Welcome readers to the December 2019 issue of ArtNow, “International Artists”, with profiles of Saba Qizilbasch and Zarina Hashmi, photo essay by Lali Khalid and a review of Van Gogh Alive, a multi-sensory exhibition experience recently opened in Manila, as well as reviews of all the exciting shows taking place in local art galleries. One is struck by the speed with which the months have passed by as the year comes to a close, and with it another decade. It is interesting to look back and take stock of how far the Pakistani art landscape has spread itself these past 10 years, changing its face entirely and setting exciting precedent for the future. Large scale art fairs and exhibitions such as the Karachi Biennale, Lahore Biennale, International Public Art Festival, Islamabad Art Festival, and Karachi Art Fair have all been inaugurated, and more artists have graduated and joined the Pakistani art scene than ever before, earning international acclaim. The Pakistani art scene is finally abuzz with activity, and it is an exciting time to be a part of it.
The Focal Point Art Book Fair by the Sharjah Art Foundation took place this month at the Baith Obaid Al Shamsi Art Square. This was the second edition of the fair and presented printed matter by 150 artists and publishers from across the world. The fair also featured a full programme of activities for youth and adults including workshops. The annual 3-day fair aimed to bring a larger focus on independent and alternative publishing practices presented alongside a select number of larger, more established publishing houses, which is a great initiative to support and promote these underrepresented forms of expression and introduce them to a larger audience. As part of the broader presentation, this year’s content included a special focus on zines and comics. Pakistan was proudly represented by Vasl Artist Collective with a collection of zines, publications, graphic novels and artist books by artists, designers, illustrators, organizations, galleries and institutions across Pakistan.
Acclaimed diasporic artist Bani Abidi is currently in the international spotlight with two major exhibitions. Along with the Focal Point book fair, Sharjah Art Foundation is also hosting a major survey exhibition of the artist at Bait Al Serkal Art Square titled “Bani Abidi: Funland” and co-curated by Hoor Al Qasimi and Natasha Ginwala, spanning the last 2 decades of video, photographic, sound and new commission works, with a special focus on the contemporary art scene of 1990s Karachi presented through archival materials and artworks from the period. Also part of the exhibition was a symposium with discussions about Karachi and its art scene in the 1990s, when some of the most iconic world renowned artists with profound art practices have emerged in a pre-internet, localized Karachi. The exhibition follows on from the artist’s solo survey exhibition “Bani Abidi: They Died Laughing” at Gropius Bau, Berlin, curated by Natasha Ginwala, which took place earlier this year. The artist’s works are also being displayed at Tate Modern where her video work “Reserved”(2006), a two channel video installation showing the still relevant staged footage of the inhabitants of an unnamed city preparing for a VIP visitor who never arrives. The artist’s works uses a language of absurdity and eccentricity to highlight communal issue through a personal lens. Her view of the city through its inhabitants and their stories of marginalization and erasure operate on socio-political underpinnings. With an anecdotal tone she deconstructs societies, using fiction as metaphor for the historical trajectory of Pakistan post-independence, and Karachi in particular.
Adding to the growing number of events on the national art calendar, the Islamabad Art Festival 2019 took place this month, bringing the city to the center of the art conversation in the country and sharing some of the limelight with Karachi and Lahore to showcase its own vibrant art scene. The IAF has made use of the beautiful mountainside city’s cultural, artistic, historical and modern architectural spaces and infrastructure, such as Saidpur Village, Open Air Theatre – Shakespearean, Fatima Jinnah Park, Art and Craft Village, and Sir Syed Memorial Hall, among others. The platform aims to promote cultural diversity and brings together international and local artists along with established and emerging artists to exhibit together. The festival includes works by artists like Abdul Jabbar Gul, Rashid Rana and Ali Kazim, and was curated by Jamal Shah and Amin Gulgee.
The Canvas Gallery recently hosted a catalogue launch of the first International Public Art Festival hosted by I AM Karachi with the theme ‘The Quantum City: Territory | Space | Place’ curated by Amin Gulgee, Sara Pagganwala and Zarmeene Shah. The exhibit was displayed at the Karachi Port Trust head office earlier this year, the beautiful historic building serving as backdrop for installation, video, performance, and sculpture displayed inside KPT shipping containers. The catalogue launch was accompanied by a talk focused on performance art, praxis, sustainability and the future of art events in the city. Canvas Gallery also hosted an exciting solo show by artist Ayaz Jokhio this month with some interesting critique of museum and gallery culture and the ways in which art is displayed, sold and commoditized.
A number of local art events of import also took place in November. In Lahore, Alhamra Art Gallery recently opened the 2nd Alhamra National Exhibition on Visual ArtS 2019. The event was inaugurated by Provincial Minister for Law and Parliamnetary Affairs, Punjab, Muhammad Basharat Raja. Studio Seven in Karachi held “ArtOtheque – Space edition, which was an experience based event where art and music were fused to create masterpieces. The event was arranged by The Jungle and the gallery space was transformed into a darkened ambient room with dim colored lights. Live musical performances took place alongside performance art, art displays and live art activities to engage multiple senses at once and appeal to large and diverse groups of audiences who attended the event.
Another important Karachi art event took place at ArtKaam Gallery, who celebrated their 2 year anniversary with a show titled 62, which brought together works by 62 artists from Pakistan at the recently opened ArtOne62. ArtKaam has been a valuable addition to the Karachi art scene, with 28 exhibitions under its belt over the past 2 years with 11 solo exhibitions and 17 group shows, 10 of which included upcoming artists. The gallery has showcased 130 artists and strives to promote young and fresh talent by providing them space and a platform to show their works. The gallery boasts one of the largest custom build display spaces and continues to grow and establish itself as an important art gallery of Karachi. I would like to extend them my best wishes on this milestone and wish them the best of luck for their future endeavors.
Bye for NOW!