Controversy

Asia Society Unveils Major Pakistani Art Exhibition

New York’s Asia Society Museum may be playing with fire as it becomes home to America’s first major exhibition of Pakistani art. The highly anticipated “Hanging Fire” exhibit opened September 10, finally revealing the thriving contemporary art world that’s been blossoming in the tumultuous country since the 1980s through the works of 15 artists. “I think it’s difficult for people outside Pakistan to understand what this kind of recognition on an international stage means within the country,” said Melissa Chiu, the museum’s director. “It’s a big moment.” Though many might perceive Pakistan as a nationthat stifles free expression, it is that historic oppression that ignites the now flourishing world of visual art, which addresses complex issues like religion, tyrannical government, and the role of women in the Muslim world. Most of the artists whose work appears in the show are gradates of the National College of Arts in Lahore, where the curator, Salima Hashmi, taught for many years. “Those who gain a foothold in the international art discourse serve as a conduit, inviting a chance to dialogue with those inside—a conversation that may startle, beguile, enlighten and hopefully enrich,” Hashmi says hopefully of the symbolic nature of Pakistan art entering an American museum.