Welcome readers, to another vibrant issue of ArtNow, and a hearty Ramadan Mubarak! This month we look at ‘Art of the Artisans’, in celebration of the wealth of talent within the rich craft circles of Pakistan. We have exciting profiles of Munawar Ali Syed and Sadia Salim, who have recently worked with Truck Art and ceramic crafts for the new Islamabad International Airport, as well as a retrospective of minimalist sculptor Rasheed Araeen. Our guest editor of the month is Waqar Ahmed Malik, former CEO, ICI Pakistan Limited.
The month of Ramadan is an introspective one for art in Pakistan, but it is exciting to see galleries and artists braving the heat to keep the art world alive. However, it is mostly internationally that I found the most activity this month. Pakistan’s first pavilion at the Venice Architecture Biennale is currently on display, and I’m very excited for the curatorial team. Organized by Coalesce Design Studio and Antidote Art & Design and supported by the Global Art Affairs Foundation, the pavilion builds upon the theme of Free Space and focuses on the informal settlements of Karachi, the fastest and rather uncontrollably growing metropolis of Pakistan. It is an apt discourse in a country where ‘free space’ is quickly becoming a physical and social myth, with the growing population giving birth to congested living situations. As a result there is a detriment of open spaces of communal activity and exchange. Located in the Levante section of the Gardens of Marinaressa, the pavilion titled, The Fold is a metal structure of irregularly place vertical beams, which are an abstraction of this idea of restricted, chaotic growth and interdependence.
May also began by rolling out Frieze New York 2018, exciting as always with a record attendance this year. The event was lined with exciting curated exhibitions, conversations and talks, dynamic installations and awards. This time Frieze also features a themed section ‘For Your Infotainment: Hudson and Feature Inc.’, which was curated by Matthew Higgs and celebrated the legacy of art dealer Hudson and his gallery by showcasing associated artists who were debuted by the gallery or have a long history with them. Frieze New York is part of the yearly international art fairs organized by Frieze, a media and events company that publishes frieze magazine and 2 other publications.
The Urbino In Aquerello Watercolor Festival also concluded this month in Italy, and featured 20 watercolor artists from Pakistan. I am pleased that ArtNow was able to cover the event through our correspondent, Maheen Aziz who attended the festival. The festival was a lively affair, marked by live ongoing painting sessions by participating artists, art displays and performances. The Lahore Literature Festival also concluded its 3rd edition at the Asia Society in New York this month, featuring lively discussions on art and literature in Pakistan. The event was attended by notable names in the intellectual circles of Pakistan, and was also honored by Pakistani Ambassador Maleeha Lodhi. The festival has emerged as an important cultural event to offset the violence, hatred and discord portrayed in reference to Pakistan in the international media.
I am also very excited for our Pakistani talents making waves internationally. Amin Gulgee is in Rome this month, with his exhibition “7” taking place at Galleria d’Arte Moderna. For his installation he takes a sentence that comes from a very special source for him personally and divided it into 7 parts, repeating it throughout his installation. In London, Ghulam Muhammad, the former Jameel Prize winner had his first solo in the city at Grosvenor Gallery in association with Canvas Gallery. The humble artist displayed a collection of his exquisite, intricate collages that seek to ‘free’ language from the page. His work is built through repetition and layering of forms of the Urdu script cut out from secondhand books, and at once celebrates the language while lamenting its slow erasure. Towards the Middle East, Khadim Ali has been chosen to take part in the 14th Sharjah Biennale among 23 artists from around the globe. The event is set to take place in 2019 and will operate under the title ‘Leaving the Echo Chamber’ as a curatorial premise. I am excited to see what Ali decides to put forth for the show! Further West, in Winnipeg, Canada, Samina Islam is set to begin her artist is residence program at MAWA (Mentoring Artists for Women’s Art), with her exquisite needle point on digital print works.
It is exciting to see contemporary art from Pakistan being celebrated and recognized worldwide collectively, through projects like Imago Mundi, a project by Luciano Benetton Foundation in association with White Turban Consultancy, curated by Amanullah Mojadidi. The project seeks to represent contemporary art from various countries by commissioning artworks from a selection of contemporary artists from a particular country, putting them together as part of a publication as well as an exhibition at the Venice Biennale. This years project focuses on Pakistan through the collection “Lines in the Sand | Contemporary Art from Pakistan”, featuring 210 artists who were given a 10×12 cm canvas to create work in any preferred medium that was most representative of their practice. The publication then acts as kind of a survey of contemporary art in the country, emerging from its turbulent history and indicating future trajectories.
I would like to extend my heartiest congratulations to Onaiz Taji, the winner of the People’s Choice Award, or the Schoeni Award at the Sovereign Asian Arts Awards 2018 in Hong Kong, as well as Adeel Uz Zafar for showing his work as part of his curatorial project Microcosm at the AAN Gandhara Art Space in 2017, and Naiza Khan for nominating the work. I would also like to encourage young artists from Pakistan to apply for the recently announced 5th edition of the Future Generation Art Prize by the PinchukArtCentre, Kyiv, Ukraine. The biennial award seeks to recognize and provide support to emerging young artists below the age of 35 and uses a competition structure to shortlist 20 artists through a selection committee, who are them commissioned to create new works which go on to be displayed at the Venice Biennale, curated by Bjorn Geldhof. Winners are awarded cash prizes as well as investment money for their art practice. The award is a great opportunity for young artists looking for monetary support, exposure and worldwide recognition to kick start their careers.
I am thrilled at the recent inauguration of the new Islamabad International Airport, and with it, the Art Project curated by Noorjehan Bilgrami and her team. This extensive project was commissioned by the government specifically for the airport and is one of its defining features. It is exciting to see art and crafts of Pakistan being represented so extensively in a public space in the country. The various kinds of handmade crafts, including Chitarkari, Naqashi, Kashikari, metal and stone carving, and carpet weaving, are meant to represent all the different areas of the country and their defining wealth of talents. The project also includes truck art executed by craftsmen from all over Pakistan using various forms of the art found in all the major cities, as well as fine art by internationally acclaimed painters, sculptors, and photographers, including Amin Gulgee, Adeela Suleman, Ayesha Khalid, Imran Qureshi, Abdul Jabbar Gul, and Amean J. This is such a refreshing addition to a public space. A shoe window for Pakistan and Pakistani Art.
Bye for NOW!