Curator and Artists: Behind the Scenes

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Hanging Fire: Contemporary Art from Pakistan brings to New York some of Pakistan’s most significant, provocative, and influential artists in the first U.S. museum survey exhibition of contemporary Pakistani art. Although Pakistan frequently makes the headlines for very different reasons, its rich cultural heritage and vibrant contemporary art scene often go unnoticed. Pakistani civil society has a history of dissent and activism, which has often informed its art movements, its poetry, and its music.

A Muslim-majority state, Pakistan was carved out of the Indian subcontinent after gaining independence from the British in 1947. Although from its inception, Pakistan’s history has been turbulent—including civil war, military coups, sectarian and ethnic strife, and other insurgencies—a resilient population has been enterprising, productive, and innovative. Art schools and art institutions in Pakistan are producing artists, educators, curators, and collectors, who are having an increasing impact in the art world and the media. Art practices vary widely, a reflection of the numerous visual legacies to which Pakistan is heir, including archeological finds from the Paleolithic era to the ancient Indus Valley civilization and Persian, Arab, Central Asian, and British colonial influences.

Contemporary artists sift through these many layers, which mingle with lively rural, urban, and regional cultures and contemporary issues from religious fundamentalism to urbanization and much more. In spite of apparent constraints, there is no evidence of alienation or submissiveness. Instead, the artists and artworks in Hanging Fire celebrate the opportunity for dialogue and display a preference for irony and humorous, mutinous thought.

A full color, 160-page publication, Hanging Fire: Contemporary Art from Pakistan, accompanies the exhibition. Available at AsiaStore.
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