The Lahore Biennale Foundation (LBF) announced artist Rashid Rana as the artistic director for its first biennale that will take place in November 2017 at a press conference. The LBF is to host the Lahore Biennale every two years and will be Lahore’s largest and most ambitious public art undertaking in the history of Pakistan. It will mark a new chapter in the arts and art-making, public engagement and partnership.
Historically speaking, Lahore has been one of the capitals of arts, culture and letters, it is a city of gardens and monuments. Lahore is home to many prominent artists, cultural practitioners, music gharanas and art institutions. The contemporary arts scene is flourishing and is a very active part of the global discourse, but there is a void when it comes to art in its various forms and public engagement. The enrichment that comes about in our society through the arts is potentially within reach, but not quite realized. In this regard, the LBF aims to foster a sustained dialogue between the public and the arts in Pakistan, and thereby reclaim a space for the arts within the national discourse. The Co-Founder and Executive Director of LBF, Qudsia Rahim states, “ the Lahore Biennale Foundation (LBF) was formed two years ago in an effort to create opportunities for engagement with the arts both formally and informally, through the input of creative artists and citizens who work in socially responsible ways.”
Although there is an upsurge in contemporary Pakistani artists in the global arena, there is still a lack of institutions and opportunities for artists’ work to be seen, experienced and viewed in Pakistan. LBF hopes to create an atmosphere that begins to address this gap.
The word “Biennale”, known as “Biennial” in English, has Latin origins and it is used for large scale art exhibitions, involving artists from various countries, that takes place every two years.The Biennale originated in Venice, Italy in 1893, and is considered a highly prestigious art event that a country can host for the promotion of Arts and Culture locally, as well as contributing to global dialogue. Many other countries such as Turkey, India, China, Brazil, Kenya, Germany, Indonesia and Morocco also host biennales regularly.
Rashid Rana is not only one of Pakistan’s leading voices; his work and ideas are greatly influential in all of South Asia. He is grounded in the local context as much as in the global. The LBF believes Rana is the ideal person to bridge the gap and initiate a conversation between Pakistan and the rest of the world. “The role of the artist in Pakistan is always blurry. We all end up fulfilling multiple roles,” Rana states, adding further, “my art-making, exhibition-making and curriculum-making overlap and converge. To me, these different practices are all forms of production. I look forward to the Biennale being yet another exercise in creating.”