The Mohatta Palace was built in 1927 as the summer residence of a wealthy businessman who named the palace after himself. The unique design of the building was inspired by the majestic residences of the Rajput clan’s princes, and utilises yellow stones from Gizri, one of Karachi’s neighborhoods, as well as pink stones from Jaipur, India’s Pink City. The palace was then acquired by the Government of Sindh, the region where Karachi is located, in 1995; and it was then established that it would have become a place to celebrate the traditional, decorative arts of Pakistan. But the museum also hosts contemporary art exhibitions: the recently closed show Labyrinth Reflections presented to the public the work of Rashid Rana, a globally acclaimed multimedia artist, arguably the leading Pakistani talent of his generation.
Mohatta Palace, 7 Hatim Alvi Road, Clifton, Karachi, Pakistan, +92 21 3583 7669
British art critic and journalist Marjorie Hussain moved to Karachi in the early 1960s when she was still an art student. Naturally, she got in touch with the thriving local art community at her arrival, at a time when opportunities to sell artworks were still near to non-existent. But only a few years later, the city’s economic growth did open up an art market, which consolidated during the following decades. Mrs. Hussain opened Chawkandi Art in the 1980s; her deep knowledge of Karachi’s art scene and Pakistani art at large is key to the gallery’s programme of quality exhibitions that position Chawkandi Art among the best contemporary art galleries in the city.
Chawkandi Art, 105 Marine Point Service Ln, Karachi, Pakistan, +92 21 3537 3582
Established in 1987, VM Art Gallery was founded on the experience of a community centre providing education to women. Since then, the gallery has grown to become a reference point for the contemporary art scene in Karachi and the entire country. A non-profit gallery, VM Art’s authentic mission is to promote Pakistani artists in Pakistan as well as around the world through frequent collaborations with international cultural institutions. Particular attention is given to art’s emerging voices and fresh graduates who struggle to enter the art circuit due to a lack of resources or experience. The gallery holds a permanent collection of artworks culled from the exhibitions that have been held here over the years; this comprises over 400 works including paintings, sculptures and ceramics.
Canvas Art is one of Pakistan’s leading art galleries dedicated to supporting emerging artists from across the country. The gallery deals in modern, miniature and contemporary art, and possesses a collection of over 1,000 objects by 100 different Pakistani artists, making it an excellent destination for those looking to discover more about the current state of Pakistani art. Alongside the permanent collection, each month Canvas Art also presents two exhibitions – past shows have included a display of works by Muhammad Zeeshan, a talented and internationally recognised miniature painter and Nazia Ejaz, whose paintings depict colourful cityscapes and rickshaws inspired by the urban life of Lahore, her hometown.
Indus Valley School Gallery
The Indus Valley School of Art & Architecture is a prominent school in Karachi for art students, offering programmes in fine art, liberal arts, textile design, architecture, and others. Similarly to many such educational institutions around the world, the school has its own gallery, a natural outlet for the work of students and alumni alike, and a worthwhile opportunity for art enthusiasts to take a look at what might be the future masterpieces of Pakistani art. Here, outsiders as well as students can also enjoy a series of talks, lectures, screenings and other initiatives aimed at promoting a deeper understanding of the arts. The gallery is run by Adeela Suleman, an established artist specialised in the creation of captivating, metal-based sculptures, whose work has been exhibited at many international fairs over the years.
ArtChowk has a quite unique background story. The gallery wasn’t established as an actual gallery, but started out in 2008 as an online exhibiting and selling platform. The decision was made to overcome the geographical constraints of a physical gallery and reach a truly international audience; but following the success of this experience, the curatorial team behind the web platform decided to also set up a physical art space in Karachi. The gallery offers cutting-edge solo and collective exhibitions showcasing works by both emerging and established artists from Pakistan and, more generally, South East Asia. A recent show, The Garden of Her Memories, was a display of naturalistic paintings by established Pakistani painter Jamil Afridi.
Yet another home for Pakistani art from both emerging and established artists is found at Gandhara-Art Gallery. This is Karachi’s only exhibition space with a regular programme run by Gandhara-Art, a curatorial organisation that has its offices in Hong Kong. The organisation is very active internationally, curating shows of Pakistani artists in several venues across the globe. In the past, they have collaborated with many institutions of other countries, most notably the Hong Kong Arts Center, the Salsali Private Museum in Dubai and, more recently, the Modern Art Museum in Arnhem, Netherlands. Among the many artists whose work it represents, Imran Qureshi, selected as 2013 Artist of the Year by Deutsche Bank, is worthy of mention for his lush, richly detailed miniatures, which he started staining with bloody red paint in recent years, in response to the increasing violence in Pakistan.
Gandhara-Art, F-65/2 Kehkashan, Clifton Block-4, Karachi, Pakistan, +92 21 3582 1462
For a gallery specialising in the history of Pakistani painting, Unicorn Gallery is probably the best choice in Karachi. Founded by art critic Seemah Niaz, the gallery was inaugurated with an outstanding collective exhibition which presented works by some of the most distinguished Pakistani painters, including Ahmed Parvez, Bashir Mirza, Abdur Rahman Chughtai and master calligrapher Sadequain. A recent exhibition displayed works by Ghulam Rasul, an influential Pakistani landscape painter. Unicorn Gallery is also active in the preservation of the history of regional painting by way of a prolific production of art monographs and books, which can be bought directly at the bookshop found in the gallery.
Unicorn Gallery, D116/1A, Block 4, Clifton, Karachi, Pakistan, +92 21 3583 1220
Jamil Naqsh is a renowned painter, born in India but raised in Karachi, and now retired in London. The nude female body and pigeons are the two most frequently recurring subjects in Naqsh’s works, a characteristic that has gained him the attention of the international art community, so much so that some of his paintings have been sold by the world’s best auction houses, including Christie’s and Sotheby’s. Momart Gallery was born in 1994 with the blessing of Jamil Naqsh; and Naqsh himself, as well as a number of young artists and his proteges have exhibited their paintings in the gallery – among them is award-winning landscape painter Chitra Pritam.
Momart Art Gallery, 74-D,Block 2, Clifton, Karachi, Pakistan, +92 21 3529 6802
KOEL was established in 1977 as a textile workshop. Founder Noorjehan Bilgrami opened the workshop as a space to preserve the then-dying craft of hand-block printing, an artisanal technique for which fabrics are decorated with patterns by using a carved wood block much like a stamp. With time, a gallery was added to the workshop with a similar mission: to preserve and promote regional artworks, including paintings, sculptures, photography, and craft objects such as ceramics and, of course, textiles. In addition to lovely artworks on display, the gallery also boasts a cafe and a charming courtyard.
Koel Gallery, F-42/2 Block 4, Karachi, Pakistan, +92 021 583 1292