Khaas Art Gallery was founded on a deep commitment to the concept of art in its many forms. It has grown not just because of a passion, but also through an enduring belief in the positive impact of art and culture on a society and its people – an influence that is both humanizing and insightful. With this firmly in mind, Khaas aims to exhibit and promote art that represents the zeitgeist of today, so that we better understand our present and embrace our tomorrows. This is the ethos and primary identity of Khaas Art Gallery.
The contemporary art gallery is a wholly different entity to the traditional art gallery, both in its philosophy and in its methodology. Whilst a traditional art gallery focuses on artists whose works have a proven commercial success and are immediately saleable, the contemporary art gallery is largely delving in the unknown, with a view to the future. This results in an eye for innovation and break-through “edgy” art. Consequently, the clientele of a contemporary art gallery is more open-minded and experimental and- as a result – less willing to settle for the established or the conventional.
Khaas is committed to this opening of minds by making the viewing and collecting of art pleasurable and accessible to all. The Gallery’s repertoire of work – whilst concentrating on the more avant garde, the more innovative and the more experimental – includes an array of contemporary painting, drawing, printmaking, sculpture, photography, installation and video art. Since opening in its current premises, Khaas has inevitably been the gallery that artists have naturally gravitated towards, in order to show their most exciting and innovative work. Khaas has held a series of ground breaking and cutting-edge shows and has provided a platform for many young artists who are now recognized and highly collectible.
Respected art critics, scholars, artists, established and emerging collectors, and young students just looking to enhance their senses, are all among our valued audience. The clientele for contemporary art has increased exponentially in Pakistan and Khaas is proud to have been a critical element of this process. Established and emerging collectors and purveyors of contemporary Pakistani art now seek out Khaas for the dedicated space it offers to innovation.
Emerging in 2002, Khaas Gallery’s repertoire of work, whilst firmly contemporary, focuses on the achievements of talented emerging Pakistani artists. Khaas has provided a platform for work that is now recognised and highly collectible. Sana Arjumand, Mohammmad Atif Khan, Rabeya Jalil, Hadia Moiz, Imran Channa, Imran Mudassar and Adeel uz Zafar to name a few, are amongst the gallery’s recently exhibited artists. We have also exhibited recognised practitioners including Moeen Faruqi, Meher Afroz, Noorjehan Bilgrami, the late Usman Ghouri, Unver Shafi, Anwar Saeed, Afshar Malik, Abdul Jabbar Gull, Nahid Raza and Usman Saeed.
Khaas Gallery is owned and was founded by Zishan Afzal Khan, the Director & Chief Curator. Later, from 2009-10 two practicing visual artists, Alia Bilgrami and Babar Gull joined Khaas as full-time Curators. In 2016 Shameen Arshad, also a visual artist joined the gallery as Assistant Curator. The team at Khaas is committed to exhibiting artists that are non-formulaic such as Naiza H. Khan, whose last solo exhibition, The Weight of Things and monograph launch took place at Khaas in 2014. We also strive to promote younger artists like in our hugely successful exhibition, Doppelgänger in 2015 curated by Aasim Akhtar, an Islamabad based Art Critic and Curator, who has an ongoing relationship with Khaas and continues to be our Guest Curator every few months.
We have also been involved in various other artistic projects, with a view to promote contemporary art in Pakistan kept firmly in mind. We have hosted several book launches, such as for Raja Rasalu Folk Tales compiled by Neelam Hussain and illustrated by the printmaker Laila Rahman. More recently, in 2015 we held a monograph launch for Rebel Angel, a book on the life and talents of the late Asim Butt whose last solo show took place at Khaas in 2009. Also worth mentioning is Converging Lines, a unique suite of drawings produced by Khaas in collaboration with Aasim Akhtar. Twelve renowned Pakistani artists were asked to present a work made specifically for our drawing portfolio. The list includes Adeel-uz-Zafar, Anwar Saeed, Naiza H.Khan, R. M. Naeem, Salima Hashmi and Waseem Ahmed. This is the first of its kind; exclusive drawing portfolio ever produced in Pakistan and was conceived in order to highlight the importance of the genre as well as to bring drawing to a wider audience.
While our primary focus is on Pakistani art we have, on occasion, exhibited international artists such as Panuwat Sitheechoke and Kraingkrai Kongkhanun from Thailand; Ae Jae Lee from South Korea; Shyam Lal, Mohammad Eunus, Syed Jahangir, Jamal Ahmed, Nasreen Begum, Rebeka Sultana, Shakoor Shah & Reza un Nabi from Bangladesh; Almir Reis Santos from Brazil and Damon Kowarsky from Australia.
We brought Khaas to an international audience for the first time last year at Art15, Olympia – London’s global art fair. Khaas showcased a microcosm of Pakistani contemporary art from its modernist roots till the present day. With geopolitics having thrust Pakistan into the global limelight, the eternal notion of identity has become an insistent one as this relatively young country grapples with questions of selfhood, autonomy, integrity and trajectory. Its artists’ focus upon self-awareness and self-definition has led to a fascinating indigenous visual and conceptual vocabulary that Khaas strives to showcase.
Our featured artist at Art15 was Zubeida Agha (1922–1997), whose work is rarely exhibited because it remains largely in private collections; its presence attracted the interest of both scholars and collectors. We are pleased to have been instrumental in reviving an interest in this great artist’s legacy and we used Agha as our starting point since she is widely acknowledged as the pioneer of modernist painting in Pakistan. Agha found herself compelled to use a language unique to her environment, breaking the traditions inherited by post-colonial Pakistan. Futuristic and mainly abstract, her oeuvre was radical for its time. Inspired by a deliberate intellectual and emotional discipline, one could even go as far as to say that she was Pakistan’s earliest conceptual artist. We also represented Shakil Saigol, Waseem Ahmed, Humaira Abid, Imran Channa and Komail Aijazuddin in our booth at Art15.
Khaas Gallery has inevitably been the gallery in Islamabad that contemporary practitioners gravitate towards to share and exhibit their most exciting and innovative work. This has been our primary ethos. Our second international project was the START Art Fair at the Saatchi Gallery, London where we brought Humaira Abid’s work to a London audience once again, building upon the global dialogue further. We aim to bring more art from Pakistan to an international audience as well as to create more opportunities for our artists to exhibit overseas. Our exhibition calendar continues to reflect both our raison d’être as well as our responsibility towards the furtherance of new and exciting contemporary art in and from Pakistan.
Zishan Afzal Khan
Zishan Afzal Khan is an Islamabad based curator, gallerist and a devoted art collector. She is the owner and Director of Khaas Art Gallery, Islamabad. Zishan has an MA (Hon.) History from the University of Cambridge, UK. She went to school in Karachi, Pakistan, and from a very young age took classes with the eminent modernist Bashir Mirza where her eye for art developed. She began collecting art in the 1980’s; very much inspired by the late Ali Imam whose Indus Gallery was the basis for her earlier purchases. As Zishan’s interest in art grew, she started to build up her collection and decided to study art more formally. She received a Diploma in Islamic Works of Art from Sotheby’s in 1995. Subsequently, in 1997 she gave up her job in a financial institution in order to pursue her passion for art full time. She opened Khaas Gallery in 2002 and has not looked back since then. Along with her role as chief curator at Khaas,Zishan continues to support the arts in Pakistan and has a significant, growing art collection that has been featured in various art publications across the country.
Babar Gull is a Lahore based practising visual artist who moved to Islamabad when he joined Khaas Gallery as Curator in 2009. Babar lived here for many years, jointly curating exhibitions and maintaining the gallery. He moved back to Lahore in 2013, the city where he grew up and is currently enrolled at the National College of Arts, Lahore in the MA (Hon.) Visual Arts Programme. Despite the distance, Babar continues to be actively involved with Khaas projects and exhibitions. He completed his BFA from Hunerkada College of Visual & Performing Arts in Lahore and maintains a career in teaching part time. Apart from pursuing his MA and curating for Khaas Gallery long-distance, Babar enjoys graphic art and has a keen sense of design that he employs in all of Khaas Gallery’s publications. He continues to exhibit his own artwork locally and internationally and will complete his MA this year (2016) following which he will return to Khaas Gallery full-time. He continues to be dependable for all of Khaas Gallery’s design work.
Alia Bilgrami is an Islamabad based practising visual artist, curator and art writer. She joined Khaas Gallery as Curator in 2010 after completing her MA from Central Saint Martins College of Art & Design, London. Whilst there, she received the Cecil Collins Memorial Award for Drawing and was part of various exhibitions in London. Alia grew up in Karachi where she completed her BFA (Hon.) from Indus Valley School of Art & Architecture (2007). Following her move to Islamabad in 2008, she worked for Rohtas Gallery as Assistant Curator and was also selected for a Curatorial Research Internship at the Freer & Sackler Galleries, Smithsonian Institution, Washington D.C. that same year. She has been part many international exhibitions and two Artist Residencies – Asilo Infantile Beatrice in Atina, Italy (2014) and Ato Nexus in Tokyo, Japan (2016). Alia was nominated as a Sovereign Asian Art Prize Finalist and won the 2014-15 Sovereign Asian Public Vote Prize Schoeni in Hong Kong. Alia manages Khaas Gallery full-time and alongside curating exhibitions at Khaas, she maintains her own art practice and continues to exhibit locally and internationally. She enjoys writing and is responsible for all of Khaas Gallery’s curatorial research and writing.
Shameen Arshad is an Islamabad based visual artist and writer. She is a Fine Arts (BFA) graduate from National College of Arts, Lahore (2015). Shortly after graduating from NCA, Shameen moved back to Islamabad, the city where she grew up to begin her curatorial practice. She joined AQS Gallery, Islamabad as Gallery Coordinator and managed their exhibitions and other art related events. In 2016, she moved on to her role as Assistant Curator at Khaas Gallery. Shameen enjoys writing and is an art critic for publications such as Art Now Pakistan and The Missing Slate, where she frequently interviews artists and critiques exhibitions. Her paintings have been exhibited nationally and she continues her painting practice alongside her writing. She is responsible for all of Khaas Gallery’s promotional material and maintains the gallery’s online presence through social media. She is also responsible for the gallery website – she maintains our archives and written content for the artist database.