Raqib Shaw was born in Kolkata (formerly Calcutta) in West Bengal, India, in 1974. His parents moved to Srinagar, Kashmir, when he was a few months old. The larger Shaw family were successful merchants involved in the luxury goods market, selling carpets, rugs, shawls, jewels and antiques in India and abroad. A melting pot of religions and cultures with a rich colonial past, it was, historically, a religiously open, tolerant region. However, by the late 1980s violence between Muslims, Hindus and Buddhists was growing and fundamentalism was on the rise. The Shaws left Kashmir and settled in New Delhi in 1992. From 1992 to 1998 Shaw worked in the family business, which involved interior design, architecture, and selling jewellery, antiques, carpets and fabrics. This brought him into contact with the many beautiful things that were being made in India, and it had a profound effect on his art.
Shaw travelled to England for the first time in 1993, India and Pakistan’s dispute over his native Kashmir, India and Pakistan’s dispute over his native Kashmir, India and Pakistan’s dispute over his native Kashmir, Shaw ageand mo and moved permanently to London in 1998, to study at St Martin’s School of Art. Unable to afford artists’ oil paints, he instead used quick-drying industrial enamel paints. He has developed his unique technique ever since. His scenes are often based on Old Master paintings, which he recreates in autobiographical terms, introducing himself, his dogs, his studio and an assortment of characters. Many of the settings are staged in Kashmir.
Shaw enrolled on the MA course at St Martin’s from 2001-02 and in 2004 had an exhibition Garden of Earthly Delights at the Victoria Miro Gallery in London. The exhibition travelled to Deitch Projects in New York in 2005 and then to the Museum of Contemporary Art in Miami. In 2006 the Museum of Modern Art in New York acquired Garden of Earthly Delights X. In the same year, Shaw was included in the Passion for Paint exhibition at the National Gallery in London, where his paintings were shown alongside those of Rubens, Van Dyck, Gainsborough and others. Also in 2006, he had a solo show at Tate Britain, London, in their Art Now series.
The Garden of Earthly Delights was superseded, from 2007 to 2009, by a series entitled The Absence of God: they became the basis for his first exhibition at the White Cube gallery in London in 2009. Shaw then embarked upon a third series, Paradise Lost, shown at the White Cube gallery in Mason’s Yard, London, in September 2011; a new version of the exhibition went to the Pace Gallery in New York in 2013.
In 2013 he began a series of works based on Old Master paintings. Some of these were shown at White Cube Gallery in 2016. Eight of these paintings, and two of the original Old Master works, were shown at the Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art in Edinburgh in 2018, in a show entitled Raqib Shaw: Reinventing the Old Masters. Shaw lives and works in London.