By H.E. Mr. Suljuk Mustansar Tarar, Ambassador of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan to the Kingdom of the Netherlands
There is a certain randomness in old friendships. My dear friend Imran Qureshi, the famous visual artist, called me one day from Lahore in April to say that his first show after the Covid pandemic would be displayed at Gallery Ropac in Paris. He asked if I could join. As I live in the Hague, the notice was short. Despite that, it sounded worthwhile, primarily because I had attended Qureshi’s exhibition in MET New York and Washington DC at equally short notice.
I drove to Paris and made it to the opening reception on the evening of April 27. The show was aptly titled Homecoming – for it was after long that the artist was exhibiting his work and it was the type of work he had been doing in the 2010s. Unlike Qureshi’s recent work, these were miniatures showing his mastery.
The opening was followed by a dinner where I met famous designer Christian Louboutin, a friend of Qureshi’s. I gave him my book, All That Art, which he browsed with interest. Qureshi later told me that Louboutin kept All That Art in his summer home in Portugal. I liked the simplicity of Louboutin, who kindly allowed me to take a photo of him with the book. Visual artist Suleman Khilji came from the UK, where he is studying at the Royal College of Arts.
Khilji’s figurative work is profoundly contemporary yet has an element of classic figurative painting, too, and though figurative work is coming back, Khilji started it at a time when it required some daring because the Pakistani art market was fascinated with neo-miniature abstraction. Pakistani designer Mehrunissa, who, with her mother, is the force behind creative Studio Lel, was also present. Thus, Paris became a meeting point for Lahore’s National College of Arts graduates from different parts of the world over Imran Qureshi’s exhibition.
I had another day to spend in Paris. The next morning I opted to see the Pompidou Centre. It is one of the early large-scale buildings of high-tech architecture and one of my favourite buildings. It was completed in 1977 and designed by two star-chitects, Renzo Piano and the late Sir Richard Rogers.
The colourful structure, caged in pipes and utility edifices on the Paris street skyline, looked odd. It looked like a Lego structure. However, its other side, the actual front, has a large public space in front and engages the people sitting there or entering the centre. Pompidou Centre has a huge public library, gallery spaces and cinema halls. As I took the escalator, it was like going to an airport but with the most beautiful view of Paris.
In 2024, I hope to visit Paris again to see the retrospective of American abstract expressionist icon Mark Rothko, whose work I got to appreciate while living in New York. But this time, Paris combined for me Pakistan’s creative people from my alma mater, the National College of Arts and high-tech architecture.
About the author:
H.E. Mr. Suljuk Mustansar Tarar is Pakistan’s Ambassador to the Kingdom of the Netherlands. A career diplomat, he writes about contemporary art and architecture and is the author of All That Art. He can be followed on Instagram @suljuktarar & X @suljuk. This article has been published in The News on December 31,2023.