The art community has struggled through a year and a half of being unable to showcase work in a physical gallery space due to the unpredictability of
The art community has struggled through a year and a half of being unable to showcase work in a physical gallery space due to the unpredictability of Covid. The disruption caused by indefinite quarantine protocols, strict restrictions, social distancing & countless lockdowns had left the art community unable to maintain the traditional opening reception and gallerist model of selling art. Khamsa Art is the art e-commerce established by art veteran Ambereen Karamat in order to bridge the gap between collectors, curators, and artists. To mark their first anniversary the digital exhibition Karamat invited Maliha Peracha to curate “Third Space: Room 1” showcasing 14 prominent & emerging artists including Meher Afroz, Zafar Ali, Shahid Hassan Boni, Fatema Chakera, Moeen Faruqi, Maisam Hussain, Hiba Karim, Faraz Aamer Khan, Karim Ahmed Khan, Masood A. Khan, Maryam Rahman, Fatima Saeed, Ayesha Shariff & Shanzay Subzwari. The digital exhibition has a total of 28 works that can be viewed from the comfort of your mobile phone or computer screen on the Khamsa website. The following is our conversation with Maliha Peracha about the exhibition and the role of Khamsa Art in improving the art market of the country.
AN: Could you share your experience and curatorial journey?
MP: I started my academic career at NCA, Lahore pursuing ceramics under the mentorship of the late Lala Rukh & my work stemmed from that relationship. I have actively taught ceramics at NCA & Yadawei Ceramic Studio in Dubai, UAE. Initially, I curated the shows at Yadawei applying my academic training to curating hobbyist potters in order to elevate the practice with a contemporary methodology & understanding. My goal was to be able to offer curatorial differentiation between exhibiting workshop art and studio art. I have been passionate about contemporary ceramics especially dedicated to the wheel. Since my return to Pakistan from Dubai a year ago I have not been able to set up a personal studio here as the pandemic had affected everyone’s engagement with the outside world.
I joined Koel Art Gallery in December 2019 and spent 13 months organizing art shows giving me ample time and space to reignite my interest in curation. After noticing sales were happening through digital correspondence and entirely online, I began to resurface artworks from the storeroom hanging them in the gallery collection exhibit space. I have passionately dedicated myself to the research, art consultation and independent curator to ensure that every aspect of my life is immersed in the artistic practice of some kind. I recently co-curated two online and various on-ground exhibitions. I was invited by Usman Saeed to curate his solo show “Gardenfinds Two” which was my first independent curatorial experience. I spend time getting to know the artists that I’m representing, forming meaningful long-term relationships. I am highly organized and prepared for any unexpected challenges while curating long-distance exhibitions. It was a natural progression to guest-curate “Third Space: Room 1” for Ambereen as we have known each other for a long time.
AN: What was the selection process & can you walk us through some of the artists participating in the exhibition?
MP: Ambereen had given me full autonomy to choose artists. I did not base any decisions based on collecting established names to guarantee the success of the show. Instead, senior artists who I requested to participate willingly created for the exhibition. I share a close friendship with Mehr Afroz, who I feel is currently taking contemporary art forward in Pakistan. I find her work to have truth, honesty, and sincerity. The works of Moeen Faruqi can feel overwhelming in certain settings but retain a sensitivity that I was looking to bring to the show. In the first instance, I asked Masood A. Khan to participate and he was open and acknowledged my abilities to manage his work. There are mid-career artists such as Maryam Rahman and Fatima Saeed, along with my fellow Alma mater Ayesha Shariff who has returned after taking time off from her studio practice. The newcomers in the lineup like Maisam Hussain & Zafar Ali I stayed in touch with on the phone to facilitate their art processes & rationale.
AN: Some of the themes visible in the display are explorations of minimal geometry paired with elements of urban infrastructure. The linework & forms are defined and hints of gold leaf are repeated. The usage of lettering, drafting, printed text & architectural motifs shows a miniature art influence that feels personal. What are some of the themes that have emerged through the exhibition for you?
MP: All the artists created brand new work for the exhibition there are no leftover works from anyone’s portfolio. In my curatorial practice, it is essential that there be an equal number of male and female artists represented. That fine balance is an important aspect of my practice along with searching for a resonating sensitivity in the works. One of the key components of the display is that each artist created works made in isolation reflecting on the ways they had been affected by the pandemic. For Mehr, Moeen Sb & Masood Sb, it meant not being able to leave the house anymore to avoid getting infected. Maisam had to avoid traveling, opting for moving to Lahore altogether throughout which I was in contact with him. Karim got stuck in Hunza while Faraaz has been spending time in his home studio due to COMO being closed. I started work on the exhibition in June making sure that the artists were not aware of what the others were working on. Purposely not orchestrating comradery between the artists keeping them separated from each other throughout the process. In this time I have gotten to know the artist’s work and personality. Hiba Kareem being a soft-spoken individual creates works that are minimal with a subtle play of lights & linework. Similarly, Ayesha Sharif works with shadow & light as a medium of image-making. The work is deliberately kept concentrated within this timeline to capture the changes experienced by each artist after long periods of isolation.
AP: What is the role of the curator & art consultant intermediately in purchasing artwork?
MP: I started art consultation while I was in Dubai. Often asked to work with clients to select artworks for interior spaces. It was a creative medium and I enjoyed it. Through those interactions of curating for people and intimate spaces, I started to formulate this role. I was offering advice, suggestions & advice focused on the quality & preservation of art. It was not a financial transaction as I was aware we did not have the proper art & culture institutions and agencies for authentication. It makes it easier & safer to purchase art through an art consultant & curator. Artists benefit from avoiding marketing themselves while remaining neutral to the client. The distance helps the artist to showcase their ideas & philosophy as the curator will manage the clients’ expectations. Artists can avoid unwanted dealings that could hinder their careers by inviting a third party to handle the sale. The curator is the missing link to mend a broken system that lacks economic strategy. Ambereen has been successfully providing transparency in packing & certification for the artists & clients.
AN: What role or services is Khamsa Art offering curators & artists right now?
MP: The artworks currently in the exhibition are made for Khamsa and by contract will remain with the platform for one year after which the artists are free to sell them independently. We have already sold half the show through the preview. The digital platform provides reliability & credibility to artworks as guest curators I was free to coordinate and organise the exhibition. I am a team player and believe that together we can achieve a lot more than as individuals. Women supporting other women is an essential part of my value system. Artists collaborating with guest curators at Khamsa can access the platform. After the success of “Third Space: Room 1” perhaps I will continue my collaboration with Khamsa in the future.