An Art Lover's Guide to Karachi in 24 Hours

Empty framed canvases
Empty framed canvases | Maxpixel
Photo of Noreen Gulwani
11 January 2018

Art may not be the first thing that comes to mind with the name Karachi, but the city does have a colorful art scene. Karachi-based artists regularly showcase their creations in galleries and museums across the city. Contemporary and traditional cultures can be observed in the art, with a unique Pakistani and Karachi slant. If you find yourself in Karachi, take a day to check out the city’s art.

Start with a visit to TDF Ghar

The recently established TDF Ghar (The Dawood Foundation) is a good point to start your journey into Karachi’s art. Located in the heart of the city, with a great view of the Quaid’s Mausoluem, TDF will introduce the history of Karachi to you through vintage artifacts and collectible items. Displays includes antique items of decor set in a quaint living room with classic furniture, flooring and art from the past century. The building itself is a unique colonial structure, with handcrafted tiles, wooden cornering and regal lighting and chandeliers. The gallery also boasts a cafe to relax and get some snacks before moving on to our next destination.

Inside one of TDF’s Galleries | © TDFGhar/Facebook

Explore the State Bank Museum and Art Gallery

Next you should stop by the State Bank Museum and Art Gallery which is about a 25 minute drive from TDF. It’s best to catch an Uber as it’s so convenient and affordable in Karachi, whereas parking and traffic is always problematic.

At the State Bank Museum and Art Gallery, check out the extensive collection of unique and unusual work of one of Pakistan’s most prominent painters, Sadequain. The Mezzanine floor displays huge murals and metal collages of the painter/calligrapher from the ’50s to the ’80s. Even his last work is included in the collection, which he completed in OMI Hospital three days before his death. The building also has a museum displaying rare coins and currencies.

Half an hour is a good amount of time to dedicate to this spot.

State Bank Museum’s facade | © AsimIftikharNagi/WikiCommons

Stop by at Frere Hall

Our next destination is a 15 minute drive away, and again it’s best to get there by Uber. Walk into Frere Hall for one of Sadequian’s major murals. Painted on the ceiling of Frere Hall, the work enthralls anyone who comes across it. The gallery space at Frere Hall is called Sadequain Art Gallery, but exhibits other artists too. The building itself is a fantastic spectacle to admire. The large shady trees and green gardens around the romantic stone facade of the building are an inviting space.

Home to Sadequain’s renowned ceiling mural | © GhazalaShah/WikiCommons

Refuel while taking in Koel Gallery’s exhibits

After an art-filled morning, refuel in the artsy Koel Gallery and Cafe, 15 minutes’ drive away in the heart of Clifton Block 4. Koel Gallery and cafe allows arts and crafts to breathe alongside each other, and it’s among the city’s most prestigious spaces to find some of the best art being produced today. The atmosphere of the gallery is serene, with naturally lit spaces and an outdoor yard used as a cafe, with lovely flowering trees. The food is also commendable, with a variety of starters, main courses, desserts and drinks. Eat a hearty lunch here so that you can move on to our next destination with energy.

Marvel at the city’s most commendable artworks at Canvas Gallery

Take a three-minute walk from Koel to Canvas Gallery, located just a street away. Canvas is among the oldest, and is one of the leading, art galleries in Pakistan. Since its conception, the gallery has been committed to discovering, promoting, developing and supporting artists and art in Pakistan. If you are lucky you might see their experimental exhibitions that use video installations, digital prints and other forms of new media. The gallery has previously curated art shows in the UK, US, Middle East and other Asian countries. Take this one in slowly, because our next stop is only a two-minute walk away.

Experience something different at Ghandhara Art Space

Modern art has its own appeal, and Ghandhara Art is the go-to place to touch base with the country’s best upcoming art trends and artists. Young and upcoming artists are also put in the spotlight here. Their programmes also feature video installations and performance art exhibitions.

Art on Walls | © Publicdomain/Pxhere

Immerse yourself in ultra-modern art forms at Sanat Initiative

Our next stop is a five-minute walk and a few streets away. This area in Karachi is full of great cafes, salons, spas and art galleries. Sanat is a newer space started in 2014 that works with well-known artists and also gives space to budding talent and innovation by showing non-traditional perspectives.

If you require a snack break, stop at one of the many restaurants, cafes or diners on this street, including one of Karachi’s very best, Cafe Flo. Alternatively, move directly on to your next destination–a royal palace.

End your night at the magical Mohatta Palace Art Gallery

A 15 minute Uber ride is all you need to reach your last and grandest stop of the day. Your first glimpse of this building is sure to stop you in your tracks. Mohatta Art Gallery shows traditional and contemporary exhibitions from artists working in various media, and the space is known for attracting large crowds of art enthusiasts. Outside the building are Victorian-era statues, including one of Queen Victoria. The gallery also has a gift shop.

Mohatta palace during an event | © 93fish/WikiCommons