Spending on art
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.”