The closing down of several galleries in Islamabad has created much discontent within art enthusiasts. The capital has been deprived of the much-neede
The closing down of several galleries in Islamabad has created much discontent within art enthusiasts. The capital has been deprived of the much-needed spaces for a prolific cultural and artistic exchange which has dampened the overall creative discourse and activity, proving to be a great loss to the spirit of any city.
As many galleries either relocated to less desirable spots due to several space, legal or monetary restrictions or decided to stop functioning at all rather than compromising their organization, Tanzara fortunately managed to stay afloat or may I say thrive despite several hitches. The gallery survived this transition. It went from operating in the basement of the director’s house to a state-of-the-art gallery space, which I was later told was the product of much renovation of a dilapidated structure, the first of its kind in Saidpur Village.
When talking about galleries moving out of residential spaces it is hardly possible to do so without discussing the reason that brought about this change. Having personally experienced the CDA ban on all organizations operating out of residential areas, Noshi Qadir and I had a lot to agree upon. At times like this even the calm and composed Noshi Qadir, the director of Tanzara Art Gallery, seemed to have a tinge of disgruntlement in her voice.
“Art galleries should really have gotten (the) waiver. There should be free spaces for artists and galleries. Everywhere in the world there are artist villages.” she said with disappointment. As she passionately spoke about how the government is not doing enough for art practitioners, I heard a hint of vexation, just the right kind, that you would like to see in someone who has taken up the responsibility of determining the nature of the country’s art market and to keep it moving forwards.
In that moment I saw the driving force behind the conception of Tanzara in 2007 and its success to date. Tanzara is Noshi Qadir’s passion project. Being a graduate of National College of Arts, Lahore herself she is no stranger to the arts. Qadir recalls her time at NCA, with a smile on her face as she considers herself to have been lucky enough to have studied under several renowned artists: Zahoor Ul Akhlaq, Salima Hashmi , Sheherezade Alam and Mian Salahuddin to name a few. She gained a degree in Graphic Design that initially sxl;qled to a life of “signage and corporate identity”. Even setting up her own studio was not enough to reconcile to the lack of stimulation within her work routine. Thus, on the suggestion of Raja Changez Sultan, an artist she was fond of collecting, and a promise of the first solo show, Tanzara was born. Qadir initially just a collector fully immersed herself into the life of a curator and art distributor, making the gallery a staple name in Pakistan.
For Noshi Qadir running the gallery is not just a labour of love – she is fully aware of her responsibility as an art connoisseur. Securing a good relationship with artists and collectors is of the outmost importance to her. Qadir has successfully gained their trust as many artists are seen to return time and again for shows and collectors now ask her herself to select pieces they can take home. The shift in location which Qadir, initially found worrisome, has not affected the clientele that seems to have become very comfortable with how the gallery operates.
The gallery puts up five to six shows every year, each being decided by the simple question ; “Do I want to show this work?”. Qadir claims the selection of the work in the gallery is a pure reflection of her own taste and what she perceives as the best of Pakistani Art, the intention not being to make a “quick buck” but to ensure the right kind of artwork is put out there; something she believes is worthy of being highlighted.
Some of the names commonly associated with Tanzara are artists such as Wahab Jaffer, Mashkhoor Raza, Irfan Cheema, Zulfiqar Ali Zulfi, Jamil Naqsh and Raja Changez Sultan. Tanzara has also enjoyed the privilege of being one of the few galleries to have direct correspondence with Jamil Naqsh in relation to his work, along with the opportunity to put up the artist’s biggest solo of 160 calligraphy works in 2014 titled The supremacy of letters. Furthermore, Qadir’s rapport with celebrated artist, Iqbal Hussain also resulted in a retrospective show of Iqbal Hussain’s work at Tanzara in November 2018.
In April, Tanzara Art Gallery will complete its three years in Saidpur. With the move out of the smaller more intimate space, the gallery also seems to have assumed a much bolder approach as to the type of work displayed. The walls of the gallery, that initially mostly housed the works of renowned traditional master painters now also seems to contain within itself modern and contemporary art, to cater to current market trends and changing demands.
Looking to foray into other forms of art, Tanzara also put up it’s first ever photography exhibit Dastak by Zaidis photographers in November 2018. Additionally, the gallery has displayed shows by Independent Curators such as Aasim Akhtar, that have introduced their own aesthetic, with shows such as Configuration and The Autonomous Draughtsman showcasing works by younger contemporary artists.
Furthermore, Qadir also took part in Islamabad Art Festival by taking on the herculean task of curating four shows simultaneously. These consisted of solo shows by Abdul Jabbar Gul titled Thoughts from the celestial realm, The contemporary classist by Najmi Sura, Love Letters by Nazia Ejaz and Dastak an exhibition of vintage photographs. Tanzara has also received support from embassies that have facilitated the gallery director’s visits to countries such as China and Brazil to study and observe the Art market and trends, eventually culminating in collaborative shows abroad.
Qadir’s expertise has also been employed beyond gallery spaces. She has helped in curating private collections and homes to ensure an appropriate art piece occupies the space it deserves.