This project, bravely initiated by the Italian Friends of The Citizens Foundation (IFTCF) here in Milan, is exceptionally refreshing. So much more than raising funds, this exhibition of Pakistani artists is about providing tangible opportunities: for all the TCF teachers and students who are its true protagonists; for the 60 lauded artists who gifted their time and talents in the spirit of international exchange; for a prestigious Catholic art museum to freely open its exhibition spaces and intercultural agenda to underrepresented realities; for Milanese audiences, young and old, connoisseurs and general public, to see the kinds of creativity happening a world away; for academic and art worlds alike to learn bilaterally; for writers to present new viewpoints; for our devoted volunteers to bring about real change in other people’s lives; and for all of us to be enriched by the beautiful smiles on these Pakistani children’s faces.
Many artists everywhere receive requests to donate their work, and the decision to do so is not as easy or as straightforward as one might imagine. But in our happy case, we were inundated with proposals. It is the proven effectiveness, credibility and exemplary philanthropy of the TCF over many years that has motivated these artists, so many of whom are teachers themselves, to jump on-board a project which so clearly provides for their local communities. As curators, the challenges were often practical in dealing with limited resources for storage, transport, framing, display constraints, and so forth. We had to exclude most three-dimensional pieces, and work exclusively with the allocated walls on both sides of a long corridor leading into a main ground floor atrium and the courtyard of our museum, which houses a permanent collection of sacred artworks from the region. Aiming for innovative visual connections within the range of works received, our focus has been to select candidates based on the quality of their submissions in a democratic effort to represent as much of the Pakistani art community as possible, even under trying circumstances.
Featuring many of Pakistan’s most accomplished artists and its promising emerging talents, each of the works gathered for this auction, exhibition, and catalogue in some way bears quiet witness or the artist was compelled to break some kind of silence on the pertinent issues affecting the quality of human life, and not only in South Asia, such as relentless urbanisation, degradation, military rule, censorship, oppression, conflict, social justice, migration and the legacies of ancient traditions in an increasingly globalised existence. The pressure on serious artists to reach the high level artistic demands necessary to ‘effortlessly’ convey such complex truths is great. Their work invariably beckons to a captivated audience and stimulates more questions; further reflection. What real use is art in times of such need or desperation? Ultimately, the very concrete outcomes of this show will provide more than enough justification for all our voluntary efforts over the last two years. And some of this art might well have been produced from a central point within a particular struggle, be it personal, societal, or international, but the agents in control in times of strife or confusion are not the artists themselves. They are often the ‘lonely poets’ who offer us the nuances and hopefully the emotional and/or intellectual depth to help us feel, and even to choose or change our responses.
Like much of the West, the Italian media is typically exhausted by portrayals of violence, poverty, political turmoil, gender inequities, and endemic corruption in Pakistan. So we wanted to counteract this deadpan approach to cultural branding with fresh examples of intimate storytelling, like Shakila Haider’s Final Destination (2015), Mudassar Manzoor’s Pattern of Silence (2017) or Abdullah Syed’s Currency of Love (2016); playful and ironic commentaries on the current state of affairs, like Amra Khan’s Adam & Adeel and the Garden of Earthly Delights (2015) or Huma Mulji’s National Dry Cleaners (2016); patient re-elaborations of the country’s history and traditions, like Aisha Khalid’s All is Grey When the Black is Washed Away (2015), Adeela Suleman’s The Curtain (2018) or Adeel uz Zafar’s Teddy (2018); and mesmerising meditations on its future, like Tazeen Qayyum’s Your Mind Engulfed in Stillness (2015), Rashid Rana’s War Within VI (2016-17) or Talha Rathore’s Tangible Intangible (2008); to name just a few of the exciting works and themes covered in this show. Our artists are evidently deeply sensitised by their own educational experiences and schooling, which has been privileged and transformative; under the tutelage of inspirational mentors who are still working to maintain a remarkably sustainable system of technical know-how, career development, and closely personal support. These artists and their professors really give back to each other, as the children and their teachers I saw in the rural villages of Lahore and the urban slums of Karachi.
In the hope that all of them feel truly appreciated for what they have achieved and are sharing with us on this side of the globe, our particular gratitude goes to dear friends like Asad Hayee at Rothas Gallery in Lahore, Adeela Suleman and the VASL Artists’ Association in Karachi, Imran Khan, Naiza Khan, Rashid Rana, and Faiza Butt who all nominated and encouraged their peers to participate and us to keep going. Many other artists also helped draw in their colleagues from across Pakistan and communicate more quickly with those living abroad. We could not have completed this show without their precious team efforts.
ART FOR EDUCATION Contemporary Artists from Pakistan
First ever group exhibition in an Italian museum dedicated to contemporary Pakistani art. The Citizens Foundation (TCF) is a professionally managed, non-profit organization set up in 1995 in Karachi by a group of citizens who wanted to bring about positive social change through education. Twenty-two years on, TCF is one of Pakistan’s leading and award-winning organizations for the education of less privileged communities. The Italian Friends of The Citizens Foundation (IFTCF) in Milan presents this first ever group exhibition “Art for Education” showcasing 60 Pakistani artists, internationally acclaimed and talented emerging, who have all donated their artworks in support of quality secular education for underprivileged communities in Pakistan. Held at a prestigious museum in Milan, this ground-breaking show is curated by two outstanding South Asian art writers and specialists Salima Hashmi and Rosa Maria Falvo. Few initiatives in the contemporary art world engage the direct relationship between art and education. And fewer still celebrate the status and power of both fields to address and stimulate positive change for global issues such as gender, geopolitics, ethnicity and social responsibility. In this exhibition art is truly at the service of education, and education is the tool used by art, through artists and their audiences, to cultivate the hearts and minds of two very different realities.
A beautifully illustrated exhibition catalogue is being prepared, which surveys the range and excellence of contemporary art practice in Pakistan today, and includes artists’ statements and biographies, as well as a curatorial essay, giving western audiences an overview of the Pakistani art scene. Over 60 colour plates illustrate the work these artists, both established and emerging, who have donated their artworks in support of TCF’s educational programs in Pakistan. Artworks were shipped to Italy from Pakistan especially for this show, to be auctioned to Milanese and international collectors at a special event at the prestigious Palazzo Serbelloni in Milan, with all proceeds going to the TCF’s education management, student facilities and recruitment, staffing and teacher training roles.
Hamra ABBAS Dua ABBAS RIZVI Aisha ABID HUSSAIN Farrukh ADNAN Euceph AHMED Nurjahan AKHLAQ David Chalmers ALESWORTH Mina ARHAM Sana ARJUMAND Zahra ASIM Unum BABAR & Matt KUSHAN Affan BAGHPATI Farida BATOOL Faiza BUTT Ayesha DURRANI Shakila HAIDER Amber HAMMAD Ghulam HUSSAIN Samina IQBAL Ayesha JATOI Ayaz Hussain JOKHIO Mahbub JOKHIO Ali KAZIM Aisha KHALID Amra KHAN Asif KHAN Naiza KHAN Saba KHAN Nusra LATIF QURESHI Rehana MANGI Mudassar MANZOOR Rahat Naveed MASUD Imran MIR Hira Tahir MIRZA Ghulam MOHAMMAD Imran MUDASSAR Huma MULJI Mehreen MURTAZA Haider Ali NAQVI Seema NUSRAT Sana OBAID Tazeen QAYYUM Saba QIZILBASH Imran QURESHI Aroosa RANA Rashid RANA Talha RATHORE Ali RAZA Muzzumil RUHEEL Wardha SHABBIR Adeela SULEMAN Abdullah M. I. SYED Risham SYED Salman TOOR Beenish USMAN Yasser VAYANI Yasir WAQAS Adeel uz ZAFAR Inaam ZAFAR Mahreen ZUBERI
Salima Hashmi, renowned artist, writer, curator, educator, human rights activist, and expert in South Asia, based in Lahore.
Rosa Maria Falvo, writer, editor and curator specializing in Asia-Pacific & Middle East contemporary art, based in Milan.
Milan, Museo Diocesano Carlo Maria Martini
17th October – 25th November 2018