May issue 2017

By | Art | Newsliners | Published 7 years ago

Ustad Allah Bux, Spring Festival (From the Collection of Naheed Kamal Azfar)

It wasn’t so long ago that galleries were a rarity in art-starved Pakistan. Understandable perhaps, in and after the darkness of a decade when any artwork other than Islamic calligraphy was said to be akin to Satan’s handiwork.

But that was then. Art has, like a phoenix, risen from the ashes, and now burns bright. Ergo, a plethora of galleries, exhibitions, street art projects, workshops and publications devoted to the subject, even a biennale. A growing item on the ‘must have as status symbol’ list, art is now also increasingly coveted by the wannabes — aspirants to that hallowed circle of the ‘been there, done that, have art, already there.’ And art is commerce: a viable investment.

Perhaps in the spirit of that bond between the two, Bank Alfalah decided to inaugurate its first ‘Premier Lounge’ with a ‘Collectors Edition’ — a show featuring artworks by Pakistani and subcontinental masters, past and present. Garnered from the private cachés of Karachi collectors, the exhibit was a treat.

Ahmed Parvez, Green Flower (From the Collection of Wahab Jaffar)

Eqbal Mehdi, Self Portrait (From the Collection of Wahab Jaffar).

This was not just because almost  everyone who features in the Pakistani masters hall of fame — Abdur Rahman Chughtai, Allah Bux, Shakir Ali, Anna Molka Ahmed, Jalal Shemza, Ahmed Parvez, Bashir Mirza, Ismail Gulgee, Jamil Naqsh, and others, along with Indian maestros Souza and M.F. Hussain, and Bengali masters Ghulam Kibria and Hamid ur Rehman — were on display, not just because the Alfalah show opened a portal to works of arts hitherto not in the public ken. It was also because the selection of work was a feast for the eyes. It clearly owed to someone with both, an eye and a love for art. In this case, the brainchild  behind the undertaking,  group head at Bank Alfalah, Mehreen Ahmed, artist Zarmeene Shah, who curated the show, and of course, the collectors who own this treasure trove.

Sadequain, Untitled (From the Collection of Amin Gulgee).

Bashir Mirza, Flower Girl Series (From the Collection of Jalal Sayani).

That financial institutions are now foraying into this domain can only be a good thing — it signifies a long-awaited, much-merited recognition of the value of art, in more ways than just the monetary.