The AAN Foundation provides support to a wide range of art forms and encourages discourse on visual arts in particular. This includes offering platforms & support for exhibitions, private as well as public art projects, publications and art related initiatives. From a geographic perspective, the foundation is focussed on enabling and encouraging the arts in Pakistan as well as considering the broader Asian region including Asia Pacific and South Asia.
Projects supported by the Foundation include ‘Authority as Approximation’ by Shahzia Sikander at Para-Site Art Space in 2009, Ai WeiWei and Vito Acconci’s exhibition at Para-Site, ‘Rising Tide’ a survey show of Pakistani Contemporary Art at the Mohatta Palace Museum Karachi, Lines of Control at the Johnson Museum, Cornell University, Princes and Painters of Delhi at the Asia Society Museum New York, 36 Calendars by Song Dong, an Asia Art Archive project, ‘AAN Collection At LUMS’ at the Lahore University of Management Sciences and ‘Apparatus of Power’ exhibition by Shahzia Sikander at the Asia Society Museum, Hong Kong. It is also providing support as the Central Sponsor for the inaugural Lahore Biennale 2018 which was held in March 2018 in the historic city of Lahore. The AAN Foundation will also be giving an annual research grant titled the AAN Lahore Bienniale Research Grant which will provide funding for original research focusing on movements and shifts in contemporary and modern art practice in Pakistan.
A very significant part of the AAN Foundation’s aim is to provide support at the very initial/conceptual stages, to projects, which could become platforms for further strengthening the artistic space in their own areas and geographies.
Believed to be the largest and most comprehensive collection of Pakistan visual art to date, the AAN collection is a private collection of Asian art primarily focussed on Pakistani Modern & Contemporary art
The AAN Collection comprises of over 800 works of art ranging from 3rd Century Gandhara sculptures to 17th Century Mughal miniatures to contemporary artworks by artists such as Shahzia Sikander, Ai WeiWei, Takashi Murakami, Imran Qureshi, Rashid Rana and Zhang Xiaogang.
Works from the collection have been part of major exhibitions at institutions such as The Metropolitan Museum of Art New York, Belvedere Museum Vienna, Singapore Art Museum, Asia Society Museum Hong Kong, Eli and Edythe Broad Art Museum Michigan, The Aga Khan Museum Toronto, The Venice Biennial, The Sharjah Biennial, The Guggenheim Museum Bilbao, MAXXI Museum in Rome amongst others. AAN Collection is the only contemporary art institution in Pakistan to partner with Google Arts & Culture to exhibit Pakistani art in the digital realm.
Medium was never a barrier for the collectors. They bought their first video installation by a contemporary artist more than ten years ago, when video was a very new medium especially in South Asia. There are works in every possible medium including, wood, schist, granite, steel, linen, paper, canvas, photography, found objects, gold, velvet, silk, silver as well as sound, digital pieces and more. Similarly, size also poses no barrier. The scale of Desperately Seeking Paradise, a gargantuan sculpture by Rashid Rana is one such example. The miniature album by Aisha Khalid also would be considered difficult to collect as it cannot be framed; it has to be enjoyed by viewing it in one’s hands. It is in the form of a codex and is composed of twenty two paintings bound together in the form of a miniature manuscript. As is Parallax, a thirty-six feet, three channel video installation by Shahzia Sikander, which can only be shown in museums and public institutions. If the narrative is compelling, the medium and size pose no challenge.
Documentation in the visual arts is critical as it supports research and scholarship on the prevailing art practice. It has been the vision of AAN & Gandhara publications to document the Pakistani contemporary art space as there was a dearth of research and documentation both in publication as well as in the digital realm. Therefore, it has published more than twenty five stellar publications under Gandhara Art on arts and artists to date with essays by scholars and writers such as Dr. Virginia Whiles, Salima Hashmi, Suzanne Cotter, Sue Acret, Quddus Mirza, Dr. Fatima Zahra Hassan and Dr. Iftikhar Dadi so as to enable research in this field. Books on the artists published include Imran Qureshi, Aisha Khalid, Rashid Rana, Bani Abidi, Khadim Ali & Risham Syed. AAN Publications has also launched publishing related projects such as Scroll: Projects on Paper, which is now part of the ‘Publishing Against The Grain’ exhibition and is being exhibited internationally beginning with Zeitz Museum of Contemporary African Art in Capetown, South Africa.
AAN Gandhara Art Space
AAN Gandhara Art Space offers a space in the city of Karachi where museum quality exhibitions of a longer duration are shown and encouraged. One of the key roles was to offer a place for the public to enjoy stellar exhibitions at home. A role of art patronage is not just providing support to artists but also to the art professionals who have made this their chosen field and enabling them to weave the narratives which will enable audiences to have a truly meaningful experience.
The exhibition programming is very robust and has always aimed to stretch the boundaries of exhibition making. With ‘Whitewash’,Gandhara in 2011, was the first space to show video and sound installations as well as performance art in one exhibition and in a single space. Artists therefore have always used the space creatively. It could be Abdullah Syed hurling rocks at a wall to create his installation or Atif Khan creating an in-situ installation by painting on the floor of the gallery. Both artists were part of the ‘Whitewash’ exhibition. Exhibiting a six-channel video installation by Bani Abidi at her solo exhibition and showing Ayesha Zulfiqar’s sand sculptures and installations in the space are just more examples of the ease at which Gandhara faces challenges in exhibition making.
The vision for Gandhara has always been to break ground and challenge notions of both practice as well as narrative. Ten years ago in 2007 when Gandhara showed Imran Qureshi and Aisha Khalid’s work in two solo exhibitions in Hong Kong, there was not much awareness of contemporary miniature from Pakistan. The exhibition showed video, in-situ installations as well as contemporary painting to build the narrative.
Apart from exhibitions Gandhara also provided early key funding and support for ‘Authority as Approximation’, Shahzia Sikander’s first solo public exhibition at Para-Site Art Space in Hong Kong in 2009 as well as funding for ‘Lines of Control’ at the Johnson Art Museum at Cornell University, New York.
The latest shows at AAN Gandhara Art Space have broken new ground with sound installations at the exhibition ‘The Fleet’ by Fazal Rizvi and technology based media works in the exhibition ‘groundtruthing’ by Shahana Rajani & Zahra Malkani.