The term ‘art collector’ has been used far too loosely in Pakistan. Art started to find its identity in the late 1980s in Pakistan and in the past decade, the focus has moved from rugs and antiques towards paintings. “There was a time when people would focus on floors and rugs were appreciated,” says artist and enthusiast Aasim Akhtar. “Now we look at the walls to see what the owner of the house is in possession of.”
Is a person buying artwork considered a true and passionate collector, or is he just another consumer trying to embellish his abode?
We reached out to some known personalities in the art world to get their views on the way art is bought and collected in Pakistan.
Zishan aka Mouse from Khaas Art Gallery
“Education gives one exposure, and by education I do not just mean pragmatic knowledge but hands on experience and being in the presence of art. Pakistan has very few collectors, because here a lot of people collect art to keep up with the Jones’. It is more about who’s who and what is fashionable rather than what art is. Buying for the sake of buying does not qualify you as a collector.”
Noshi Qadir of Tanzara Art Gallery
“A ‘collector’ is someone who understands art. It is a matter of educating yourself, and people want to be educated about what they are buying and are open to guidance. Wahab Jaffar knows a lot about art since he is an artist himself, he is a real collector. There needs to be a thematic thread binding a collection to make someone a collector.”
Zahra David, coordinator at Ejaz Art Gallery
“Someone who has a passion for art could become a collector. One has to live with art to understand it and eventually it becomes a part of your personality. The collection grows with the person. You should only collect what you like and judge what the work stands for. There are still no artists who have the caliber of the masters of the yesteryears. Our younger generations need to be exposed to artwork.”
Aasim Akhtar, renowned artist, critic and curator
“There is a difference between a collector and an investor. A collector is someone who has a keen eye and buys art for keepsake, whereas an investor has no interest in keepsake. While the collector lives with the art, the investor looks at it from a business perspective. In Pakistan, most people buy art as an investment. People go after the artist’s signature rather than the work’s importance.”
Marjorie Husain, an authority on art history in Pakistan
“Art is a visual language and it is important to let it speak to you. A collector lives with his art work so the piece can speak to him. It is hard to put people in boxes. However, at this point in art history, it is important for people to buy even if it is for the sake of buying because their generations will have the eye to appreciate the work.”
Published in The Express Tribune, July 24th, 2012.