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First Discussion Question

Quddus Mirza, a Pakistani artist and critic in Lahore, writes in the exhibition catalogue that artists in Pakistan have become “exiles at home,” whose work is “slowly drifting away from the local art scene.” He continues, “the more it is uprooted from its native soil, the more accolades it receives in the mainstream art world.”

Exhibition curator Salima Hashmi presents another view in a New York Times interview: “The contemporary artist symbolizes a strong hope for Pakistan,” she argues. “Those who gain a foothold in the international art discourse serve as a conduit, inviting a chance to dialogue with those inside — a conversation that may startle, beguile, enlighten and hopefully enrich.”

With whom do you agree? Is it possible for artists to stay true to their own background while working internationally?

5 Responses to “First Discussion Question”

  1. Ali Adil Khan Says:

    I disagree with Quddus Mirza’s statement and agree with Salima Hashmi’s view in its entirety. In my opinion, leading Pakistani contemporary artists are light years ahead of the “local art scene” which lacks (in general) an understanding and appreciation of critical discourse and presentation of socio-economic and political issues, which these artists are brilliantly capturing and portraying in their work. When you are lost in a forest you can only see trees. One needs to be outside of the forest standing high up on a mountain, to see it. The question is, how and when will the “local art scene” come out of the locks of decorative and religious arts such as traditional miniature, caligraphy, landscapes, horses and pigeons – and appreciate contemporary, new media and neo-miniature art. Certainly, local art galleries, curators, art critics and educators have an important role to play in making this happen – and it may have already started with contemporary artists leading the way.

  2. Huma Mulji Says:

    Both these opinions are based on the reality of Pakistani art today.

    Artists who have gained international visibility have directed the attention of curators, researchers and collectors towards Pakistan. As this work is placed in international shows and collections, the audience base broadens. This process began in the mid 90’s with the wave of collaborative/public works that came out of Karachi, addressing and engaging with the popular culture of the city, putting Pakistan on the map of what we call “contemporary Art”, together with the neo-miniature works that were produced in Lahore that generated immense international response.

    There is an expectation and a “market” for what is overtly “Pakistani” in the work coming out of Pakistan. And by market I mean a critical/curatorial market as well. The unfortunate limitation of this is that Pakistani artists have more opportunity internationally if the work addresses the socio-political/religious turmoil in Pakistan directly. Often, this can be at the cost of a more subtle or poetic gesture.

    Most artists will agree that living in Pakistan/South Asia today affords more opportunities to show internationally, and it is much more meaningful to produce work within the context of Pakistan, for most of us. A large number of contemporary artists from Pakistan, showing internationally today, live and show in the country and the work is regularly shown in local galleries as well, although its true more and more, that this is often right before the work is to travel elsewhere.

  3. Miwako Tezuka Says:

    My post here is more just a comment.
    What I discovered and learned much from this exhibition is that there is such a strong focus on importance of education. Today a number of contemporary Pakistani artists with international experiences are taking up teaching positions at various institutions in Pakistan, fostering growth of many young talents. I believe their objective in education is multifold, ranging from dissemination of information about the international art world, engagement in critical discourse on subjects of interest shared by artists from various cultures and societies, to reexamination of tradition. As their effort continues, the local art scene will change, and perhaps, the idea of “Home” would change, too.

  4. Miwako Tezuka Says:

    Below is a link to a review of the exhibition that just came out in Business Standard. For the sake of having various voices heard and takes of the exhibition be discussed here, I am posting the link to the review here.

    I would be very much interested in what people think of the opinion expressed in this review and further contemplate on the significacne of the show.

  5. Jalal HB Says:

    I think art has nurtured pretty well in Pakistan, like any other country. We have painters painting every facet of life and they really need our encouragement. Even criticism makes them better artists as an artist without a critic is just nobody. I do not understand why people want to change the local art scene as it has diversified dimensions. And everyday we find a new theme. What more our artists should do?

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