Introduction – Khalil Chishtee is an artist based in New York, America. Chishtee is an internationally acclaimed artist whose practice questions the norms and notions of living life and cultures. He makes figural sculptures with plastic bags to address environmental and ecological issues. On the other hand, these hauntingly beautiful sculptures raise questions about humanity and love. In his engraving on the rustic irons, he discusses how humor lies in Arabic and Urdu poetry and sayings that people usually take too seriously. The artist firmly believes that art should be used as a platform to cultivate ideas and knowledge. In an exclusive interview this week, Chishtee shares his journey and experiences as an artist and discusses the current art scene in Pakistan.

About Art of Khalil Chishtee

About Art of Khalil Chishtee

Khalil Chishtee says about his works: “In art, one has to be the voice of one’s own time, not an echo of another era. We live in the age of plastic, and plastic bags are the most ordinary form of this material. It goes back to the Sufi approach of my upbringing, where worth does not depend on what you inherit but on who you are. Anything made out of bronze, wood, stone or painted on a canvas carries the appearance of being worth looking at because of its history, but if one can change the impact of that history, one is an artist.”

Born in Lahore, Pakistan, in 1964, Khalil Chishtee is a visual artist based in New York City. Chishtee holds an MA in studio arts from Sac State, Sacramento, CA. Before moving to the States, he taught at the National College of Arts, Lahore, Pakistan, for ten years. Besides exhibiting his work, Khalil has done public commissions in various cities of Pakistan. Now, he is involved in several art commissions in NYC by focusing on his “desi aesthetics.” intends his art for transformation rather than decoration, diversion, or indoctrination. In his view, art is meant to cultivate knowledge of how to be in the world for going through life. And it can be effective for developing a deeper understanding of your own experiences.

Who is Khalil Chishtee?

Khalil Chishtee was born in Lahore, Pakistan, Khalil Chishtee (1964) is a visual artist based in New York City. Chishtee holds an MA in studio arts from Sac State, Sacramento, CA. Before moving to the States, he taught at the National College of Arts, Lahore, Pakistan, for ten years. Besides exhibiting his work, Chishtee has done public commissions in significant cities in Pakistan and the USA.

As a child, Khalil Chishtee learned the art of calligraphy from maestro painter Sadeqain in Lahore. Sadeqain’s masterly done non-traditional calligraphic paintings seem all figures to him; for young Chishtee, these were dancing or acrobatic movements of a human body all over his canvases, analogous with that Chishtee instead of using Urdu or Arabic letters, chose figures to narrate his stories.

According to our data, Khalil Chishtee is a contemporary artist. It is a Pakistani male artist born in 1964. first verified exhibition was CITY LIGHTS: Neonart at Exit Art in New York City in 2006, and the most recent exhibition was Drawing Room Diamonds at Sanat Initiative in Karachi in 2019. Khalil Chishtee is most frequently exhibited in Pakistan but has also had exhibitions in the United States, Germany, and elsewhere. Chishtee has at least 6 solo shows and 13 group shows over the last 13 years (for more information, see biography). Chishtee has also been in no less than no art fairs but in two biennials.

The Biennale di Venezia – 56th International Art Exhibition at La Biennale di Venezia Settore Art in Venice 2015 was a notable show. Other notable shows were at the Asia Society Museum in New York City and Karachi Biennale in Karachi. Khalil Chishtee has exhibit with Ruby Chishti and Pritika Chowdhry. Khalil Chishtee is rank among the Top 100,000 globally and the Top 100 in Pakistan. Chishtee’s best rank was in 2015, with the most dramatic change in 2015. Please see the career chart on the trends page for a complete illustration of the artist’s career since 2006.


Although I was already buried in art activities before study at NCA as a child, I took lessons from Sadequin. In 1989, I graduated from NCA with a sculpture major. During and after my studies, I did several commission projects for major cities in Pakistan. From 1991 to 2002, I taught sculpture and drawing at NCA. In 2004, I pursued Sculpture Ceramics at El Dorado Center in Placerville, California, and did my MA at California State University.

Growing up in a family with limited resources, I was always interest in waste materials. Recycling was in my blood. I guess in Pakistan, many people still use every empty container. But after moving to the USA, I realized the damage is done by plastic waste, especially by plastic bags. I started working with plastic bags in 2005. It was not looking for anything that would become my signature style. I always go for something that resonates with my primary point of view in life.

Plastic Bags Sculptures by Khalil Chishtee

Artist Khalil Chishtee is a sculptor who creates human forms from discarded plastic bags. His works often express the feelings of sorrow, sadness, and even victimhood. As they are create from items used once and then discard, they add to the layers of meaning in his work. His work is a commentary on waste and consumption, and one part reflects the human experience.


Although I have lived in the US for the past eight years, I still hold a Pakistani passport. It is easy to imagine the difficulties one faces while meeting people or traveling abroad on a Pakistani passport. It matters little if you are an artist by vocation; people will always see you as a potential troublemaker due to your stamped nationality. But then I learned to live with modern-day realities.

The conversation would be incomplete if we didn’t ask you one of the most banal questions put before all the artists from across the border: what do you feel about the wrath of the political dialogue between the two countries?

Whenever I visit India, I find it a mirror image of Pakistan in terms of our cultural similarities, mannerisms, etc. The similarities are so striking that they look like two parts of a divided home, only in the sense that India is like a free Pakistan. You have been lucky to never have face dictatorship and have certain checks and restraints over your politicians and army.

An Environmentally Concerned Artist

Sticking specifically to plastic and avoiding polluting materials, he did not use glue or fire to mold the plastic shape to form his sculptures. “Sometimes I used hot iron to give them a proper shape but on very low density so that it won’t generate fumes,” he said.

Plastic Life Changed By

Plastic Life Changed By

The Unconventional Canvas: Instead of using traditional materials like marble or bronze, Chishtee repurposes discarded plastic bags. Thus transforming them into thought-provoking sculptures. This choice is deliberate, as he seeks to draw devotion to the environmental issues associated with plastic waste while also conveying more profound messages through his art. Themes of Struggle and Humanity: Chishtee’s sculptures often depict human forms entangled and distorted, representing the struggles and challenges of life. Plastic bags reinforce the transient nature of existence, emphasizing the fragility of human relationships and the impermanence of material possessions.

Conclusion – This week, we welcome Khalil Chishtee, a visual artist based in New York City. Before moving to the U.S., he taught sculpture and ceramics for ten years at the National College of Arts in Lahore, Pakistan. He later earned a master’s in studio arts from Sacramento State University in California. Chishtee has exhibited widely and has completed public commissions such as the entry sculptures for the Lahore Zoo and the facade of the Castle Braid build in Bushwick, Brooklyn.

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