A biennale is an event that takes place every two years, especially a large-scale contemporary art exhibition or music festival. Biennales are held in almost a hundred cities around the world to support the contemporary art scene of a country or city. Art fares of this level are an embodiment of the prevailing cultural narrative in a region, and help attract the attention of international art professionals and enthusiasts.
Karachi is introducing its first ever biennale under the Karachi Biennale Trust, which will hold a series of art events, projects and public discussions in October and November this year. The official launch, presided by Niilofur Farrukh, one of the country’s most deeply respected art critics, took place on January 28 at the historic Frere Hall in Karachi, providing an introduction to the upcoming events later this year.
With its theme titled Witness, the biennale will organize art projects in various parts of the city. The primary location will be the NJV School building located at M.A. Jinnah Road, where the public will have access to various exhibits revolving around the same theme. Artists are welcome to join and contribute their creative works for the multiple projects being hosted by the Karachi Biennale. “The curated exhibitions will acknowledge the exceptional talent of Pakistani artists that has won global accolades, and will show it alongside some of the most innovative contemporary art from other countries”, said Farrukh, who is also the CEO and Managing Trustee of the biennale. At the launch event, the trustees of the KBT spoke about how diverse art curated through this biennale will help put Pakistani artistic talent on the global map. “It is imperative to establish a biennale in Pakistan’s largest city to engage not only international audiences, but also the people of this diverse metropolis”, stated Amin Gulgee, Chief Curator of the Karachi Biennale and one of the most respected artists in the country.
The launch also witnessed excellent performance art by dedicated artists who acted out their pieces for two solid hours. Actor, choreographer and performing artist Joshinder Chaggar was remarkable with her sensuous and nostalgic ‘Autumn Leaves’, as was Sara Pagganwala with her meditative performance ‘Skinned’, which incorporated the use of lights and colors. Salman and S.M. Raza gave an intriguing performance with clay, water and pigment. Benish Mahmood’s fascinating video titled ‘Forget Me Not, Basheereya’ consisted of a large collection of photographs and newspaper clippings from the rich artistic era of Moin Akhtar, Mohammad Ali and Haseena Moin. Muhammad Ali also gave an interesting performance titled ‘Kniticism’.
Several art projects for the Karachi Biennale are already under way, including ‘Reel on Hai’, which sees the transformation of huge cable reels into pieces of art being installed at public centers all over the city. The project is being carried out by talented local artists, designers and architects who responded to an open call from the KBT. The public will also witness a comprehensive art directory offering a historical perspective of Pakistani art and heritage, which had not been properly documented in the past.
As Niilofur Farrukh puts it, this “temporary art museum” will be held every two years, showcasing the best works by the artists and thinkers of our country. The launch event was covered by several major electronic and print media agencies, and catered to an audience of over 250 people, including the Deputy Mayor of Karachi. Prominent artists such as VM Art Gallery’s Riffat Alvi, T2F’s Marvi Mazhar, Meher Afroze, Mohsin Sayyad and art critic, curator and author Marjorie Hussain were also present at the occasion.
With this well-received launch, one can expect Pakistan’s first-ever Karachi Biennale to be filled with engaging and thought-provoking art exhibitions and dialogues. With the aid of local art galleries, patrons, art schools and prominent innovators in the field, the biennale will present Pakistani art on an international scale, which will also be open to the local public.
All images have been taken by Jamal Ashiqain.
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