ISLAMABAD: The Pakistan Art Forum (PAF), which its founder Imtisal Zafar calls the “largest digital platform of its kind in Pakistan,” was launched earlier this month to connect established and emerging Pakistani artists with potential buyers around the world.
PAF, initially a Facebook group, started off as a “passion project” for Zafar in 2014 and is now a website designed specially to promote Pakistani artists and help them go global, the Lahore-based founder and curator told Arab News.
“The forum is now the largest digital platform where every week there is tons of new artwork shared, making it valuable for artists who want to connect with potential clients,” Zafar said, adding that the “free market space” could be used to trade artwork between galleries, artists and clients. “The forum does not take any commission for that.”
Zafar said what distinguished the platform from other websites was its global outreach, making it possible for art aficionados around the world to get their hands on Pakistani art in a “reliable, transparent and trustworthy” manner.
“Except for one minor art website, there never has been a Pakistani art website with a similar ethos like Artsy.net or Saatchi in Pakistan,” he said. “The aspiration of making this website global is to give Pakistani artists international exposure and give people from outside the country access to Pakistani art.”
He said the forum aimed to identify and highlight promising new artists, and offered a diverse price range to buyers, “with some pieces starting as low as Rs20,000 [$125].”
“One of our main goals at PAF since its inception has been to discover hidden and young talent that has a lot of promise and needs the right exposure, mentorship and guidance,” Zafar said. “We very religiously cover all thesis shows across the country at all art universities and colleges because that is the hotspot to discover upcoming talent.”
Zafar also said what set PAF apart from other commercial sellers in the country was that it did not only focus on pieces that highlighted Pakistani heritage, history and culture, as was the norm.
“The young generation of artists is pushing the envelope with their art,” he said, “getting inspired by their western idols and appropriating them in their own way to create unique and exciting works.”
Artist Ahmer Farooq, whose work is held in private collections in Denmark, India, Japan, Norway, Pakistan, UAE, UK and the US, told Arab News he had been displaying his work on the digital forum since it was launched as a Facebook page, acknowledging the lack of such platforms in Pakistan to promote local artists internationally.
“PAF gets artists’ work the national and international exposure they deserve,” Farooq said. “Pakistan is full of talented artists who have yet not been discovered and the country’s art landscape remains raw and unpolluted.”
Another artist, Fawad Jafri, said the forum could help talented artists represent their country at a relatively young age.
“PAF is our new baby in the art circle, and we prefer our youngsters to represent Pakistan as early as possible, so that the coming generation may relate themselves to the art represented by PAF,” he said.
Art and culture writer Nayha Jehangir Khan told Arab News the platform was “free from the traditional and gallerist format.”
“This forum acts as the missing link to developing modern strategies of opening up unconventional art exhibition spaces and forming alliances between the art and fashion industry,” she said, adding that the platform was also making it possible for emerging and aspiring artists to be “noticed and celebrated” by a wider community of young art enthusiasts who would be the future collectors of Pakistan.