Second edition of Karachi Biennale concludes

November 13, 2019

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KB19 CEO Niilofur Farrukh speaks at the event on Tuesday evening.—White Star
KB19 CEO Niilofur Farrukh speaks at the event on Tuesday evening.—White Star

KARACHI: The closing ceremony of the second edition of the Karachi Biennale (KB19) at a local hotel on Tuesday evening lacked the, for want of a better word, buzz that its opening event had. Perhaps it was understandable. The shadow cast by the shutting down of an artwork at Frere Hall on the first day of the exhibition was too large to ignore.

KB19 chief executive officer Niilofur Farrukh in her speech touched upon the “sense of urgency” that the attendees showed on Tuesday, prompting her to tell them to relax and talk to each other. Then she realised that’s “what we we’ve become. We are constantly looking at ‘what next’. The whole idea of relaxation has left our lives. We are at a landmark hotel in a beautiful part of Karachi and yet we can’t seem to leave the city behind.”

And that’s what, she claimed, the Karachi Biennale tried to do: it tried to tell people how important nature and ecology are.

Ms Farrukh said KB19 was extremely honoured to have four iconic figures from the Karachi art scene –– Aftab Zafar, Riffat Alvi, Meher Afroz and Naheed Raza –– at the closing programme. “They are the game-changers. Their contributions over the decades have made a profound difference to our art scene.”

Switzerland’s Victorine Muller and Imran Hunzai given performance art and popular choice awards, respectively

The CEO gave a ‘great’ piece of news saying “we will be leaving some permanent works at Bagh Ibne Qasim and the zoo” and thanked the artists who offered their artworks for that purpose.

The curator of KB19, Muhammad Zeeshan, said he had a small dream when he set out to do the job, which was: to take the biennale to those who are not artists. Keeping that in mind, those venues were selected where people do not usually go to see art but visit them to have a good time. So this was the kind of art that strove to diminish the gap between artists and the public.

To do that, he said, he did not just curate painters and sculptors but also architects, theatre practitioners and dancers, etc, because that would have attracted different people in different ways. He also extended gratitude to his team for lending him support.

The four special guests of the evening –– Aftab Zafar, Riffat Alvi, Meher Afroz and Naheed Raza –– were then requested to speak. They did and lauded the efforts of the KB19 organisers for putting up the show.

Finally, the last two awards of the biennale (three were given away on the inaugural day) were announced.

The performance art prize went to Switzerland’s Victorine Muller, and the popular choice award was bagged by Imran Hunzai.

Published in Dawn, November 13th, 2019