Deutsche Bank Emerging Curators Fellowship which encourages diversity in museums and galleries.


Idris Khan, "The Four Seasons", 2021, Oil and water-based inks on paper and collage mounted onto dibond © Idris Khan.

About this article series

This article forms part of a special series celebrating Deutsche Bank’s 20 years as Global Lead Partner of Frieze art fairs, taking a closer look at one of 20 artists we have collaborated with and whose work features in the Deutsche Bank Collection. 

Deutsche Bank's commitment to art and culture

Deutsche Bank is the Global Lead Partner for Frieze art fairs, with 2023 marking the 20th year of the partnership. As part of its Art & Culture commitment, Deutsche Bank has supported and collected the work of cutting-edge, international artists for more than 40 years. A global leader in corporate art programmes, the bank also runs an Artist of the Year programme, as well as its own cultural centre in Berlin, the PalaisPopulaire. All initiatives are based on the strong belief that engagement with art has a positive impact, not only on clients and staff but also on the communities in which the bank operates. Thus further collaborations such as the Deutsche Bank Frieze Los Angeles Film Award in the United States, The Art of Conversation in Italy, the Frieze x Deutsche Bank Emerging Curators Fellowship in the United Kingdom, and the digital platform Art:LIVE, create access to contemporary art for people all around the world. Discover more here

Please find more information on Deutsche Bank’s art programme at db.com/art and follow us on Instagram @deutschebankart 

Main image: Portrait Idris Khan, 2022, Idris Khan.

Developed by 
Deutsche Bank Art & Culture


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