You enter the space and your eye catches the day light mixing with yellow light installed in the gallery illuminating the history of Pakista
You enter the space and your eye catches the day light mixing with yellow light installed in the gallery illuminating the history of Pakistani art on the plane white walls, here I am referring to Alhamra Art Museum, Cultural Complex, Lahore Art Council, (Gaddafi Stadium), Lahore. The grandness of the museum space is warm and welcoming. It has the silence and stillness required to scrutinize any artwork; to get indulged in a conversation with the old masters through their works. The history ceased within these frames, technique, vision and concerns of these amazing artists.
The architecture walks you through the artworks; including photographs, prints, painting and sculptures of major Pakistani artists, for instance Anna Molka, Shakir Ali, Syed Sadquain Naqvi and Abdur Rehman Chughtai and the living legends like R.M Naeem, Laila Rehman and Saeed Akhtar. The museum has 326 inventories in total with 159 in permanent display for now, of 118 artists with 45 old masters, included. Zulfiqar ALi Zulfi with Babar Mustafa, exhibition officer; treated and preserved nine paintings of the artists; Anna Milka Ahmed, Moeen Najmi, Salima Hashmi, Mian Ejaz Ul Hassan, Ghulam Rasool M. Shehbaz Khan and Mehmood Butt in the period of two months, which Punjab Art council handed over to Alhamra Art Museum in 2018, which was displayed and was open to the public in August 2019 and you can still find them placed on a separate wall.
The ground floor invites the viewer with the historical strokes of astonishing paintings of almost 78 old masters, and first floor on the other hand, pleases their vision with the work of the great living artists. This curational division is installed for almost two years now, it is planned to be changed soon and replaced with more efficient chronological division, starting from pre-partition to the independence; including legends along with contemporary artists by the team of curators including Zulfiqar Ali Zulfi. This will definitely help the viewer to better articulate the evolution of art in Pakistan.
This incentive will definitely reinforce the aspirations of this institution; to encourage young artists and people to learn about the historical evolution of art in Pakistan, by being able to understand the visual journeys of these masters. For this reason, they encourage colleges and universities to bring their students to come along with their sketch pads and get involved and connect with the work of these astounding artists and learn from them, especially for the students in their thesis years. Usually the curriculums of any art institute in Pakistan is more inclined towards western art history, that is why it is fruitful for the final year students to visit these indigenous masters from their own soil with whom they can relate better in terms of visual interests and conceptual concerns.
For that purpose, museum sends invitations to art institution to visit the museum and conducts workshops, artist talks and seminars for them. Like, Sumera Javed was called for artist talk and Rahat Naveed Masood conducted a workshop on the history of drawing beginners and the college students. Around 40 to 45 fine art departments and institutes in Lahore, have brought their students to Alhamra Art Museum for these activities and more need to be encouraged. These initiatives have been taken to provide a bridge between the new generation of artists to the old masters.
Hajra Mahmood, Curator, Alhumra Art Museum, Cultural Complex, Lahore Art Council, mentioned in her discussion that the old masters dominantly have elements that are peculiar to this region because they lived and worked before the age of globalization. Whereas, work of our contemporary artists have more similarities to the international trends in arts. So, it can be an important clue to reach the idiosyncrasy of Pakistani art. To take this further they have started small research project, under the supervision of Mueeza Hashmi, to have writings on individual works of different artists which they later aspire to advance into an extensive research programme.
Aim of the museum is the promotion of the inventory, which has some rare pieces, like you encounter a black and white print by Saed Akhtar, which is quite different from his beautified oil paintings. In the same way, the early works by R.M Naeem unfold his journey through art and how he has come to his peculiar style of painting now. You get surprised by looking at a huge canvas placed on the right wall portraying a war scene by Colin David, which you might mistakenly associate with Ustaad Allah Bukhsh at first sight.
The earthy scent can be sensed around the countryside scenes painted by the artista like; Iqbal Ahmed and Sufi Waqar. Bold brush strokes, of Anna Molka’s portraits, empower the image of the women portrayed. She is the most collected artist of the museum, with 25 works in collection right now. A.R Chughtai speaks to the viewer in more socio-political terms through his watercolor painting “Slave Girl with Shoes”. Nameem H. Qasi reaches one out in more intimate and personal level in his painting “Fallen Letter”. And Zahoor Ul Ikhlaq‘s print of a traditional architectural space tells more about his interest in grids later.
Alhamra Art Museum, Cultural Complex, Lahore Art Council, is one of the finest museums of Pakistan, in terms of collection and display and we definitely need more places like these in our country. They have Pakistan’s heritage preserved well with sensitive framing to keep these valuable works safe from light exposure and dust in comparison to some other institutes. One can aspire or dream it to be an active public sphere, with more art discussion and art related activities, to engage young minds having passion for art.
It welcomes visitors for six days a week from 10 am to 4pm.
Huma Maqbool, 2020