A Frenchman, an Indian and a Norwegian walk into a Pakistani art gallery… this isn’t the starting line of a joke, but in fact a description of the scene at Amin Gulgee’s Gallery on Friday evening where artists from Pakistan and around the world mingled with heads of corporations, celebrities and journalists. The occasion was a reception hosted by The Express Tribune for the fourth ASNA Clay Triennial — the biggest international art event in Pakistan.
“Everybody keeps talking about promoting art in Pakistan but nobody actually does it,” said an attendee as he sipped on a refreshing tamarind drink. “Until now.”
As guests admired the artwork, waiters from Koel Café wove between the installations and larger than life bronze sculptures, serving delectable finger food on platters, including mini burgers, tacos, bruschetta, sesame seed prawn and mini pavlovas — truly, a feast for all the senses.
Co-founders of ASNA, artist Mehr Afroz, art critic Nilofer Farrukh and designer Shanaz Siddiq were engaged in conversation with guests and foreign artists who eyed Amin’s pieces with admiration. Afroz lamented that dialogue to promote art is often ignored. “Our traditional craft is fading out. Sadly, we have nothing to offer. Indigenous art is pure and is so fine. I believe there is a great need for the country to bring together artists and craftsmen on the same platform through dialogue, which is our main purpose,” she said.
Guest, Rafikh Ismail, Sarwat Gillani, Frieha Altaf and Zahir Rahimtoola. PHOTO: AYESHA MIR/EXPRES
Siddiq talked about ASNA’s efforts, which all started about a decade ago. “There was a gap that needed to be filled and thus the first ASNA art event took place in 1997. She added that with a gap of a few years, the second one took place in the year 2000 and then the following one in 2006. Finally, the fourth triennial is now being held over a three-week duration in Karachi.
“Youth in Pakistan has no knowledge about the art history of Pakistan,” said Farrukh, adding that she feels it should be an optional subject in school. She hopes to conduct workshops to draw in young people and educate them about art, so it is not just looked at as a form of investment.
Zara Basharat, the Head of Corporate Communications for the Express Media Group, explained why The Express Tribune chose to partner with ASNA. “I feel it important for us to realise that art is a very powerful tool of communication and expression and a great avenue for exhibiting our ideas and thoughts beyond the capacity of words. It gives you more freedom, I think supporting art education should especially be a priority for us as a society as our children are growing in a time when they are witnessing violence and tension and this would a great way for them to address these issues and express their views in a constructive manner,” she said.
At the event, TV artist Sarwat Gilani admired Amin Gulgee’s work. “Look at Chapati,” she said, pointing to a giant three dimensional bronze sculpture. “I love it. Very artistically done. It’s unbelievable how you distort something and it looks so good.” Former model and event manager Frieha Altaf agreed, saying “I wish I could buy it by giving in 14 months of installments!”
Published in The Express Tribune, January 14th, 2013.
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