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An exhibit of contemporary Pakistani art in Karachi, Pakistan


Fahad Burki Combustion 2, 2008, Charcoal on paper

These days most of the news we hear out of Pakistan is grim – suicide bombings, US missile strikes, and the recent catastrophic floods which affected about 20 million people.  That is why when the Mohatta Palace Museum in Karachi announced their new exhibition, “The Rising Tide: New Direction in Art From Pakistan, 1990-2010” many people took note.

The exhibition includes more than 40 canvases, videos, installations, mobiles and sculptures made in the past 20 years.

In 1988, with the death of General Zia ul-Haq, the US-backed Islamic dictator, official censorship on art was lifted, leading to artistic opportunities for a new generation of artists in Pakistan.

In recent years, museums and galleries outside of Pakistan –  in Paris, London, New York and Dubai – have had shows featuring the work of artists from Pakistan. The “Rising Tide” exhibit will be the first major exhibit of contemporary Pakistani art inside of Pakistan.

"I'll be safe in my own mind," a painting by Faiza Butt

“I’ll be safe in my own mind,” a painting by Faiza Butt

Not surprisingly, many of the pieces in the exhibition recall the country’s ongoing trauma, most notably the deleterious impact of Pakistan’s struggle with Islamic militants.

For example, artist Abdullah Syed assembled a fleet of drones constructed from dollar bills folded into the shape of planes.  He then stapled them together in circular patterns ending up with a paper model which resembles an oriental carpet. Under a glowing light, this paper fleet throws an ominous shadow on the nearby wall.  See the image of the “Flying Rug” below.


“Flying Rug,” installation by Abdullah Syed

After Pakistan conducted nuclear tests in 1998, Imran Qureshi, a leader in the modern school of Pakistani miniature painting, created “Spots“, where instead of a miniature prince or princess he painted a missile.  Last year, Qureshi had his work displayed in “Hanging Fire,” a survey of Pakistani art at the Asia Society in Manhattan.

Spots, 2001, gouache and goldleaf on wasli, by Imran Quraishi

Spots, 2001, gouache and goldleaf on wasli, by Imran Quraishi

In “Desperately Seeking Paradise,” Rashid Rana created a huge metal cube covered in photographs of the dilapidated residential buildings of Lahore.  This work recently appeared at the Musée Guimet in Paris.


Desperately seeking paradise, 2008, by Rashid Rana

*Images courtesy of the Mohatta Palace Museum and the New York Times.

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