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, Atif Khan, Humaira Abid, Rabeya Jalil, Hadia Moiz, Imran Channa, Komail Aijazuddin, 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 Naiza Khan, Moeen Faruqi, Meher Afroz, Noorjehan Bilgrami, the late Ussman Ghouri, Unver Shafi, R. M. Naeem, Anwar Saeed, Afshar Malik, Salima Hashmi, Abdul Jabbar Gull, Nahid Raza and Usman Saeed.
Khaas Gallery is owned and was founded by Zishan Afzal Khan, the Director & Chief Curator. Later, 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, eventually becoming the gallery Curator. The team at Khaas is committed to exhibiting artists who are non-formulaic such as Naiza 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 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. Shakil Saigol, Waseem Ahmed, Humaira Abid, Imran Channa and Komail Aijazuddin were also represented by us our Art15 booth.
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 and, as we bring Humaira Abid’s work to a London audience once again, this time at START Art Fair at the Saatchi Gallery, we hope to build upon the much-needed global dialogue we hope to cultivate for many years to come. We hope to be able to continue to bring 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 Pakistan.