Spend­ing on art

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When works of art are rare, rar­ity it­self is a value; it is only when they are com­mon … that one can learn their in­trin­sic worth.”

- Jo­hann Wolf­gang von Goethe In or­der to en­gage the art au­di­ence, the form and con­tent of art re­quires the best show­cas­ing through an ac­ti­vated ex­hi­bi­tion space. An ex­hi­bi­tion space ex­udes a col­lec­tive en­ergy that sup­ports the bond­ing be­tween the artist and the au­di­ence.

Karachi, the coun­try’s in­dus­trial hub is also known as the city of Sad­e­quain, Gul­jee and Jamil Naqsh. The city has be­come an ex­hi­bi­tion de­light for ev­ery­one, from the mas­ters to emerg­ing artists.

A few years back, many peo­ple talked about Karachi’s role in Pak­istani art. Be­tween 2000 and 2011, Karachi wit­nessed an ex­plo­sion of art gal­leries. The city now boasts about 52 art gal­leries, with each of­fer­ing in­ter­est­ing dis­plays nearly ev­ery day.

Ma­j­mua, Gul­mo­har, In­dus, ArtChawk, Pop­py­seed, Kunj, JI, IVS, Ze­naine, Uni­corn, Grandeur, VM and Gand­hara are the lead­ing names in the cat­e­gory .

Artist and col­lec­tor Wa­hab Jaf­fer walks down the mem­ory lane: “I re­mem­ber in my younger days there were only one-and-a-half gal­leries in Karachi. Then in the early 1970s three notable spaces came up, one run by Sul­tan Mehmood, one by Ali Imam and one by Bashir Mirza. Mind you, they were gal­leries not frame shops.”

The same dis­tinc­tion be­tween an art gallery and an art shop is high­lighted by Sameera Raja who runs Can­vas. She em­pha­sizes the role of art gal­leries based on so­cial re­spon­si­bil­ity. An art gallery car­ries a con­science and un­der­stand­ing of an artist’s work. The au­di­ence is able to fol­low the growth of an artist through phases. The phe­nom­e­non is un­like the fly-bynight op­er­a­tion tak­ing place in art shops.

To re­spond to art de­mands, gal­leries in Karachi have be­come more so­phis­ti­cated in their choice of lights and au­dio-video equip­ment has ap­peared on their must-have lists. To en­hance the dis­play of art ob­jects, dis­play props, plex­i­glass pedestals, boxes and dis­play topped ta­bles are be­com­ing com­mon. Mehreen Ilahi shared her views with En­ter­prise. Her Ma­j­mua Art Gallery was wel­comed not only as a space for ex­hi­bi­tions, but one where art can be re­viewed and eval­u­ated for its artis­tic merit and com­mer­cial value. She refers to the eco­nomic crunch, say­ing that less dis­pos­able in­come has made art buy­ers eval­u­ate what they are buy­ing. Ma­j­mua is work­ing at ed­u­cat­ing buy­ers and guid­ing them to­wards spe­cific artists. The gallery is be­com­ing pop­u­lar in the art and fur­ni­ture mar­ket and is adding a new flavour through Uzma Javeri’s jew­ellery fea­tur­ing semi-pre­cious stones. Gal­leries like Ma­j­mua have sec­tions for crafts and hand­made gifts. It has a num­ber of shows to its credit in the last 15 years in Pak­istan and in UK, UAE, Tur­key, Kenya, Mozam­bique, Malaysia, Nepal, Bangladesh and Sin­ga­pore.

Zohra Hus­sain’s Chawkandi Gallery has pro­moted artists of all sorts, in­clud­ing painters, sculp­tors and ce­ramists. Shahzad Saeed’s Art Scene Gallery works at giv­ing due im­por­tance to artists, art cu­ra­tors and art pa­trons. The Ocean Art Gallery, one of the big­gest art gal­leries in Karachi, has the dis­tinct flavour of pre­sent­ing the philo­soph­i­cal work of the old mas­ters, thus pre­serv­ing the legacy of art.

Karachi does not lack in terms of art con­nois­seurs, art stu­dents, ama­teur artists and art ad­mir­ers. A ded­i­cated ef­fort to­wards more in­vest­ment in gal­leries is im­por­tant to cre­ate a dis­tinct iden­tity of Pak­istani art. How­ever, crit­ics say that in­vest­ment in art should be based on buy­ing and sell­ing of prod­ucts backed by a true knowl­edge of its value.

Due to glob­al­iza­tion, lo­cal art gal­leries have made Pak­istani art more vis­i­ble in­ter­na­tion­ally at pres­ti­gious events, art fairs, auc­tions, col­lec­tions and museums. Says art critic Nilo­fur Far­rukh: “In­ter­na­tion­ally art in­vest­ment is a big thing. In Pak­istan it is not an in­dus­try but we have be­gun to take art se­ri­ously be­cause our artists have found a place in the in­ter­na­tional mar­ket.”

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