ArtNow Lifetime Achievement Award: Jalal Uddin Ahmed

ArtNow is proud to present the 2nd Lifetime Achievement award to Jalal Uddin Ahmed for his significant contributions towards the promotion and documentation of the arts of Pakistan and the Islamic world. The award was presented by Fawzia Naqvi, Editor in Chief of ArtNow, at Art Dubai, on Wednesday, 18th March, during the  ArtNow Terrace Talks at the fair.

Jalal Uddin Ahmed, along with his wife Azra Jalal, is the founder of Arts in the Islamic World, the first English language journal on art from South Asia, the Middle East and the Muslim world. The magazine highlighted the importance of researching and preserving traditional Islamic arts, and examining and interpreting contemporary arts with a critical eye in order to understand and contextualise new ideas, expressions and movements in Muslim societies and cultures.

After representing Pakistan at the Third International Congress of Art Critics in 1951, Mr. Ahmed was responsible for affiliating Pakistan with the Unesco-sponsored International Association of Art Critics in Paris. In 1954, he published Art in Pakistan, a book that served as documentation of the contemporary art scene after Pakistan’s independence. After retirement, he joined the FOMMA Trust, the objectives of which include the setting up of museums of modern and contemporary art and art libraries in Pakistan, and went on to publish a series of publications on prominent Pakistani artists. He also helped arrange the first ever exhibition of ‘Art Books and Periodicals from Pakistan’ in India, after which the books were donated to the library of the International India Centre in New Delhi as a reference resource on Pakistan art and artists.

After retirement from government service, Mr. Ahmed and his wife then headed to London where he was offered the job of Director Publications by the Islamic Council of Europe. It was in London where their idea of an English language art magazine came to fruition with the help of Moazzam Ali, then Deputy Secretary General of the Council. After 5 years of determination and hard work, “Arts in the Islamic World” was published with an initial print run of 20,000 copies. The response it generated was a positive one. They had underestimated the demand for the publication and had to go in for a reprint.

During his stay in London, Mr. Ahmed organized international seminars on Islamic arts. He also organized a major exhibition of books on Islam and the Muslim World assisted by the British Museum. Years later, the first international exhibition of Contemporary Art from the Islamic World at the Barbican Centre in 1989 was organized under his relentless dedication.

After many wondrous and productive years in London, he and his wife moved back to Karachi to spend more time with family and almost immediately became active members of the FOMMA Trust (Foundation for Museum of Modern Art).

It was under the direction of Mr. Ahmed and his wife that the FOMMA Trust began a series of publications in 2003, the first monograph on the late artist Ali Imam was published and sold out, and it was followed soon after by a monograph on Zubeida Agha and over the years the list of publications continued to grow. To date, FOMMA Trust has twelve publications and also a large collection of archival material donated by Ali Imam. Mr. Ahmed has often laid stress on the need to record and preserve our artistic history for generations to come. His role as Honorary Director General of the FOMMA Trust is one he carried out with infectious zeal and dedication.

For Mr. Ahmed age is but a number. He approaches each day with stamina and enthusiasm that is on par with someone half his age.  Although now retired, he remains actively involved with FOMMA Trust and is brimming with ideas and continues to set his eyes on the future. His years as an active promoter of the visual arts have contributed vastly to laying the groundwork for the many ambitious projects under the FOMMA Trust. Thanks to his tremendous knowledge of the Islamic arts and the many years of experience he has acquired in various fields and as an ardent supporter and advocate of the arts in Pakistan, Jalal Uddin Ahmed remains an institution unto himself.

The ArtNow Lifetime Achievement Award honours Pakistani individuals who have made outstanding contributions to the fine arts of Pakistan. The inaugural Lifetime Achievement Award was given to the artist, critic and curator Rasheed Araeen at Art Dubai 2014, in recognition of his artistic and cultural achievements. ArtNow is an online, monthly publication offering critical insight into the art of Pakistan, with essays, profiles, reviews, studio visits, news and updates from around the world.

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