COMO Museum of Art, is Pakistan’s first private museum dedicated to the preservation and promotion of contemporary and modern art. Founded by Seher Tareen, who holds a master’s degree with a special focus on art curation, the museum will open its doors to the public in March.
The inaugural exhibition titled ‘ONE’ included artists Rashid Rana, Risham Syed, Ali Kazim, Naiza Khan, Salman Toor and Saba Khan. The exhibition is curated by Seher Tareen and is inspired by the paradoxical concept of ‘one’ - the beginning, the first, the only. A universal unit of singularity that can hold the concept of the divine, one is the paradox of the finite and the infinite. It is the start, the end and all that lies in between.
The private viewing of the exhibition is being held today, as the museum hosts the Lahore Literary Festival (LLF), a Como partner, at its opening reception.
This will be followed by the LLF art talk ‘Art on the Edge - Influence of Zahoorul Akhlaque’ with Zehra Jumabhoy and Conor Macklin that will be held at the museum on Sunday.
COMO hopes to engage the public through a series of exhibitions, talks and events. The museum will be partnering with organisations such as the Lahore Literary Festival and the Lahore Biennale Foundation as well as academic institutions to foster an environment of interactive learning for students and the community at large, through programmes that include field trips and workshops.
The goal is for COMO to become a cultural haven in the city of Lahore, celebrating the arts of Pakistan and making connections with the global art narrative.
The artists and their work
Rashid Rana is widely considered one of the most prominent artists working in South Asia today and represents an entirely new kind of art from Pakistan. The show will enable the local audience to see some of his seminal works including the two iconic works ‘I Love Miniatures’ (2002) and ‘Red Carpet 1’ (2007). These works, along with the others on display, have acquired international fame as the most iconic work to come from subcontinent in the contemporary era.
Risham Syed’s powerful work is riddled with subtlety. ‘The Marble Hearth’ (2010) for example is an ornate, Victorian marble fireplace that represents the comfort of the traditional family unit and home. Through this, the viewer is invited to look at a painting of the Space Shuttle Discovery, taking off, which simultaneously represents the so-called advancement and destruction in modern times. Syed sees humour and irony in this. This also points towards violence within domesticity that connects with violence of the outside world. This, along with her ‘Lahore Series’ (2016) which explores and questions the urban expansion of the city with Risham Syed’s nostalgic lens, is both poignant and a point of pride to showcase this body of work in the city it speaks of.
Saba Khan has produced an entire series for the show, titled, ‘Monuments and Other Failures.’ With this body of work, Khan continues her social commentary, this time targeting the bureaucratic structures and the structures constructed by it, literally. Works such as ‘The Inauguration Plaque,’ ‘Monument for an Undecided Event,’ and ‘The Bureaucrat’ poke delicious fun at the useless structures and activities of government in the most deliciously kitsch way. Saba uses paintings, LED light signs and sculptures to make her point - loud and clear!
Salman Toor, one of the finest oil painters of his generation, has created a site specific permanent ceiling mural. Titled, ‘Upside Down Party’ (2019), it is a collage of oil and acrylic and a thing of beauty. In his own words, “It is a fantasy of togetherness among unlikely characters, belonging to different social orbits. Aerial perspective of the figures recalls a mirror image as though the gallering was happening in the atrium of the museum, creating a visual dialog between ceiling and floor, between the tradition of frescoed ceilings and collage.”
In the words of the show’s curator Seher Tareen, it is his masterpiece!
Naiza Khan, who will be the first artist to represent the Pakistan at its first national pavilion at the Venice Biennale this year, is showing her iconic ‘Armour Suit for Rani of Jhansi II’ (2017), made out of galvanised steel, feathers and leather.
This work represents a historic female figure, who fought against Colonial rule in the 1857 Mutiny. In Naiza’s words, “For me, it was not just about her heroism, but her personae and her femininity. So through this work, I am exploring the sensuality of the female body, but also its weight, its opacity and its recalcitrance in relation to the social order.”
‘Rani of Jhansi’ is part of a series of armour works which began in late 2006, under the title Behishti Zewar/Heavenly Ornaments.
Ali Kazim is exhibiting works from his Cloud, Storm and Lightning series as well as his Ratti Tibbi, Kacha Pind and Fallen Objects series. His work is summed up best in the words of curator and professor Naman P Ahuja who writes, “Pots contain, but Kazim shows them to us as sherds of lives past and fragments of possibilities for us to reconnect. The Japanese have an aesthetic around smashed sherds called Kintsugi or Kintsukurio. They put broken pots back together using gold, silver or platinum. The glue that connects memory and meaning back together is the most precious substance of all. Repair and reconnection is itself part of history. And as I look at the land of my ancestors through Kazim’s work, he becomes Kintsukuroi too. The work of the artist, art-historine and archaeologist is like that precious glue that links us to our pasts. The past never goes away, we reconnect ourselves to it and grapple with ways to own up to it.”
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