Welcome to the March 2020 issue of ArtNow, “Art and Internationalism”. This month’s issue focuses on the Lahore Biennale 02, which has brought together artists from several countries. We at ArtNow have dedicated both the February and March issues to this important and historic Art event. Every effort has been taken to report on the work of brilliant curator Hoor Al Qasimi, President and Director of the Sharjah Art Foundation, and Executive Director, Qudsia Rahim who brilliantly managed LB02.
I would like to congratulate the LB02 team, specially Hoor Ul Qasimi and Qudsia Rahim for successfully closing the second Lahore Biennale. Osman Waheed, the Chairman of the Lahore Biennale Foundation is an exceptional leader and worked to make LB02 a super success!
Work from over 70 artists, both national and international, and 20 new commissions, all contributed towards making LB02 a resounding success. HBL was the lead sponsor of the Lahore Biennale and Sultan Ali Allana, Chairman of HBL, gave his full support and patronage to the event. The Lahore Biennale Foundation Directors Raza Ali Dada, Mohsin Hamid, Ahmed Rafay Alam, Tariq Zaman Patrons, advisors and friends of LBF have worked tirelessly, advising, sponsoring these two Lahore Biennales. It has been a pleasure for me to work with such a dynamic team.
This iteration, helmed by a powerful curatorial vision, invited a large number of international artists to converse with the ancient city of Lahore as well as the wider region of South Asia. Through intelligent creative discourse, the biennale was able to bring to light issues at the intersection of history, civilization, humanity and politics from specific geographical regions across the world, and allow us to make connections that reveal the inherent similarities in these crises, be it Kazakhstan, UK, Egypt, Turkey, India, Palestine or any other place. A further testament to the power of curation was the dialogue established between the art and the site it occupied, adding more weight and dimension to the commentary. The biennale was able to hit all the right notes, raising questions about displacement, race, gender inequality, and the humanitarian crises that emerge as a result of it. Egypt based Basma Al Sharif, in her video ‘We Begin By Measuring Distance’, maps the plight of Palestinians, while Amar Kanwar’s video ‘A Season Outside’, focuses on the India-Pakistan conflict, showing an insurmountable border between two countries.
Rabbya Naseer and Hurmat ul Ain deal with the segregation of sects and beliefs within one nation in their installation ‘Distance Between You and I’, represented through a poetic, playful and powerful arrangement of fabrics that move from shades of green to purity of white, and everything in between.
Iftikhar Dadi in a conversation with Samina Iqbal speaks about his role in the Lahore Biennale as head of the Educational Forum and how he wishes to cultivate an audience for the Lahore Biennale through its programming aimed at bringing people together to discuss relevant issues. In another conversation between Bangladeshi artist Preema Nazia Andaleeb and Francesca Carol Rolla, the artist talks about her practice, her exploration of identity and European influence and post-colonialism. LB02 is further covered in detail, through a photo-essay, as well as, an insightful analysis by our editor Quddus Mirza. ArtNow Guest editor for the month is LBF founding Executive Director Qudsia Rahim.
Another important event to that took place in February was IAMKARACHI’s second iteration of the International Public Art Festival (IPAF) at the historic Nadirshaw Edulji Dinshaw (NED) University City Campus. Congratulations to, curator Sohail Zuberi, and his team. The exhibition featured works from multidisciplinary artists, including an impressive display of local and international photography. The theme for this year, ‘Karachi Ki Khoj: (Re)defining the metropolis ‘, focused on uncovering the individuality and essence of the city through the unique stories of its participating artists. The sound installation at the entrance by Wajiha Ather Naqvi played recorded sound clips of prayers from different religions, sects and denominations as an ode to ethnic diversity and cultural complexity of the city, while Haider Ali’s metallic line drawings were recreations of drawings by local residents around the Abdullah Shah Ghazi Mazar as a form of understanding their response to the recent shifts in the landscape. Seema Nusrat’s installation recreates barriers and security structures common across the city. Exhibitions such as these are vital to the social and cultural development of the city. Art is a reflection of its time and is meant to be viewed by a diverse audience. By bringing these events to public spaces, these organisations are creating awareness, appreciation and a broader reach of art within the local community.
An important exhibition took place at VM Gallery this month, “Father Figure: South Asian Art Through the Eyes of Wahab Jaffer”. The exhibition brings the private collection of artist and collector Wahab Jaffer, which serves as a survey of South Asian Modern Art of the 70s and 80s, with works by old Masters from Pakistan, India and Bangladesh. These artists became close friends of Jaffer, and inspired him to start his own practice, deeply influencing his work. These figurative and abstract works illustrate the trajectory of art history in the region, and through anecdotes and archival photographs accompanying the exhibit, give a taster of what the art world was like at the time, and the bonds and friendships that were formed to created the close knit art circle of the time. Exhibitions like these are important not only in their content, but also in what they represent for the young artists of today, who are only able to see these historic works on the pages of art books, with a lack of a national art collection and private collection locked away out of sight. Galleries like VM play an important role in providing a space for these collections and these works to be displayed and viewed by students and young artists who would otherwise be deprived of the experience.
Another interesting show took place at Koel Gallery this month “The Fragrant Garden” was curated by Amra Ali and features a long list of established artists with exquisite works. The curatorial note is a concise stanza “Grace my garden with that divine water, so each flower becomes a fount of rose water.” From the Ali Nama by Mulla Nusrati. The show is as straight forward, with works surrounding the theme of the garden interpreted by various artists in their own ways, but for the most part drawing on its spiritual underpinnings both visually and metaphorically.
Bye for NOW!