Imran Qureshi Invited to Undertake Roof Garden Commission at Metropolitan Museum

Tarika Agarwal shares details of a forthcoming commission by Pakistani contemporary artist Imran Qureshi at the Metropolitan Museum, May 2013

517765-ImranQureshi-1362750738-642-640x480New York: Imran Qureshi, born in Pakistan in 1972, is a leading Pakistani contemporary artist. He is trained in the celebrated ancient Mughal miniature art form, and is best known for his minutely detailed paintings that borrow from the style of traditional miniature paintings. In his work, he merges traditional techniques with contemporary social, political and cultural subjects to create a new expressionist idiom. His paintings are a visual commentary on the contemporary realities of his homeland – modern day Pakistan.

Imran QureshiModerate Enlightenment2007Gouache on Wasli8.5 x 6.5 inFrom: Saffronart's 24 Hour Auction: Art of Pakistan, Lot 31Exhibited and published: Hanging Fire: Contemporary Art from Pakistan, 2009-10

Imran Qureshi
Moderate Enlightenment
2007
Gouache on Wasli
8.5 x 6.5 in
From Saffronart’s Art of Pakistan Auction, Lot 31
Exhibited and published: Hanging Fire: Contemporary Art from Pakistan, 2009-10

Qureshi has been invited to undertake the prestigious Roof Garden Commission at the Metropolitan Museum, New York. He will create a site-specific work atop the museum’s Iris and B. Gerald Cantor Roof Garden this summer. Considered one of the leading figures in developing a “contemporary miniature” aesthetic, integrating motifs and techniques of traditional miniature painting with contemporary themes, Qureshi is the first artist to create a work that will be painted directly onto the surface of the Roof Garden. His installation, The Roof Garden Commission: Imran Qureshi, will be on view from May 14 through November 3, 2013 (weather permitting). A book titled ‘The Roof Garden Commission: Imran Qureshi’ will also be published in conjunction with the installation. It will provide the artist’s perspective and other contexts in which to consider the projects. The installation at the Metropolitan Museum is organized by Sheena Wagstaff, Chairman, and Ian Alteveer, Associate Curator, of the Department of Modern and Contemporary Art.

The Iris and B. Gerald Cantor Roof Garden

The Iris and B. Gerald Cantor Roof Garden

Qureshi is known for creating large-scale environments in architectural spaces, addressing  the site’s historical and political associations. Through his works like Blessings Upon the Land of My Love (2011) commissioned by the Sharjah Art Foundation, ornamental foliate motifs sourced from miniatures are transposed to a large scale through the careful layering of spilled and hand-applied paint. The result surrounds the viewer and transforms the site. In November 2012, Qureshi was conferred with the prestigious Deutsche Bank’s 2013 Artist of the Year Award. Learn more about his practice here.

Imran Qureshi, Blessings Upon the Land of my Love, 2011. Site-specific installation, commissioned by Sharjah Art Foundation.

Imran Qureshi, Blessings Upon the Land of my Love, 2011. Site-specific installation, commissioned by Sharjah Art Foundation.
Image courtesy: http://www.domusweb.it/en/art/sharjah-10-a-report-from-the-emirates/

Some of the other artists who have exhibited or been commissioned to create works for the museum’s annual Roof Garden installation include Jeff Koons (2008), Tomás Saraceno (2012), Ellsworth Kelly (1998), Roy Lichtenstein (2003),  Cai Guo-Qiang (2006) and  Frank Stella (2007).

Miniature Painting in Pakistan: Divergences Between Traditional and Contemporary Practice by Murad Khan Mumtaz

Manjari Sihare recommends a short essay on the revival of miniature painting tradition in contemporary Pakistan

New York:  Contemporary Pakistani art can be credited for the revival of the age-old miniature painting tradition. Pakistani artist and academic researcher, Murad Khan Mumtaz traces the history of this art form back to Mughal India and shares insights on its evolution. This essay was commissioned by the Guggenheim UBS MAP Initiative.

In November last year, Saffronart hosted its inaugural auction of the Art of Pakistan. To read more about contemporary Pakistani art, click here.

Miniature Painting in Pakistan: Divergences Between Traditional and Contemporary Practice

by Murad Khan Mumtaz

Imran Qureshi, Moderate Enlightenment (detail), 2007. Gouache on paper, 9 x 7 inches. Photo: Courtesy Aicon Gallery, New York. Image credit: Guggenheim Museum

Imran Qureshi, Moderate Enlightenment (detail), 2007. Gouache on paper, 9 x 7 inches. Photo: Courtesy Aicon Gallery, New York. Image credit: Guggenheim Museum

Despite its strong association with the modern nation of Pakistan, the genre of contemporary miniature painting belongs to a larger history of Indian art. In terms of technique, it is closely linked to the age-old tradition of Indian miniature painting, and specifically to Mughal painting, known locally as musawwari. Both musawwari (which after the colonial period was known as “miniature painting”) and its modern derivative share a penchant for naturalism that is rooted in European influences. During the Mughal era, royal patrons encouraged their painters to assimilate aesthetic principles from the illusionistic vocabulary of Renaissance art. The new emphasis on linear perspective, naturalistic modeling, and individual portraiture was a direct result of the encounter between east and west. However, Mughal artists maintained a strong sense of continuity with the Indian tradition in terms of both form and content.

“Krishna Holds Up Mount Govardhan to Shelter the Villagers of Braj.” Folio from a Harivamsa (The Legend of Hari (Krishna)), ca. 1590–95. Ink, opaque watercolor, and gold on paper, 11 3/8 x 7 7/8 inches. (28.9 x 20 cm). The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Purchase, Edward C. Moore Jr. Gift, 1928 (28.63.1). Image: © The Metropolitan Museum of Art. Source: metmuseum.org

“Krishna Holds Up Mount Govardhan to Shelter the Villagers of Braj.” Folio from a Harivamsa (The Legend of Hari (Krishna)), ca. 1590–95. Ink, opaque watercolor, and gold on paper, 11 3/8 x 7 7/8 inches. (28.9 x 20 cm). The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Purchase, Edward C. Moore Jr. Gift, 1928 (28.63.1). Image: © The Metropolitan Museum of Art. Source: metmuseum.org

In the golden age of the Mughal Empire, from 1556 to 1658, painting was an art of the book. Favorite projects included the fanciful illustration of popular romances, royal histories, Hindu and Muslim mythologies, morality tales, and mystical poetry. Also popular were folios recording court life, royal portraits, exotic flora and fauna, and hunting and garden scenes. Under the later Mughals, painting followed similar models but became more static, losing some of the innovative spontaneity that characterized the classical Mughal sensibility.

The British, who succeeded the Mughals as rulers of India, introduced an alien set of values that privileged the western conception of “fine art” over “applied art.” As a result of the new hierarchy, traditional painting and most other indigenous art forms were relegated to the level of craft. The history of contemporary miniature painting is thus rooted in the history of colonialism in India. In 1872, the British founded the Mayo School of Industrial Arts in Lahore in order to stimulate the production of local crafts for the purpose of international trade. Under British patronage, miniature painting was viewed as yet another exotic product; local artists were encouraged to copy portraits of the Great Mughals alongside dancing girls with hookahs and other stereotypical scenes of the decadent east.

After the partition of India and Pakistan, the Mayo School was reorganized as the National College of Arts (NCA). As it remodeled itself according to a modern, European paradigm, the traditional art forms previously taught at the school disappeared, with miniature painting barely subsisting. In 1982, Bashir Ahmad, a student of one of the last traditional master miniaturists in the country, succeeded in introducing it as a major subject in the fine art department. Over the last two decades, the program has become the most successful in the school, and the work of graduating students remains in demand from international dealers and collectors.

Murad Khan Mumtaz’s studio in Charlottesville, Virginia, January 2013. Photo: Murad Khan Mumtaz

Murad Khan Mumtaz’s studio in Charlottesville, Virginia, January 2013. Photo: Murad Khan Mumtaz

However, in order to survive within a contemporary art institution, miniature painting had to be modified and “modernized.” Consequently, the traditional master-disciple relationship has been sacrificed. Instead, the intensive apprenticeship that formerly unfolded over decades has been condensed into two to four academic years. On one hand, the academic format in Pakistan has allowed miniature painting to survive and evolve; on the other hand, students of the practice can hope to build only a superficial understanding of the tradition.

Even though the essential techniques of Mughal musawwari have been disseminated, material knowledge has undergone a process of abbreviation. For example, students are no longer taught the traditional way of preparing wasli paper; instead, cheap, mass-produced paper is used. Knowledge of pigment preparation has followed a similar course of departure from tradition. As well as zinc white—safaida—which continues to be used as the vehicle of opacity for all pigments, students rely on imported commercial watercolors. Current students’ lack of exposure to traditional material preparation has led to a marked indifference toward craft. Perhaps this is one reasons why it has been inevitable for NCA miniaturists to break from traditional models.

Partons’ recent focus on contemporary practice has also served to widen the gap between traditional practice and its current manifestations. In a global art economy, miniaturists are now encouraged to invoke “ethnic” aesthetics; however, paradoxically, they continue to be influenced by and judged according to an established European canon.

Murad Khan Mumtaz is an artist and researcher from Lahore, Pakistan.

Seher Shah in Huffington Post’s “10 International Artists to Watch in 2013”

Manjari Sihare shares details of Seher Shah’s mention in Huffington Post’s List of Ten International Artists to Watch in 2013

Seher Shah_Radiant Lines-X Block

Seher Shah
Capitol Complex: X-Block
Collage on paper, 11 x 14 inches, 2012
Image courtesy of Nature Morte Berlin

New York: Contemporary art in Pakistan is finally receiving much deserved international recognition after bordering along the shadows of art from India. Last week, the Huffington Post listed Seher Shah in its take on international artists to watch out for in the coming year. New York based artist of Pakistani origin, Seher Shah has lived in different parts of the world  including Pakistan, the United Kingdom, Belgium, and now the United States. Most recently, Seher’s has been in the news for her work in a current exhibition at the Rubin Museum of Art, Radical Terrain which celebrated the genre of modern Indian landscape painting juxtaposed with new work by younger contemporary artists. Watch the blog for more on this exhibit in the coming weeks.

Over the past 5 years, contemporary Pakistani artists have gained major international recognition. Among these are Rashid Rana who is well known for commanding high prices for his photomontages in global auctions. In November last year, the Deutsche Bank conferred Imran Qureshi with their “Artist of the Year” award. Similarly Shazia Sikander, a graduate of Lahore’s National College of the Arts, now based in the US,  has long been popular across the globe, receiving attention  and place in the collection of avid art collectors such as Bill Gates. In November, Saffronart held its inaugural auction of Pakistani Contemporary Art, which featured a total of seventy lots and represented an eclectic overview of the genre. Read more about some geniuses of Pakistani contemporary art in this article.

Imran Qureshi is Deutsche Bank’s “Artist of the Year 2013”

Imran Qureshi
Moderate Enlightenment
2007
Gouache on Wasli
8.5 x 6.5 in
From: Saffronart’s 24 Hour Auction: Art of Pakistan, Lot 31
Exhibited and published: Hanging Fire: Contemporary Art from Pakistan, 2009-10

Manjari Sihare of Saffronart shares details about Deutsche Bank’s 2013 Artist of the Year Award conferred to Pakistani contemporary artist Imran Qureshi

New York: Deutsche Bank has presented its fourth “Artist of the Year” award to leading Pakistani contemporary artist Imran Qureshi. The selection was made on the recommendation of internationally renowned curators including Okwui Enwezor, Hou Hanru, Udo Kittelmann, and Victoria Noorthoorn, who comprise the Deutsche Bank Global Art Advisory Council. This award was instituted in 201o to honor an international contemporary artist who has already amassed an unmistakable and extraordinary oeuvre working with the paper medium or photography,  the two focal points of the celebrated Deutsche Bank Art Collection.

The Deutsche Bank Collection is  one of the most comprehensive corporate art collections in the world, featuring over 55,000 photographs, prints and drawings worldwide. The Collection started with early acquisitions of significant German-speaking artists such as George Baselitz, Joseph Beuys and Sigmar Pölke. As the Bank has grew globally, so did the size and interactive nature of their art collection, which was directed to reflect today’s diverse contemporary art world and an international point of view. Hence works of German artists were juxtaposed with works by master artists from respective host countries. The bank’s art collection is strategically headquartered in New York City to take advantage the city’s vibrant contemporary art environment and the international profile of the people who work in and visit the bank daily.

The award is not based on a financial reward, but positioned as an integral part of Deutsche Bank’s art program through its  substantial collection, exhibitions, and its joint projects with partners. For the past three years, since its inception, the reward included a solo exhibition at the Deutsche Guggenheim in Berlin accompanied with a comprehensive catalogue, an exclusive edition designed by the artist and acquisition of the artist awardee’s select works on paper for the Deutsche Bank Collection. This year, the announcement coincided with another important disclosure by the Bank. On Monday, November 12th, 2012, the Deutsche Bank announced the space which currently holds the Deutsche Guggenheim in Berlin will be converted into the German capital’s newest kunsthalle in Spring 2013. This announcement was a follow up of the news that broke out early this year of the Guggenheim closing its Berlin premises at the end of 2012.  This space will mark the end of the bank’s 15-year collaboration with the Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation. In its press release, the bank declared that “the Kunsthalle is conceptualized as a place where young, promising talent can be seen first. Its inaugural exhibition in April 2013 will feature the work of Imran Qureshi, one of the most important figures on Pakistan’s art scene today.” Read more.

To learn more about Imran Qureshi, click here.

The Art of Imran Qureshi

Guest blogger, Sayantan Mukhopadhyay reflects on Imran Qureshi’s Moderate Enlightenment series of paintings

Imran Qureshi
Moderate Enlightenment
2007
Gouache on Wasli
8.5 x 6.5 in
From: Saffronart’s 24 Hour Auction: Art of Pakistan, Lot 31
Exhibited and published: Hanging Fire: Contemporary Art from Pakistan, 2009-10

New York: As contemporary art hurtles further into its characteristic world of postmodern diffusion – where national categories give way to dissolving borders and trans-regional connections – potent markers of heritage serve as reminders of mooring and place.

Imran Qureshi has stated the importance belonging plays in his art and his Moderate Enlightenment series reveals a keen interest in re-pitching a distinctly South Asian artistic vernacular, paying homage to tradition and the importance of history in visual storytelling. The miniature – an art form that has been devoted exclusively to portraiture and the human form – is an encounter with an individual. In its historical use, important imperial or divine figureheads would be richly painted and ornamented with gold leaf, allowing inquisitive eyes a point of access into the court or the heavens.

Qureshi paints intimate portraits of religious men and finds a quiet anxiety with contemporary Pakistan therein: seemingly mundane images of men turn into hidden symbols of social unrest. These post-9/11 treatises search to understand how perceptions of zealotry can be influenced by fashion and posture. In his use of the miniature, he highlights the issue as a South Asian one, fixed at once to geography and culture, but also one that is fiercely contemporary. Here, Orientalist fantasies of Pakistan cede to modern concerns and pressing international affairs.

Qureshi’s dexterous mastery over the miniature is a testament to his need to find a global voice laden with legacy. In a painstaking process that requires deft use of fine brushes, miniatures must be held close to the artist’s eyes to ensure accurate detailing. The artist’s inestimable skill earned him a place in the Asia Society’s iconic exhibit of contemporary Pakistani art, “Hanging Fire,” in 2009/10. He later went on to win the Sharjah Art Prize in 2011, establishing him as one of Pakistan’s most important stars today. Refusing to be titled reductively as a ‘Miniature Painter,’ he has shown himself to be a versatile artist, his large-scale installation pieces proving him comfortable with media either big or small. An artist to watch and to follow, Qureshi lets us catch glimpses of a Pakistan through visions grounded there but equally aware of the world at large.

Sayantan Mukhopadhyay is an Associate at Aicon Gallery, New York’s leading gallery dedicated to South Asian contemporary art. He holds a Bachelor’s degree in Art History and Comparative Literature from Williams College and has spent time with the Indian & Southeast Asian art department at Sotheby’s New York.

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