Welcome readers to the January 2020 issue of Art Now. The New Year brings with it new possibilities in the art world. This new year holds more significance as it brings another decade to a close, and gives us the opportunity to look back, reflect on the previous years’ work. This was the decade that ArtNow began it’s online adventure, and it is heartening for me to think about the growth we have seen and the valuable experiences, from hosting art discourse programming at the Karachi Literature Festival and Art Dubai to launching the ArtNow Art Newspaper and to bring our work into print. We at Art Now welcome this decade with hopes of many more new ventures.
This year has been an especially exciting one for the Pakistani art world as a whole. The Karachi Biennale was a successful iteration, albeit with its own set of controversies, planting itself ever more firmly as one of the leading art events of Pakistan. Islamabad also entered the inter city art race with it’s very own Islamabad Art Fest, which was inaugurated in November this year bringing local and international artists and curators to various locations in the city. Public art also received another boost with the International Public Art Festival inaugurated earlier this year, taking place at the head office of the Karachi Port Trust with curators like Amin Gulgee at the helm. In addition to this, various important shows took place locally, and many local artists made their mark internationally as well, such as Naiza Khan’s and Zahra Khan’s entry in the inaugural Pakistan Pavilion at the Venice Biennale of 2019. All in all, it has been a good year for Pakistani art, the perfect note to end the decade and enter 2020.
Excitement soars once again as we gear up for the second Lahore Biennale, LB02. In this issue we delve into details about the upcoming citywide exhibit, bringing Lahore alive again with art revitalizing its public spaces and heritage architecture. The first Lahore Biennale made intelligent use of the city’s green public spaces, old city vibe and wealth of history with venues like the Lawrence Gardens and Shahi Hammam, and we hope to see something similar this year. The biennale has been curated by the internationally acclaimed Hoor Al Qasimi, who is the President and Director of Sharjah Art Foundation. In this issue, we have a detailed interview of Qudsia Rahim, Executive Director of Lahore Biennale, who has provided an insight into LB02 themes, programming, goals and much more. It will be an exciting January/February in Lahore with artworks at the biennale of local and international artists.
Another exciting annual offering returning this year will be Art Dubai, taking place in March. This will be art fair’s 14th year as one of Middle East’s largest international art fairs. The fair brings together hundreds of contemporary and modern art galleries, both local and international, to showcase their selection of artists practicing today. Through various initiatives and programmings, such as Ithra Art Prize, Gulf Now, Global Art Forum, Bawwaba Talks Programme and Campus Art Dubai, to go beyond just display and instigate meaningful conversations surrounding the cultural and social relevance of art and provide support to the emerging talent of today. I look forward to seeing the new directions the fair might take this year as its program is announced in the coming months.
The Bunvat International Festival for theatre, dance and art took place this month, founded by Kaif Ghaznavi, a classical dancer. As part of this festival, the Goethe Institut Pakistan brought artist David Brandstaetter to showcase his performance piece which brings together elements of dance, movement, sound and theatre. This particular piece which he performed was based around the idea of freedom. In order to bring across the universal nature of the notion of freedom and to not only limit it to his specific cultural and geographic perspective as a German artist, Brandstaetter worked with local artists and musicians to bring across a diverse perspective in his work.
December is a month of degree shows from various art schools of the city of Karachi. This year’s graduating classes from various institutions, including Indus Valley School, Karachi School of Art and Karachi University Department of Visual Studies, put forth some very promising work. These shows continue to launch many successful art careers and offer exciting opportunities for both seasoned and amateur art collectors to get their hands on some very reasonably priced but exquisite art. It is always exciting to see young talent put in the hard work and dedication to put up professional quality work, and I hope these artists will continue to produce and will not disappear once the graduate caps are tossed.
Momart Gallery recently held an homage to the recently deceased Pakistani Legend Jamil Naqsh, with an exhibition of his art works accompanied by a large number of guest speakers who spoke about the late artists, shared stories and paid their respects in an intimate gathering. The prolific artist spent the last years of his life abroad and continued to paint, the most iconic of his imagery being pigeons and women. His unique style and brushstrokes set him apart and his name and work will surely be kept alive by the recently established Jamil Naqsh Museum in Karachi which showcases an extensive collection of his works. The artist and his infectious vitality will be sorely missed by all who knew him.
A few other local exhibitions also took place this month. Riffat Alvi displayed ceramic works at Art Chowk Gallery. Known for heading the VM Art Gallery for decades now. The series of glazed ceramic structures and birds were masterfully designed and crafted and not only showcased the artist’s skill but also her love for the material and the process. Another interesting show was a solo exhibition by artist Irfan Gul at Sanat Initiative, which brought skillfully rendered portraits with whimsical and surreal imagery that can only be described as playfully odd. Art Citi held many exciting group and solo exhibitions in 2019. On the other hand, Art One 62 was a meaningful addition in the art scene which held many group shows and grad shows to promote young artists. Salma Raza’s abstract paintings in a solo show were an amalgamation of bright hues that portrayed hope, joy and peace. Canvas Gallery also held an exhibition this month titled Young Blood, which brought together a group of young emerging artists, Fawad Jafri, Hala Nasir, Karim Ahmed Khan, Rabbiya Ilyas, Sajid Khan, Salman Hunzai, Salman Khan and Wajahat Saeed, working with themes ranging from the deeply personal, to the universal.
Bye for NOW!