Pakistan’s art world is shaped by two types of art spaces, the commercial gallery and the art school, both of which are thriving, but there is yet very little in the form of alternative, non-commercial or artist-driven spaces. Public art galleries and museums do exist, but in a limited way, and the public art sphere is vastly overshadowed by the private sphere. The art market and art school tend to be hierarchal, rigidly structured spaces which produce specific types of art works and discourses, so while the flourishing commercial and educational spheres are an encouraging sign of a growing interest in art, a robust art world needs a variety of flexible spaces that engage diverse audiences, especially those outside the core group of art world insiders.
What would a strong art infrastructure look like? It would create a network that allows for a circulation of ideas and brings in communities in order to envision art not just as a private enterprise but as a social project. The development of an art infrastructure cannot be piecemeal, but has to be a coordinated and cooperative, with elements that can exist and function independently whilst fitting into a larger system. This is vital because the types of spaces available to art shape not just the form art takes but the very language and ideas used to discuss and understand it.
It used to be that the various spaces in which art was created, displayed, disseminated and engaged with were clearly demarcated and bounded off from one another, but in recent decades these boundaries have slowly started being erased. In the past few decades, and especially recently with the rise of the internet, we have seen the emergence of a new type of art space that is no longer physically limited, which is redefining not just what art can be and do but how we can talk about it as well. The internet is a platform that is experimental in nature and in its current iteration, profoundly social, bridging geographical and cultural distances.
Perhaps someday we will see a flourishing arts district in each of our major cities, with spaces for art production and display, such as inexpensive rental studios, informal educational ventures, open-ended discussions, art writing and curating programs and much more. While we strive to make these ideas a reality, we should use ArtNow and other virtual spaces as labs where ideas can be introduced and thought through in an open and accessible manner.
Bye for NOW.