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20 Oct

Karachi Biennale 19: Starting conversations through art


Karachi is a city of dreams for many who visit the cosmopolitan city for its ever-embracing nature. It is a melting pot of culture along with being Pakistan’s industrial and financial hub so the opportunities are endless, but unfortunately, the city of lights lacks entertainment avenues, much like the rest of the country.

Nonetheless, fret not Karachiites as the city will soon turn into a canvas with an art exhibition that you have never seen before. The resilient citizens have stood up again with a great initiative to bring art to the urbanized center with a theme about ecology; a subject that’s relatable, effective and engaging. After the successful first Karachi Biennale in 2017, the team has joined hands yet again to bring in a festive mood into the metropolis.

Here’s what the Karachi Biennale 2019 is all about:

Timeline: Scheduled to take place from 26th October to 12th November, 2019 at seven different venues in Karachi, KB19 is an experience not to miss out. The entry is free and it is open to all without any pressure of buying the art pieces.

The fest is designed to create space for public engagement and to promote the love of art; both of which are ironically neglected in our region. The two-week festival will be open for tours of school children (with prior registration) from across the city on Monday to Thursdays. Fridays are dedicated to art schools, while Saturdays are for art teachers.



Theme: Using the platform of Pakistan’s largest contemporary art event, KB19 aims to start a conversation about the ‘ecological consequences of dense urbanization’. The festival wants to present a visual narrative of how development in the cities (more concrete and skyscrapers and less trees and nesting places) is resulting in extinct species, wasted bodies, sterile lands and poisoned waters.



“The festival aims to communicate to a larger audience. It is for those who are interested in art and also the rest who are just curious to know about it,” says Niilofur Farrukh, the CEO of Karachi Biennale Trust.

Read: Wagging Tongues Production presents ‘Aangan’ at the London Design Biennale 2018

Venues: The most interesting aspect of KB19 is its selection of venues; from inaugural at Bagh Ibne Qasim to historic sites like Frere Hall, Karachi Gymkhana, NJV School and NED University (City campus), from artistic Alliance Francaise, VM Art Gallery, IVS Gallery to fun Karachi Zoo. Many of these locales are so rich in culture but are long forgotten.



    Team of Karachi Biennale 2019


“It’s just a little drop in the bigger scheme of things. We want that one day we have an art museum too in the city,” Niilofur added.

Artists:  Almost 100 artists are participating, from all parts of Pakistan and 16 other countries. You will see globally recognized names like Amin Gulgee, Alice Kettle, Arsalan Nasir, Hamra Abbas, Imran Qureshi, Rashid Rana, R.M. Naeem, Sven Johne and Victorine Muller.

Prizes:  There are five prizes to recognize artists’ contribution from popular choice, lifetime achievement, jury art prize, emerging artist and performance art prize. Curators across Europe will come and select artists for their workshops.

Green Biennale: The KB19 team is also calling it a ‘Green Biennale’ as the artists have explored the possibility of using sustainable, re-usable and re-recyclable materials for the production of their art pieces. The aim is to use materials that can gradually replace environmentally harmful practices in installing large temporary events.

Good news for millennials: If you’re confused about planning your trips to KB19? Well… there is a solution of that too. To reduce carbon footprint, there is also an electronic guide for the visitors that provides information on venues, artists and programming of KB19.



Syeda Zehra

The author is Assistant Editor at Something Haute. A journalist by profession, the writer has a penchant for films, fashion and music.