• 28 Oct - 03 Nov, 2017
  • Rabia Mushtaq
  • Spotlight

The city of lights turned into an artist’s hub following the commencement of the first Karachi Biennale. The biennale was recently inaugurated at the 160-year old historical Narayan Jagannath Vaidya (NJV) High School and was lit up for artists and art lovers alike to come together and celebrate not just local but international works of art under the banner of the Karachi Biennale Trust. The mega art exhibition is open for public from October 22 to November 5, 2017 and marks the historic achievement of Pakistan’s artist community that has worked day and night to bring notable names that represent the creative discipline in not just Pakistan but around the world.

Karachi Biennale also referred to as KB17 is the first of its kind art exhibition to have taken place in any Pakistani city and finally puts the country on the map of the international landscape of art. Internationally, biennales are held in more than 100 countries and have extensively contributed in revolutionised art, as well as the city’s perception where they are held, which is one of the goals of KB17 that looks forward to promote art and related cultural activities in the metropolitan by organising this large-scale celebration of art in most of its forms presented by painters, sculptors, visual artists, sketch artists, dancers, musicians, film-makers and thinkers and the likes. As the largest city of Pakistan, Karachi is home to a diverse set of people, which makes the most appropriate choice for hosting international artists and curators, which will not only help re-establish the city’s lost glimmer but also allow its citizens to experience exceptional creative forces come together to entertain them with their skills.

A formal inaugural ceremony took place with speeches by the biennale’s chairperson Almas Bana, chief curator Amin Gulgee, Managing Trustee Niilofur Farrukh and general secretary Bushra Hussain and the chief guest of the event senior art critic Marjorie Hussain to name a few, all of whom highlighted the significance of this extraordinary event taking place in Karachi with a cluster of artists, professionals, members of icivl society, as well those from the business sector who flocked to welcome the much-awaited exhibitions’ participants.

More than 140 artists are showcasing their works during the biennale spread across the 12 venues, five of which are located at the city’s central location M.A. Jinnah Road. Many of the artists hail from Europe, Africa, North America, South America, Far East, Southeast Asia and different parts of Pakistan. Works of international popular artist like Richard Humann, Bani Abedi, Yoko Ono, Miro Craemer, Shahzia Sikander, Michelangelo Pistoletto, Meher Afroz, Bankleer, Ruby Chishti and ORLAN to name a few, will be exhibited for a great number of audience. The Karachi Biennale also offers discursive and educational interaction to its visitors for them to get an insight into the work of artists and also for them to enhance their knowledge, as well as connection with art. In order to make that possible, the biennale will provide a series of lectures and conversations throughout the event featuring Meher Afroz, Adriana Almada, Saquib Hanif, Savita Apte , Paolo De Grandis, Dr Marcella Sirhandi, Carlos Aceros Ruiz and Dannys Montes de Oca Moreda, which would be held at the State Bank Auditoriums and the ZVMG Rangoonwalla Community Centre.

KB17’s platform is visionary and focuses on modernisation, fineness and criticality with the help of curatorial policies that brings together art from Pakistan and the rest of the world for a larger audience in public realms. The platform’s discursive involvement is aimed at cross-pollinating visions and the exploration of meaning and truth throughout disciplines and contexts. The event has invited artist to work around the theme ‘witness’. The theme has been selected for its pertinence to politics of representation, removal and selective documentation.

The main venue of the launch event was NJV School building, which will remain the centre of attention throughout the biennale’s two weeks-long duration along with 11 different venues scattered throughout the city including Alliance Francaise De Karachi, Indus Valley School of Art and Architecture (IVS), Jamshed Memorial Hall, Karachi Parsi Institute, Karachi School of Art, Claremont House, Capri Cinema, 92 Commisariate, Fomma, Frere Hall, Pioneer Book Shop and VM Art Gallery, wherein all of the artists are provided a platform to display their artwork.

After the start of the formal ceremony, various art exhibits featuring digital and prerogative works, and the inaugural speeches given by the organisers and promoters of the biennale, an award ceremony recognising the work of local artists took place, wherein the Mahvash and Jahangir Siddiqui Foundation juried art prize was awarded to Lahore based artist Ali Kazim who currently teaches in the Department of Fine Art at the National College of Arts, Lahore, to acknowledge his work and specifically his installation for KB17, in which Kazim has used human hair to create a three-dimensional drawing in the space. The work derives from the artist’s interest in the complexity of the human body, both in its physiognomy and as a thematic concern. The jury comprised of an international cultural journalist; Ingo Arand, an international art historian and critic on modern and contemporary South Asian art, Savita Apte and one of Pakistan’s leading contemporary art collectors, Khurrum Kasim.

Sheema Kirmani’s performance was one of the highlights of the inaugural ceremony that kept the audience captivated with the performing artist’s soulful dance movements. Another piece of art was in the making in the middle of NJV School’s corridor where Tazeen Qayyum could be seen progressing with her masterpiece Invoiced while moving across to draw on a large canvas. Another highlight of the exhibit was a rather quirky installation featuring a donkey with old television sets tied on it caught every onlooker’s attention. An extremely stirring example of contemporary art by Syed Safdar Ali made using crutches to symbolise limited freedom was also placed inside the school’s premises.

The biennale is free for the public to attend and its closing ceremony will take place on November 5, 2017 at Frere Hall, marking the end of this one of a kind art exhibit.