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Rashid Rana announced as Artistic Director of the inaugural Lahore Biennale
Rashid Rana. Photo: Samid Ali.

LAHORE.- The Lahore Biennale Foundation announces the inaugural edition of Pakistan’s first Biennale. Free to the public, the Lahore Biennale will take place in November 2017, and will be the largest contemporary art event in the country. The Lahore Biennale will explore art’s power as an instrument of social change, through new commissions from some of the world’s most engaging artists, both established and emerging. The LBF is proud to announce the Artistic Director of the inaugural edition as Rashid Rana, considered to be one of the most important artists of his generation from South Asia.

One of the significant urban centers of Pakistan, Lahore has an impressive cultural and literary footprint. In addition to the world-renowned ​National College of Arts (NCA) and Beaconhouse National ​University (BNU), it is home to ​many prominent artists, writers, and cultural practitioners, both historic and contemporary. Lahore-born contemporary artists Rashid Rana, Shazia Sikander, Bani Abidi and Imran Qureshi, who all studied at the NCA, are among the leading Pakistani artists who have an active role in the global art world, with shows and events at institutions ranging from the Whitechapel Gallery (London), to Guggenheim (Bilbao), Metropolitan Museum of Art (NY) and dOCUMENTA 13 (Germany). Today Lahore produces 80% of the country’s books, and in 2013 it attracted 30,000 people to the first Lahore Literary Festival. Lahore today continues to be a dynamic site of varied cultural production.

The first Lahore Biennale aims to engage directly with the city, expanding the production and presentation of art beyond the traditional gallery context. Rashid Rana, as the Artistic Director, hopes to take art directly to a range of audiences, through multiple public art projects, working with the inhabitants of Lahore as well as the visitors to the Biennale. Rana envisions the city not just as a site for the Biennale but as a medium through which traditional ways of producing, exhibiting and contextualizing art are challenged. He proposes, ‘a Biennale that occupies an alternative space, between academia and contemporary art emerging from the region’.

Critically acclaimed past projects from the Lahore Biennale Foundation (LBF) include My East is Your West, a collateral event of the 56th Venice Biennale which united for the first time, at the Venice Biennale, the historically conflicting nations of India and Pakistan, in a collaborative exhibition by artists from both countries.

Osman Khalid Waheed, Chairman of LBF, commented “LBF views art as not just an exercise in aesthetics, but as a vehicle for social engagement. The biennale is part of an ongoing effort to reclaim a space for the arts in the country's public discourse, and in doing so, help support a more balanced and humane society. Our hope is that the Biennale will leave a lasting footprint in the city that outlives the seven weeks of the event itself, and will help revitalize a renewed engagement between the public and the arts.”

Jessica Morgan, Director of Dia Art Foundation (New York) and Advisor to LBF said: “Lahore Biennale has made a worthy decision in appointing Rashid Rana as Artistic Director. Rana's role and ability to bridge the gap between Pakistan and the international art world will be of great importance for this first Biennale which promises to bring much needed attention to the outstanding art and culture of Pakistan.”

Rashid Rana, Artistic Director of Lahore Biennale 2017, explains: “The world currently has a very limited view of Lahore. The city is a complex urban space undergoing rapid, and sometimes unexpected, transformation. Being true to the spirit of the city of Lahore will make this a very different kind of biennale. Moreover, from a variety of perspectives, we hope to create a biennale ‘without walls’ in every sense of the word. It is my desire that the inaugural event generates ideas for a larger discourse within the art world while remaining relevant to audiences in the city. Lahore deserves a visual arts event with the ambition and scale of a Biennale.”

Moshin Hamid, Director of LBF, added: “Lahore is a city of 10 million people, one of the largest in the world, with a vibrant artistic and cultural life, and a history going back thousands of years. It is long overdue for a massive public display of contemporary art. For me, Rashid is an excellent choice. He has lived in Lahore, created art in Lahore, taught in Lahore, so he is intimately familiar with and engaged with the city. But his vision and experience are post-national, post-boundaries. And his commitment to an inclusive biennale is very strong."

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