In Pakistani publishing and media. and art and culture communities, the name of Hameed Haroon is well regarded and widely recognized. In our small sce
In Pakistani publishing and media. and art and culture communities, the name of Hameed Haroon is well regarded and widely recognized. In our small scene of art admirers and supporters, Mr. Haroon is one of the most passionate, and his interests are diverse and eclectic. It is an experience in itself to visit Mr. Haroon’s residence in Karachi – a visual treat. A colonial-era property set in Clifton, this magnificently preserved address is a modern-day personal museum with jewels of contemporary and modern art, books and literature, ceramics and more. Haroon is well-known as a scion of the publishing family that runs Pakistan’s media conglomerate Dawn Media Group, but in the art world he is known for his tireless support of culture, the arts and art history.
One of his current prominent roles in the art world is his current position as the Chairman of the Board of Trustees of the Mohatta Palace Museum. It is through this institution that I first connected to Mr. Haroon. He had recently supported, in his capacity with the museum, ‘Labyrinth of Reflections: The Art of Rashid Rana’, a solo exhibition and retrospective of Rashid Rana’s work at the museum. At the opening of the exhibition, Mr. Haroon had demonstrated his passion and his own strong knowledge and opinions on contemporary art when he famously stated that “we have three [contemporary] art movements in Pakistan: the neo-miniature movement of Lahore, the Karachi Pop of the 90s and the art of Rashid Rana”.
Previously at the Museum, Hameed Haroon was the co-curator of the exhibition, ‘The Holy Sinner,’ a meticulously researched and large-scale exhibition that focused on the oeuvre of Sadequain, accompanied by the six-hundred-page catalog and lavishly designed as a collector’s item of the same name. As collector of Pakistani art, Haroon’s own vast collection of Sadequain’s diverse works was on display throughout the exhibition, and he continuously loans parts of his collection to other exhibitions, as was also apparent at Rashid Rana’s retrospective at the Mohatta Palace Museum.
In addition, his interests expand beyond contemporary and modern art, as evident when he curated the longest running exhibition in the history of Pakistan titled ‘The Jewel in the Crown – Karachi Under the Raj 1843 – 1947’. This exhibition, which brought together a complete view of a historic Karachi – the city of Mr. Haroon’s birth, residence and work, was timely, given the fast disappearance of our urban landscape through relentless “modern development”.
Hameed Haroon is also a supporter of literature, and is renowned for his presence and support at the literature festivals in Lahore and Karachi. His interests are varied and vast, as for example, this year, he demonstrated with his moderation of a packed-house discussion of eminent Pakistani singer Noor Jehan, where the audience was able to engage in the singer’s oeuvre to the fullest. Not surprisingly, given his position as CEO of Dawn Media Group, he has written and published extensively, notably The Raj Library, a comprehensive collection of twenty-five books on Karachi and its cultural hinterland.
Mr. Haroon holds a Master’s degree in Regional Studies (East Asia) from Harvard University and a Master’s in Political Economy and a Master’s in Economics from Boston University. He has received many awards from the Pakistani government for his work, which continues to be fearless, given the precariousness and dangers faced by journalists and media houses. He was awarded the Sitara-e-Imtiaz, Pakistan’s highest civil award, in 2004 in recognition for his contribution to promote art and culture, and in March 2011 he received the Hilal-e-Imitaz, Pakistan’s second highest civil and military award for his contributions in the promotion of the arts and culture in Pakistan. In 2006 he was conferred the Italian Order of Merit as one of the most outstanding public personalities in Pakistan on behalf of the President of Italy. In addition to being the Chairman of the Board of Trustees for Mohatta Palace Museum, he is also the Member Board of Governors Lahore Museum, Member of the Committee for the Protection and Preservation of Cultural Heritage Monuments and Member of the National Cultural Heritage Committee.
Those who know Haroon personally neither care about these lists of awards and positions. They will attest to the small moments of support, of questioning, of criticality, and of warmth that he is known for. One can but smile at a moment this summer, when despite traffic and rain in Karachi, Mr. Haroon still made it, soaking wet, to the launch of Imran Mir Art Foundation, so that he could speak and give an homage to his friend and colleague, the late artist Imran Mir. Perhaps it is times such as these that demonstrate his true nature and support for causes and people he believes in.
Aziz Sohail is Public Engagement Manager at Lahore Biennale Foundation and Visiting Faculty National College of Arts.
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