x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 22 July 2017

Collectors urged to have a brush with Pakistani art auction to help feed millions

The auction of Pakistani art at Christie's in Dubai is expected to raise $500,000 for food aid in Pakistan.

Qinz Najm's Sacred Sinister is just one of many Pakistani artists' works on sale at the charity auction. Courtesy UN World Food Programme
Qinz Najm's Sacred Sinister is just one of many Pakistani artists' works on sale at the charity auction. Courtesy UN World Food Programme

DUBAI // Four million Pakistanis will soon receive at least US$500,000 (Dh1.84m) in food assistance from a charity art auction.

Established and rising Pakistani artists have combined with Christie’s in Dubai to auction their works on Wednesday, with proceeds going to Pakistan as part of the UN’s World Food Programme (WFP).

“Last year, we reached out to 12.7 million people in Pakistan,” said Ashraf Hammouda, the WFP’s head of partnerships and business development for the Middle East, North Africa, Central Asia and Eastern Europe.

“This year, we’re reaching out to four million, of which 150,000 are schoolchildren.”

The Contemporary Pakistani Art Now event will include 55 pieces from established and emerging artists, including Jamil Naqsh, Iqbal Mehdi and Ahmed Parveez.

“Art in Pakistan has a long history,” said Abdulrehman Mir, a prominent Pakistani collector. “I started collecting art as a young man 40 years ago and I was always in love with Pakistani art.”

When he showed the catalogue to some of the artists, many were overwhelmed. “Some of them cried to see their name next to Christie’s,” he said. “Pakistani art is at its lowest at the moment, so there couldn’t be a better time to buy it. For collectors, I think it would be a very good opportunity.”

The team is expecting to raise up to $600,000.

“People are sometimes afraid of going to auctions but some pieces start at $1,500 and some go up to $100,000,” said Omar Donia, the programme’s art adviser. “There’s a mix and there’s space for young collectors.”

At the end of auction, an additional piece will be donated by an Uzbeki artist.

“The project is a project of love because we’re trying to feed bodies, however, art is about feeding the soul,” said Mr Hammouda.

“We’re hitting several birds with one stone because we’re helping a cause in Pakistan, helping young emerging artists who can use it as a platform and we’re reaching out to philanthropists and corporations to come in.”

The money will be donated to school feeding programmes in the Fata region of Pakistan, a tribal area.

“There’s a shortfall in Pakistan,” Mr Hammouda said.

“We’re moving from food aid to food assistance – we have to let people be self sufficient and to let them stand on their own two feet.”

The artworks will be on view at the Mina A’Salam hotel on Tuesday, before the auction on Wednesday.

cmalek@thenational.ae