Ambiance of Lahore: A boutique hotel immersed in modern Pakistani art

A visitor sits beneath diverse artworks by contemporary Pakistani artists at Ambiance Hotel in Lahore Pakistan on Oct. 10, 2020 (Photo courtesy: Ambiance Hotels)
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Updated 17 October 2020

Ambiance of Lahore: A boutique hotel immersed in modern Pakistani art

  • Artworks of contemporary Pakistani artists such as Atif Khan, Hussain Jamil, and Beygumbano fill the hotel's space
  • In curating the newly opened hotel's collection, owner Kasim Kasuri is supported by a team of art experts

RAWALPINDI: A colonial-style building with the letters “Ambiance” affixed to its front in Lahore’s lively Gulberg area betrays nothing of what awaits you inside. A chocolatey grey set of stairs leads to slim wood and glass doors of a newly opened boutique hotel — a space that is much more than just a place to stay. Once you enter, you will live, breathe, and find yourself immersed in contemporary art.
One can look up at any wall and come face to face with some of the most talented Pakistani artists such as Atif Khan, Hussain Jamil, and Beygumbano. Each piece has been selected by Kasim Kasuri, the hotel’s owner for whom contemporary art has been a life-long attraction.
“I thought that like me there are people who would appreciate a smaller scale space that is built around experiences conversations about art — all kinds of art, and design,” he told Arab News on Friday, when the hotel officially opened for bookings.
A “serial art buyer,” Kasuri made his first art purchase when he was 16 or 17 years old. While his resume shows decades of work as an educationist, in recent years he began pondering how through his love of design and art he could connect with others who share the same passion. Boutique hotels, usually known for their interesting design, was his thought.




Artworks by Pakistani artists are on display in the dining space on Ambiance Hotel in Lahore on Oct. 10, 2020 (Photo courtesy: Ambiance Hotels)

The minimalist renovation done to the outside of the hotel building, which in its former life served as a bank, plays as bait and switch to the maximalist interiors that showcase a well-coordinated dance of eclectic and colonial inspirations — a case study in modern Lahore sensibilities.
“We wanted to create spaces that had you wanting to experience what was around you, through touch, feel, and even smell,” said Shireen Waheed who with architect Omar Hassan crafted for the hotel what they call is a mix of “earthy soulful meets dramatic” and “colonial eclecticism” architecture. “It is a representation of modern Lahore.”
The hotel is meant to be transformative, it somehow both evokes a hotel on a hidden street in a quaint European town through the materials and design choices decorating its interiors, and what is Lahore aesthetics — a love of the old and embracing of the new. Walls, floors, furniture and decorations were all crafted by local artisans.




Artworks by Pakistani artists are on display in the dining space on Ambiance Hotel in Lahore on Oct. 10, 2020 (Photo courtesy: Ambiance Hotels)

In curating the collection, Kasuri is supported by a team of art experts, including former National College of Arts principals Salima Hashmi and Naazish Ata Ullah. Over 50 artworks were purchased from some 28 Pakistani artists are filling the space.
They are paintings, bright digital prints, line works, sculptural pieces, lighting and video installations, like a memorable one by Anusha Novlani with a playful approach to the “hear no evil” adage.
“They have curated a variety of alternative thoughts and perceptions about our identity and culture,” Eemaan Bano, the artist known as Beygumbano, told Arab News. Her works featuring women clad in burqas layered with unexpected details like giraffes, are also seen throughout the space.




Lightboxes by Anusha Novlani on display at Ambiance Hotel in Lahore, Pakistan on Oct. 10, 2020 (Photo courtesy: Ambiance Hotels)

Ambiance has already tapped into what Kasuri hoped it would do: inspire conversation and promote art.
“I’ve been inundated by requests from friends and family trying to find out about who made what and how they can get in touch with artists,” he said. “It’s already having an impact and I am excited for the future spaces we have.”


Pakistan's support for Kashmiri cause unwavering, Raheel Sharif says in Riyadh

Updated 31 October 2020

Pakistan's support for Kashmiri cause unwavering, Raheel Sharif says in Riyadh

  • Pakistani embassy in Riyadh held a seminar on the human rights situation in Kashmiri territory to mark Kashmir Black Day
  • Kashmiri self-determination is not only a moral and legally justified right, former Saudi ambassador to Pakistan says

ISLAMABAD: Former Pakistan army chief Gen. Raheel Sharif said that Pakistan supports the Kashmiri cause with an "unflinching resolve."

The general's comment came during a seminar, "Human Rights Situation in Kashmir: Implications for Regional Peace and Stability," organized by the Pakistani embassy in Riyadh to observe Kashmir Black Day on Thursday.

"Let it be known that every citizen of Pakistan stands united with the people of Kashmir and supports their struggle for freedom with an unflinching resolve," said Gen. Raheel Sharif, who now leads the Islamic Military Counter Terrorism Coalition, a counterterrorist alliance of Muslim countries, which is headquartered in Saudi Arabia.

"The issue of Kashmir is very close to every Pakistani’s heart as we fully understand the cause and dynamics of this struggle right from the beginning. We have closely witnessed the sufferings of our Kashmiri brethren and appreciate their resolve and valor in pursuit of their goal and fundamental human rights."

Former Pakistan army chief Gen. Raheel Sharif participates in a seminar organized in Riyadh by the Pakistani embassy to observe Kashmir Black Day on Thursday, Oct. 29, 2020. (Pakistan Embassy Riyadh via AN)

Kashmiri territory is divided between India and Pakistan, but both countries claim the region in its entirety. Crackdowns in the Indian-administered part have been escalating since August 2019, when New Delhi scrapped Articles 370 and 35A of the constitution, which gave Kashmiris limited autonomy and protected their domicile and employment rights.

If not reversed, the Indian regime's August move, Sharif said, will cause "further unrest in the region."

Saudi Arabia's former ambassador to Pakistan, Ali Awadh Asseri, who was one of speakers in the seminar, said that last year's change in Kashmir's status "through annexation and division of the internationally recognized disputed region," as well as subsequent lockdown and "enforced demographic shift currently underway" have aggravated the humanitarian crisis in the region.

"Kashmiri people are facing a more dangerous situation now as every passing day is marginalizing their political status and socio-economic space," he said during the seminar, as he recalled serving in Pakistan and leading Saudi relief efforts after an earthquake that devastated Kashmir in 2005.  

Saudi Arabia's former ambassador to Pakistan, Ali Awadh Asseri, participates in a seminar organized in Riyadh by the Pakistani embassy to observe Kashmir Black Day on Thursday, Oct. 29, 2020. (Pakistan Embassy Riyadh via AN)

He said the relief could not reach the Indian-administered part of the territory, as New Delhi did not grant access. "We remember that Kashmir on the other side of LOC also faced devastating effects of the earthquake but could not do much due to lack of access by the Indian authorities."

"Kashmiri people want to live their lives according to their free will and India has denied this basic right and instead chosen the path of repression," Asseri added.

"The Kashmiri demand of self-determination is not only the moral right but also legally justified under UN security council resolutions."

India on Wednesday notified new laws that allow non-Kashmiris to buy land in the disputed region, rising concerns that the new regulation would dilute the Muslim-majority character of the region.

"Contrary to Indian claims of bringing development to the Kashmir valley, the real motive remains altering the demographics of the Muslim-majority territory," Islamabad's ambassador to Saudi Arabia, Raja Ali Ejaz, told Arab News after the seminar.

He added that the Pakistani government remains "fully committed to the Kashmir cause."