Saturday, November 28, 2015

Huffington Post on Collecting in Emerging Markets

It is good to see a number of atists of Pakistan origin mentioned is this article.


Art Consultant Arianne Levene Piper on Collecting in Emerging Art Markets


Natalie Hegert

Rashid Rana, Perpetuel Paradoxe, 2010, installation view, Musee Guimet. Courtesy of Arianne Levene Piper.

In a globalized art world, a good navigator is essential. Arianne Levene Piper is a London-based art consultant and curator who advises major international collectors in Zurich, London, Stockholm, Dubai and elsewhere. With specialist knowledge on international emerging art markets including China, Japan, Korea, India, Pakistan and Iran, Levene Piper helps collectors cultivate informed outlooks and museum-quality collections of art that don't give in to trends or succumb to speculation. MutualArt talked with Levene Piper about her experiences traveling the globe in search of artists, the rise of the art consultant profession and the emergence and development of the globalized art marketplace.

Installation view of works by Reza Aramesh, Lost in Paradise. Du spirituel dans l'art actuel, 2012, Espace Sévigné. Courtesy of Arianne Levene Piper.

Natalie Hegert: After your experience working at Sotheby's and UBS, what prompted you to strike out with your own independent art advisory firm?

Arianne Levene Piper: One of the main deciding factors was my desire to work with Chinese Contemporary Art; in 2005 there were hardly any galleries or dealers working with Chinese Contemporary Art in London, and very few -- if any -- Contemporary Asian Departments at the auction houses. It felt like a huge oversight given the ever-growing importance of China on an economic, political and cultural level -- not only in the commercial market, but also in the wider art world's consciousness. There was such an abundance of energy and creativity in China that it was baffling that this was not being reflected in Europe and the US. I felt the first obvious step in readdressing this balance was to start out on my own.

Installation view of works by Behrouz Rae and Nazgol Ansarinia, Made in Iran, 2009, Asia House, London. Courtesy of Arianne Levene Piper.

NH: What brought you to specialize in emerging art markets, and what initially drew you to East Asia and the Middle East? How have you seen these markets develop over time?

ALP: As I mentioned, in 2004 - 2005 very few people were engaging with Contemporary Chinese art but it was a very exciting time to visit China as things were very much in flux. The emergence of the 798 District in Beijing and Moganshanlu in Shanghai were pivotal in the growth of a Contemporary art scene in the country; more and more galleries began to open there and the scene begun to flourish. In 2007 Guy and Myriam Ullens opened the Ullens Center for Contemporary Art (UCCA), presenting both international and Chinese artists from established and emerging backgrounds; the following year saw the launch of ART HK -- the Hong Kong International Art Fair. This wind-change in China, and beyond, then coincided with the seminal Saatchi show The Revolution Continues in London, which took Chinese Contemporary Art as its focus and introduced record-breaking numbers of visitors to the genre in 2008. Saatchi followed this with a show of Indian and then Middle Eastern Art, and places such as Initial Access, the home to Frank Cohen's collection, followed suit.

As prices increased I decided to then explore the emerging art worlds in India and the Middle East. Again this proved to be a dynamic time to visit these locations and I spent months travelling to these regions, meeting artists and really exploring the art being produced. Many buyers at the time noticed the trend in emerging art and wanted to snap up anything and everything that was being made -- but they weren't truly engaging with the works. This caused a speculative bubble in these markets -- aided by the fact that many financial sectors were also looking at investing in MEA and BRIC regions at the same time. The fact that I had visited these regions and engaged with the art scenes in the respective countries became key to my understanding of the work. I was able to identify who the main players really were (be they artists, collectors or galleries) and make educated and calculated decisions on what to purchase; I didn't just follow auctions from London, which can often provide a distorted view of the wider market and a piece's art historical worth.

Of course the art market is highly speculative and a lot of people who drive booms in emerging markets are in the trade; buying at the right time is always crucial.

Arianne Levene Piper speaking at Rashid Rana, Perpetuel Paradoxe, 2010, Musée Guimet. Courtesy of Arianne Levene Piper.

NH: It must be quite exciting to travel around, discovering new artists and becoming acquainted with art scenes across the globe. Are there any particular incidents or anecdotes that stand out for you from your travels?

ALP: Going for dinner with artists in China always entailed discovering new and unusual foods, even if this sometimes meant I wasn't quite sure what it was I was eating. Once I mistook a plate of miniature dried prawns for rice, which was quite a surprise!

I also remember one instance when my brother, who traveled around India on a research trip with me back in 2008, politely accepted some homemade liqueur at an Indian artist's home. Although it was delicious we spent the next three days bound to our hotel room with doctors on call...

Finally, getting in and out of Iran was often dicey and quite nerve wracking; it sometimes felt a bit like the final scene from Argo. However, I knew these opportunities could not be passed by and in some ways this only propelled my drive to meet new artists and to visit different places.

Installation view of works by Shezad Dawood, Lost in Paradise. Du spirituel dans l'art actuel, 2012, Espace Sévigné. Courtesy of Arianne Levene Piper.

NH: You've also curated a number of exhibitions, including Lost in Paradise: Du spiritual dans l'art actual at Loft Sévigné in Paris, an exhibition of Pakistani artist Rashid Rana at the Musée Guimet in Paris and Made In Iran at Asia House in London. How does curating compare to consulting? I imagine these activities feed into each other quite a lot.

ALP: A major difference between curating and advising is that with curation you work primarily with the artists; this of course is a very different experience to dealing with clients. I have certainly found the creative side of curating extremely rewarding, and through this practice I've found another way in which to explore emerging genres and introduce lesser-known artists to international audiences. However, ultimately I feel that building collections is my passion; my expertise lends itself particularly to the advisory role.

Installation view of work by Idris Khan, Lost in Paradise. Du spirituel dans l'art actuel, 2012, Espace Sévigné. Courtesy of Arianne Levene Piper.

NH: There's been a noted rise in the number of art advisers in the recent past, and now even some online ventures that purport to help would-be collectors navigate the art world and facilitate connections. Do you think it's necessary for a new collector to become introduced to the art world via a third party in some capacity (even if that third party is a friend, not a professional)? What is it about the art world that is so opaque and intimidating that the intermediary profession is growing at such a rate? Or is there something else that is contributing to this trend?

ALP: I think people often do find the art world intimidating and advisors can be a way into what feels like quite a clandestine world. However my work isn't solely about providing access, it is also about working with individuals -- whether they are completely new to the art world as you mention, or already well informed -- to cultivate or refine their own knowledge of the art landscape. I work to develop each client's individual, distinctive appreciation of art and I educate and support them on the creation of considered and dynamic collections; for me this is much more rewarding for an advisor than simply facilitating a collection's growth.

Shinro Ohtake, Red Head, 1995, dye, dust on paper, 99.8 x 70.3 cm. Courtesy of Arianne Levene Piper.

NH: You have your own personal collection of art, too. Can you tell us a bit about your own collection and any favorite works?

ALP: I really only ever buy what I love. Like many people in London I sadly don't have a huge amount of space, so it makes sense that most of the things that I buy are small in scale. Some of my favorite works in my collection include a lovely painting by the Japanese artist Shinro Ohtake who works with found images from urban culture and the media, and turns them into beautiful works of art. I am also very proud of my latest purchase, a Yoshitomo Nara drawing.

Yoshitomo Nara, On your Way?, 2015, colored pencil on envelope, 24 x 33 cm. Courtesy of Arianne Levene Piper.

NH: Besides the maxim to "buy only what you love," what other piece of advice do you think collectors should follow?

ALP: I cannot disconnect art from life; art makes me feel very alive. Indeed, I can't imagine my life without it. Auguste Rodin once said about art: "The main thing is to be moved, to love, to hope, to tremble, to live."

However with regards to collecting art here are three maxims from very different people that come to mind:

"Collectors are happy people." - Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
"Buying art is the same thing as falling in love." - Nohra Haime
"The art one chooses to collect becomes a self-portrait." - Dennis Heckler

I think that covers most bases!

--Natalie Hegert

Friday, November 27, 2015

NY Times, The Met, Sheena Wagstoff and Imran Qureshi's Rofftop Garden

A clear sign of an exceptional and impactful art-work is that it stays relevant for a long time and people keep referring to it in different contexts .... Imran Qureshi's work at the Rooftop Garden is indeed one such work ......

“And How Many Rains Must Fall Before the Stains Are Washed Clean,” by Imran Qureshi at the Met’s rooftop garden in 2013. Credit Chang W. Lee/The New York Times 


Becoming Modern: The Met’s Mission at the Breuer Building

Sheena Wagstaff at the Breuer building, formerly the home of the Whitney Museum and now the Met’s residence for contemporary art. Credit Damon Winter/The New York Times

It is probably revealing that Sheena Wagstaff, who was brought to the Metropolitan Museum of Art to ramp up its presence in contemporary art, is about to make her debut at the museum’s new Breuer building with an exhibition of an artist who has been dead for more than 20 years. Nasreen Mohamedi is a beloved if little-known modernist who is sometimes called the Indian Agnes Martin, a reference to her penchant for pristine grids.

Ms. Wagstaff, a former chief curator at the Tate Modern, arrived from London four years ago to assume the influential position of chairwoman for the Met’s new department of Modern and contemporary art. On March 18, the museum will unveil the Met Breuer, better known as the former home of the Whitney Museum of American Art. The Met’s annexation of the building prompted an initial burst of skepticism: The Met might seem to have enough to do collecting and clarifying 5,000 years of recorded history, without becoming yet another showplace for the art of the last three minutes.

An untitled work from 1975 by the artist Nasreen Mohamedi, whose work will be part of the inaugural exhibition at the Met Breuer in March. Credit Nasreen Mohamedi/Sikander and Hydari Collection                    

“I think the exciting thing,” Ms. Wagstaff said, in her dramatically accented British voice, “is that American audiences will get to know that there are these extraordinary things happening in different cities, even in places like Kochi-Muziris, which is in the middle of nowhere.”
Later, when I looked up Kochi-Muziris online, a video popped up that featured Ms. Wagstaff sitting outdoors last year at an art biennial in India’s coastal state of Kerala. She was in a white blouse, her long hair woven into a braid, her outlines crisp against a summery backdrop of green foliage. “It’s a very important biennial,” she announces to the camera with the confidence of a missionary. “If anyone is watching this, you have to get here.”
In seeking to define what the Met will be as a modern art presence in coming years, it seems safe to say it will differ from its famous New York neighbors. It will not be the Whitney (where we fell in love with our first Edward Hoppers and Georgia O’Keeffes). It will not duplicate the Museum of Modern Art (in part because it’s too late to play catch up with MoMA’s peerless holdings of Picasso & Company). It won’t be the ever-expanding Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum (still trying to build in Helsinki and Abu Dhabi) or the New Museum (a kunsthalle without much of a collection).
Yet, the Met’s Modern department might turn into the Tate of Fifth Avenue, with all that that implies about the British fascination with post-colonial cultures and a desire to dismantle Western-centric versions of art history.
“My work at the Tate Modern, along with my colleagues, too, was very much about re-addressing the Western canon, re-addressing the idea of what modernism actually means, and broadening and expanding that scope,” said Ms. Wagstaff, a trim, bespectacled woman of 59.
Within Ms. Wagstaff’s own department at the Met, where she oversees a staff of 10 curators, there have been many departures and arrivals. She has dismissed longtime art historians schooled in the art of European Modernism while creating such new positions as a curator of South Asian contemporary art; a curator of Latin American contemporary art; and a curator of contemporary Middle Eastern, North African and Turkish art.

An untitled work by the Alabama-born artist Kerry James Marshall, whose work will be shown at the Met Breuer in about a year. Credit Kerry James  

To be sure, we all want to be cognizant of other cultures and sensitive to the differences among us. Yet international biennialism has become a fashion like any other, and you don’t have to be a cultural alarmist to wonder whether American audiences will warm to the Met’s global mission.
“That plays in London; it doesn’t play in America, because America was made in an entirely different way,” said Sean Scully, the Dublin-born American painter who was honored with a major exhibition at the Met in 2006. “It hasn’t colonized two-thirds of the globe, like the British did.”
Ms. Wagstaff’s office is on the mezzanine of the Modern wing of the Met, in an oblong room with blond-wood shelves. The place looks a bit anonymous, perhaps because the walls are bare, and there are no knickknacks or photographs. When I arrived, she was visibly tense. “No one has done a profile of me ever,” she volunteered. Not even during her productive 14 years at the Tate? She shook her head. “They do profiles of the top chaps,” she said.
Asked where one might find some biographical information on her, she joked, “I have a Duane Reade card, so they have some information on me, I am sure.” Then she pulled out two stapled sheets, a “mini-C.V.,” as she called it. It indicated, among other things, that she attended college at the University of East Anglia, in Norwich, England, and traveled to New York in 1982 as a fellow in the Whitney Independent Study Program.
Born in Colchester, England, the daughter of a career army officer, she was raised in Malta and Cyprus. An early job as an assistant to the director of the Oxford Museum of Modern Art landed her in the office of a rising star, Nicholas Serota. In 1998, Mr. Serota was named director of the Tate Britain, and Ms. Wagstaff was hired as head of exhibitions and displays. In 2001, she moved to the other side of the Thames River, to the Tate Modern, which had opened in the defunct Bankside Power Station and become a sensation almost overnight.
Thomas P. Campbell, director of the Met, who is also British, came to his choice of Ms. Wagstaff after bumping into her at various international art fairs. He had begun his career as a scholar of renaissance tapestries and, by his own admission, felt a bit out of his depth when faced with the task of a hire in contemporary art. He was impressed to learn about her work at the Tate Modern, where, he said, “she was very actively engaging with these more international investigations.” She was
Ms. Wagstaff is a former chief curator at the Tate Modern. Credit Damon Winter/The New York Times       

Ms. Wagstaff’s husband, Mark Francis, is also in the art world. He served as the founding director of the Andy Warhol Museum in Pittsburgh, and, for most of the ’90s, the couple and their two children resided in the States. Nowadays, the children are grown and live in London, as does Mr. Francis, who is a director of the Gagosian Gallery there. He and Ms. Wagstaff have a fashionably complicated trans-Atlantic marriage. She lives in an apartment on the Upper East Side and gets to London when she can.
“It’s 550 years’ worth of art,” Ms. Wagstaff said, describing the show. “And that extends from Van Eyck and Titian up until — the most recent work is a work by Urs Fischer from this year.”
Urs Fischer? It was impossible to ignore the fact that the Swiss-born sculptor is represented by the Gagosian Gallery, where Ms. Wagstaff’s husband works.
Museums, in principle, are scholarly institutions removed from the seductions of the marketplace, and Ms. Wagstaff’s ties to the Gagosian Gallery could make the Met vulnerable to charges of favoritism. When the museum acquires or exhibits the work of an artist represented by Gagosian, the gesture is likely to boost the person’s prestige and value. But those who have worked alongside her emphasize her scrupulousness in observing rules regarding conflict of interest. “She was very careful to draw the line,” recalled Dorothy Lichtenstein, the widow of the pop artist Roy Lichtenstein, whose retrospective was Ms. Wagstaff’s last show at the Tate Modern.
“Sheena said: ‘Let’s not get involved with commercial galleries. Let’s not invite them to the meetings,’” Ms. Lichtenstein said. Ms. Wagstaff, in an email, noted that the Urs Fischer loan “was handled with the artist himself and then negotiated with Sadie Coles, London,” another gallery. “Gagosian was not involved in any way.”

“And How Many Rains Must Fall Before the Stains Are Washed Clean,” by Imran Qureshi at the Met’s rooftop garden in 2013. Credit Chang W. Lee/The New York Times

Since arriving at the Met, Ms. Wagstaff has established herself as someone whose taste leans toward conceptual art. Three Met exhibitions listed on her C.V. as “personally curated” were commissions for the museum’s famously scenic Iris and B. Gerald Cantor Roof Garden. The space is probably the most dramatic site for sculpture in New York, yet Ms. Wagstaff’s commissions do not aspire to be sculptures at all.
Her first commission, in 2013, went to Imran Qureshi, a Pakistani artist based in Lahore. It had the misfortune of opening in the wake of the bombing at the Boston Marathon. When you stepped outdoors, onto the roof, dark-red paint seemed to be spattered everywhere. It was easy to miss the allusions to 16th-century Mughal painting and feel spooked by intimations of spilled blood. The installation, the critic Ken Johnson noted in The New York Times, “isn’t adjusted to the complicated social and cultural context of the United States, which is vastly different from that of the Middle East and Pakistan.”
Last May, Pierre Huyghe, a French conceptual artist who looms large on the European scene, unveiled a piece that was so subtle that some asked where it was even when they were standing in front of it. It involved a fish tank stocked with lampreys as well as an alteration to the terrace’s paving stones: A handful of tiles were removed to expose the soil underneath.
When I confided my reservations to Mr. Campbell, saying the piece was short on visual energy, he replied: “It’s very conceptual. It’s too conceptual for some. But I think it’s great. It’s been fascinating watching the weeds grow up on the rooftop over the last six months.”
In addition to organizing temporary exhibitions, Ms. Wagstaff is charged with the not-small task of enlarging the museum’s patchy collection of 20th-century art. There is also the issue of where to house it. Now that Leonard A. Lauder has promised the Met an extraordinary gift of 81 Cubist masterworks, the museum is rethinking the Lila Acheson Wallace Wing, whose awkwardly jutting spaces have been criticized since they opened in 1987. The British architect David Chipperfield will be designing the replacement, for an estimated cost of at least $600 million. The money has not been entirely secured, but new galleries, Mr. Campbell said, “will be a major incentive to collectors.” In the meantime, the Met’s annexation of the Breuer building is an eight-year agreement. Would Ms. Wagstaff like to see the Met keep the Breuer building beyond 2023? “I don’t know,” she replied. “I mean, I honestly don’t know.”
Adding to the uncertainty is the continuing drama of staff changes. When Ms. Wagstaff started at the Met, there were four accomplished art historians with the title of associate curators. All have since left and were required to sign confidentiality agreements forbidding them from speaking to the news media. The most recent departure, that of veteran curator Marla Prather, occurred quietly last summer. Ms. Prather had been working on an important show of works by African-American artists from the South, a gift to the Met by the Souls Grown Deep Foundation. Ms. Prather will see the show to completion.

Janine Antoni’s “Lick and Lather” (1993), which will be part of the “Unfinished” exhibition. Credit Janine Antoni, via Luhring Augustine, New York

Asked about the staff changes, Ms. Wagstaff said: “There are good curators, there are great curators, and a lot of mediocre curators. In order to create a really great program, you need great curators. That’s what I am anticipating the Breuer program will reflect.”
Ms. Wagstaff’s mission probably has not been abetted by her personal manner. She is often described by colleagues as brusque and imperious, and I kept hearing that she fails to return messages, even from art-world biggies. “Her phone doesn’t have outgoing service,” jokes Peter Schjeldahl, the art critic of The New Yorker, adding that he was surprised when he tried to contact Ms. Wagstaff to arrange an initial tête-à-tête and never heard back.
In her defense, the Canadian photographer Jeff Wall, said: “I think Americans tend to find British people kind of aloof. She also probably gets a lot of emails that don’t need an answer.”
Moreover, she does have more than a few shows that need her attention.
Her curator Ian Alteveer, for one, is focused on the art of Kerry James Marshall, a prominent figurative painter from Birmingham, Ala., whose work redresses the absence of black subjects in Western art. The survey arrives at the Met Breuer in about a year, after opening first at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Chicago.
Ms. Wagstaff is also looking ahead to May and the next rooftop project. For the honor, she has tapped Cornelia Parker, a widely admired British sculptor known for installations in which shrapnel and other material are suspended in midair, as if caught in the act of exploding.
When news of the choice got out, it inspired sighs among some observers. The Met has yet to give a solo rooftop show to an American woman artist. Barbara Rose, the eminent art historian, sent an email: “You mean there is NO American artist good enough??? Maya Lin and Sarah Sze for openers are so much more interesting. And Ursula von Rydingsvard, etc. etc. etc.”
It was a fair question — and, for that matter, are there no American curators qualified to run the department? I posed that question to Mr. Campbell, the director.
“You tell your American curators to stop being such whiners,” he snapped. “This is a very competitive institution. You succeed by being good.”

Sunday, November 1, 2015

Pakistan @ The Frieze Art Fair 2015

The 13th edition of Frieze London closed on Saturday 17th October and according to the official press release, "the fair, which brought together 164 galleries from 27 countries, attracted a record number of collectors to the preview. Attendance across both fairs was higher this year at over 105,000, up from 100,000 in 2014". But interestingly, the main reason for the increase in number of attendees was due to "an uplift in visitors at Frieze Masters - the fair had nearly 50,000 visitors, up from 37,000 in 2014".

Regardless of the Contemporary and the Masters divide, London attracted a good representation from Pakistani art community for this year's Frieze Art Fair as well as the surrounding events.

Enjoy the images

(Sources for all images are FB/Artist/Gallery pages)

Imran Qureshi, 'This Leprous Brightness,' 2015, Corvi-Mora
Imran Qureshi; This Leprous Brightness, 2015

Aisha Khalid @ The Frieze

Risham Syed in front of her works @ The Frieze

Waqas Khan in front of his work @ The Frieze

Anish Kapoor and Waqas Khan @ The Frieze

Risham Syed's works at Whitworth Art Gallery

Risham Syed's works at Whitworth Art Gallery

Irfan Hassan's works at the Grosvenor Gallery

Naiza Khan's exhibition at Rossi and Rossi


Saturday, October 31, 2015

Art and Devotion

by Artwallaa

Given we are in the month of Muharram, I wanted to investigate the historical depictions of the rituals of Muharram in the Indian subcontinent in both miniature paintings from the Mughal, Deccan, Lucknow & Faizabad schools as well as company school paintings.. While there has been much scholarship on this subject in Iran and is easily accessible, I was surprised that a great deal has not been written or compiled on the Muharram depictions in the Indian Subcontinent. This essay is an attempt to start the process of investigation in this history as well as encompassing modern and contemporary art forays into the subject.

Nobility and rulers in Muslim dominated areas of the sub-continent mostly commissioned such works and these are collected and archived in British institutions such as the Victoria and Albert Museum and the British Library. Minimum scholarship and archiving has been carried out in the subject before the British rule. Most of the paintings available are from the late eighteenth century and early nineteenth century period.

Mourning During Muharram - Lucknow or Murshidadad, Early 19th Century
Gouache on paper, depicting male and female mourners gathered before the Taziya, replica tomb of Husayn who was martyred at Karbala during the tenth day of Muharram, black border.

The medium used is mostly gouache (watercolour) on paper. It is only in the mid to late nineteenth century that oil on canvas was used as a medium, mostly by the British artists depicting colonial India. From the second half of the nineteenth century, a variety of illustrations and paintings depicting Muharram processions were published (steel engravings) in British newspapers such as The Illustrated Times and The Graphic.

Some of the most exquisite paintings on the subject are in the Victoria and Albert Museum collection. According to the Museum, “The pictures made by Indian artists for the British in India are called Company paintings. This one depicts part of the Muharram ceremonies, which Muslims carry out in memory of Hasan and Hosein, grandsons of the Prophet Muhammed. Shiah Muslims regard them as his successors in the caliphate. The bamboo and paper models being carried aloft represent the tombs of Hasan and Hosein. Gilbert Eliot-Murray-Kynynmound, 1st Earl of Minto, once owned this picture. He was Governor-General of Fort William from 1807 to 1813”.

Place of origin: Patna, India (made), Date: ca. 1807 (painted);  Painted in opaque watercolour on paper (Source: Victoria and Albert Museum – VAM, London)

The Muharram Procession: Murshidabad, India (possibly , made) / Calcutta, India (possibly , made); ca. 1795 - ca. 1805 (painted);  Opaque watercolour on paper. (Source: VAM, London).

The above painting is one in a group of nine paintings. According to the museum, “They depict a durbar (public reception) at the Murshidabad court, and various Hindu and Muslim festivals and religious scenes. A Murshidabad artist copied it, probably from an original oil painting by George Farington. He had been working in Murshidabad from May 1785 until his death there in 1788. Farington's original is lost. This painting shows the Muharram procession, in which Muslims carry 'tazias' or 'ta'ziyas' (bamboo and paper replicas of the tombs of Hasan and Husain) to the river for immersion. The festival commemorates the deaths of these two grandsons of the Prophet Muhammad. Shiah Muslims regard them as the rightful heirs to his caliphate”.

Lanterns hanging above a tazia; a man with a flywhisk standing beside it (Varanasi, India (painted), ca. 1860 (painted); Watercolour).
Oil on canvas arrived in India with British painters. A series of such paintings were done by Captain Robert Smith who was stationed in India during the early nineteenth century. One of his paintings, ‘The Procession to the Bara Imambara’ depicts the Muharram procession in Lucknow in the mid nineteenth century.

Captain Robert Smith. Attributed to Jivan Ram, 1822-25. Oil on canvas. 29 by 24.5 cm. (British Library)
The painting is exquisite in its details of not only the procession but also the architecture of the Bara (Big) Imambara in the background which was one of the last large buildings to be built using traditional techniques without the use of any European elements. A drawing by Robert Smith from the same perspective is in the V&A Museum (D.183-1891). It is dated 1832 and may have been used as a study for this painting (see A. W. Skempton, A Biographical Dictionary of Civil Engineers in Great Britain and Ireland, London 2002).
‘The Procession to the Bara Imambara’, Lucknow, oil on canvass. (Source: Christies)
Since the arrival of newspapers and illustrated magazines, Muharram has been well documented through the British newspapers like the Illustrated Times and The Graphic. Apart from the known hubs like Murshidabad (West Bengal), Azeemabad (Patna) and Lucknow, steel-engraving based scenes of Muharram processions were documented in Bhopal, Hyderabad, Bombay, Madras, Varanasi, amongst others.
While Lahore has been a centre for Muharram processions for over two hundred years, one does not encounter any woks from this city in the sub-continent. Similarly depictions of Muharram artwork were not in vogue in post-independence Pakistan. Though a great number of of Sadequain’s artworks (figurative, abstract as well as calligraphy) are based on the philosophy of Karbala, his works do not depict Moharram and its rituals..
An exceptionally good example of this theme is displayed in the Lahore Museum; a painting by Anna Molka Ahmed titled “ Tazia’ 10th Muharram (at Rang Mahal, Lahore). The painting has been done in Ahmed’s traditional impasto style and the painting reflects the energy and exuberance which she was known for (see ‘The Eye Still Seeks’ by Salima Hashmi and Image and Identity by Akbar Naqvi).
Tazia’ 10th Muharram (at Rang Mahal, Lahore); Anna Molka Ahmad, Oil on hardboard (Source: Lahore Museum)

In the contemporary space, the most vivid depiction on the topic of Muharram and Karbala has been done by Mohammad Zeeshan. As the name ‘Zuljana’ suggests, the painting is a beautiful illustration of Imam Hussain’s horse, Zuljinah.
Zuljana, Muhammad Zeeshan, 2014

Sources and References:
1.     Bibliographic References (Citation, Note/Abstract, NAL no):Archer, Mildred. Company Paintings Indian Paintings of the British period Victoria and Albert Museum, Maplin Publishing, 1992 108 p. ISBN 0944142303
2.     The Sun blazes the colours through my window – Anna Molka Ahmad, by Marjorie Hussain
3.     Image and Indentitiy - Painting and Scuplture in Pakistan, 1947-1997  by Akbar Naqvi
4.     Professor Mazhar Naqvi
5.     Victoria and Albert Museum Archives
6.     British Library Archives
7.     British Museum Archives

8.     Columbia University Archives
9.     Christies
10.  Sothebys
11.  Gandhara-art
12.  Lahore Museum Collection


Sunday, October 4, 2015

Financial Times - Climbing: Is K2 the new Everest?

Great to see a full page article on K2 in FT's latest weekend edition. This is the second full page (positive) article in the FT, within a month, after the front page article on Imran Khan's mansion a few weeks ago (click here to read).

To Artwallaa, this is yet another small data-point indicating that Pakistan is moving towards becoming more and more main stream with foreign media producing more positive (or at least coverage of the country, than a few years ago. This is also more than a mere coincidence, because coincidences are not supposed to happen regularly (!); and positive news on the country is appearing a little too regularly now (internally and externally).

Artwallaa continues to believe that Pakistani arts (and the country in general) is on an irreversible upward path back to its 1960-70s glory days.

Enjoy the ride and the article below too !


PS: To know more on why Artwallaa believes that the Pakistan visual art scene is in an irreversible upward pattern, read the following articles:  


Climbing: Is K2 the new Everest?

K2’s summit, at 8,611m, is 237m lower than Everest’s
K2’s summit, at 8,611m, is 237m lower than Everest’s

In September 1953, as he was being stretchered off an aircraft suffering from severe frostbite, the American climber George Bell was asked how he felt about the peak he had just attempted to climb — K2, the world’s second-highest peak. His reply was succinct: “It’s a savage mountain that tries to kill you.”

For decades, it was seen as the world’s toughest and most dangerous mountain, with one death for every four successful ascents. While Everest grew crowded with relative novices who paid commercial guiding companies to help them reach the top — to the extent that the Nepalese government last week announced plans to ban those without sufficient experience — it was always assumed K2 would remain the preserve of the elite.