Pakistani Art Scene Thrives With Emerging New Talent
Art in Pakistan continues to inspire and produce more new and aspiring artists, despite the country facing tough times. The main centres of new art in Pakistan are its two largest cities, Karachi and Lahore. Karachi, on the Arabian Sea, is the country’s financial and media capital, brash and cosmopolitan (and violent). Across the country, Lahore, despite its 10 million people, feels relatively sedate. A hub of South Asian artistic and intellectual life for centuries, it is still widely seen as the cultural center of Pakistan. It is home to the country’s leading art school, the National College of Arts. Karachi is also home to the Indus Valley School of Art and Architecture, an upstart institution founded in 1989, after the death of the military dictator Zia ul-Haq; the school’s creation signaled the end of a dark era when art galleries hid works with any content critical of the state. A Karachi artist represented in the Asia Society show, Naiza Khan, works in an unusual, somewhat oblique feminist vein out of a light-filled studio on the top floor of the family home in the upper-middle-class Defense Housing Authority neighborhood. Radical art is being made in Lahore, too. Anwar Saeed, a professor at the National College of Arts, works in a very different studio atmosphere from Ms. Khan’s: a small, excruciatingly spare room on the third floor of a walkup in the city’s old town. Some of her pieces, like the armored skirt, are a takeoff on the chastity belt. “Spine” was based on a backless bustier made in fuchsia silk and gold embroidery, an heirloom of a friend. Ms. Khan found the scarlet suede that covers it under a pile of leather scraps at a Karachi factory that manufactures bulletproof vests.