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KARACHI: “When we divide art into movements, periods and regions, they are all actually false depictions. In essence art speaks in a common language which is beyond all these confinements, boundaries and restrictions,” said Dr Quddus Mirza on the second day of the Karachi Art Festival (KAF).

Professor and head of the fine arts department at NCA, Dr Mirza spoke about the roles and responsibilities of the modern age curator.

“In today’s world there is no role of the curator but in fact there is a rule of the curator. We are living in an age where the curator has become the supreme power and determines who to choose, who to reject, what to select and what not to, what to show and not to show. The curator enjoys a lot of power in the Pakistani art world as well as throughout the world.”

The curator is of a collector of various artists, personalities and talents, and bring them together to create a new thing, he said. The curator takes into consideration the cultural and political contexts and tries to present the work in a different perspective, Dr Mirza added.

Curator and artist M. Zeeshan that technically a curator is the middleman who takes care of the creative side of art exhibitions and identifies the traits, qualities and strengths of the artist he is working with.

Debate on whether art should be viewed as merely a form of investment or more than that

An ode was also paid to the silent performers. After showing a brief video, artist Feica was invited, who shared his decades-long career of working as a political cartoonist.

There was also much debate on whether art should be viewed as merely a form of investment or should it be considered more than that. Art collector Dr Tariq Bukhari, Orooj Ahmed Ali and Waqar Malik were present who spoke about the current status of art as an investment product and is not just an aesthetic product.

Tauqeer Muhajir, editor of Nigaah, said that in the past 15 years the value of art has risen considerably and as a result, it is increasingly being seen by many collectors as a means of investment.

Mr Malik said that asset classes traditionally are four or five such as equity, bonds, real estate.

“Any asset is one that has value and has the ability to pay off debts. I got into art collection not with the intention of financial benefits but more for aesthetics. But that was about 20 years ago. Over a long period art prices have mimicked stocks and it has become an alternative investment. However, not much is known about the pricing of it is not defined or regulated anywhere in the world. As a result it is subject to price manipulation.”

Adeela Suleman, head of fine arts department at IVS, underscored the need for setting up proper systems and institutions in the country to regulate prices and more importantly the authenticity of the painting they are purchasing to protect your investment.

The second day of KAF saw an interesting disagreement between panellists and those in the audience.

When discussing the growing disconnect between art, and in particular curated art shows, and the public, one school of thought that emerged was that the disconnect exists because in schools, especially public schools, there is no awareness and education on art; children have no or limited access to museums or public galleries.

However, the opposing view that was put forth was that art is becoming inaccessible to the public primarily because of it being displayed in galleries which not many can access, and then prices of the artworks are beyond reach. One advice put forward was to make artworks less expensive and also bring art to the streets so that more from the public can view, appreciate and partake in it.

Published in Dawn, April 9th, 2018