ISLAMABAD, June 1: From the already meagre Rs75 million allocated for conservation of heritage under Public Sector Development Programme (PSDP), Rs45 million will go for the restoration of artworks by masters in public buildings in the country.

The allocation has, however, pleased the visual arts community as their paintings and installations were being neglected.

In the budget 2011-2012, Rs30.6 million would go to the Ministry of National Heritage and Integration Division for preparation of database of paintings/artworks and another Rs15 million for setting up laboratory and restoration of damaged paintings/artworks.

Database of artworks in the federal capital has been completed. It has been mostly collected from the President House, the Prime Minister’s House, the Senate and the Parliament, Secretariat, Post Office, the Capital Development Authority, banks and other public buildings to mention some.

Due to shortage of funds and staff the Pakistan National Council of the Arts (PNCA) had not been able to set foot out of the capital where art pieces hung on the walls in public buildings were rotting.

“Technical staff have quit because funds were not flowing in smoothly,” said Director Visual Arts, National Art Gallery, Musarrat Naheed Imam explaining how a database of all art works in public buildings were to be (under the programme) preserved in a catalogue and then put on line for public access.

According to the director, they approached provinces and got a green signal from Punjab and especially Khyber Pukhtunkhwa in this regard.

However, far more important programme was restoring damaged paintings and artworks of master artists.

Unlike the PNCA where delicate paintings were properly handled and protect them from heat, humidity, and dust, nobody was willing to own and preserve artworks in public buildings.

Some artists termed Rs15 million insufficient to conserve cultural heritage.

Although PNCA had the only and a quality restoration laboratory in Pakistan, it had no experts to restore the paintings.

And, according Musarrat, foreign experts find it hard to come to Pakistan for security reasons.

“We have contacted so many countries, but they declined the requests for sending experts for restoration of artworks and inculcating training because of the security situation,” she said adding experts from Japan also declined to visit.

The NAG might have to send two or three staff members abroad for training if nothing else works, she said.

But the artist community suggested that restoration of artworks should be a regular feature in galleries and should not be undertaken as a programme or a project. “Worldwide, restoration of art is a constant effort. The National Art Gallery has a massive collection and restoration should be a regular feature with sufficient budget and staff and not a quarterly or annually programme,” the director said.

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