MARCH EDITORIAL: BIENNALES, TRIENNALES
This month’s issue of ArtNow takes on the topic of Art Fairs, Biennales, and Triennales. Each year we see the growing presence of Pakistani artists in some of the most prestigious venues in the art world. Whether it involves being invited to biennales or exhibiting in top museums and galleries, Pakistani artists are garnering accolades for their intellectually and aesthetically sophisticated works. Pakistani artists are becoming more connected and more a part of the global art scene than ever before. In today’s increasingly globalized world, these connections are vital if Pakistani art and culture is to remain vibrant and energized.
Indeed, 2013 looks to be a promising year for Pakistani artists in the global art context. Though the debate on whether Pakistani artists are being recognized on their own merits, or because there is a Western demand for an indigenous voice to explain the “contradictions” of Pakistan, continues, there is no doubt that the world is taking greater notice of artists from Pakistan. Artists like Naiza Khan, who has lectured at universities such as Yale and Berkeley, are increasingly a presence in the global artistic and academic worlds. Young contemporary artists such as Hamra Abbas and Huma Mulji are showing at biennales throughout Asia and Europe. Imran Qureshi has been selected as Deutsche Bank’s Artist of the Year 2013, an award that supports promising young international artists. Some of the premier contemporary art museums around the world are taking an avid interest in art from our region. Just this month, the Guggenheim in New York is running a retrospective of South Asian abstract artist Zarina Hashmi and a major exhibition of contemporary art from South and Southeast Asia.
We are not arguing that recognition from the West somehow confers legitimacy upon artists from the global South – though we are indeed proud of our artists – nor that should they be clamouring for it. What is important is that countries from South Asia, East Asia, the Middle East and North Africa not only participate in global dialogues but actually create their own conversations, exploring issues that are significant to them in the artistic vocabulary of their choosing.
This does in fact seem to be happening. Asian art fairs are growing rapidly in number, attendance, and quality of work exhibited. In the past few months, we saw two major art events in India, including the nation’s first biennale; the rest of this year’s calendar is full of major art fairs and biennales taking place everywhere from Istanbul to Beirut to Hong Kong. Art events that cater to both the region and the international market can help local artists create their own trajectory and place it within a larger context. Of course, a critical and honest assessment of these developments is necessary. The essays in our current issue should provide a fresh perspective and a guide to what is needed in the context of art from the global South in general, and Pakistani art in particular. We hope you will keep this discussion in mind when you next visit an art fair.
Bye for NOW