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"A Great Start" The Press on the First Exhibition at the KunstHalle


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“A Great Start”
The Press on the First Exhibition at the KunstHalle

The Deutsche Bank KunstHalle opened with a large exhibition featuring work by Imran Qureshi, the “Artist of the Year” 2013. The first European exhibition of the Pakistani artist includes miniature paintings as well as large canvases conceived specifically for the show. The press raved about the first show in the KunstHalle.

Even before the opening of his exhibition in Berlin, Imran Qureshi was feted in Lahore, Pakistan, for receiving the "Artist of the Year" award. The celebration at the National College of Art gave Sarah Khan an occasion to visit Qureshi in his home city and write a long article for Weltkunst. Khan views the Artist of the Year distinction as a “beacon of hope”. His “success,” she writes, “could help him convey this to the country’s art-estranged elites and politicians: Grant freedom, give money, make art possible, and we’ll give the country back its reputation.” The Nation, one of Pakistan’s most important daily newspapers, also devoted an extensive article to the artist and his exhibition projects. Monopol had this to say about Qureshi’s work: “The artist was trained in classic miniature painting and makes use of its formal repertoire. But he brings its content up to date in an extremely original way, putting camouflage socks on bearded men in traditional garb.” In a preliminary report on the exhibition, Andrea Hilgenstock writes in the Berlin city magazine Tip: “In the KunstHalle, new life is breathed into miniature painting.”  

And that’s exactly what Qureshi has done. “The Kunsthalle was wondrously transformed into a cabinet of wonder with dark, labyrinthine cabinets. All alone, the miniatures radiate from within, sparsely illuminated in the darkness of the tiny chamber. There’s something sacred about it.” This is Gabriela Walde’s impression of the show. The art critic of the Berliner Morgenpost adds: “With Qureshi the KunstHalle has gotten off to a great start.” Anna Patazcek of Tagesspiegel writes: “Like valuable treasures his miniature paintings of empty houses light up in the darkness. Qureshi’s art is both foreign and aesthetic. He is political without being doctrinaire; his language is universal. And he builds bridges between the Orient and Occident.”

“For the show,” writes Focus, “the miniature painter worked for the first time on large canvases with gold leaf and blood-red acrylic paint.” Qureshi “did not overextend himself one bit with the new size of the works,” assesses Ingeborg Ruthe in the Berliner Zeitung. ”It worked. The result – there is no other way to put it – is as bold as it is convincing. The blood-red acrylic paint drippings (Qureshi works like Pollock did, well-nigh artistically on the floor) allegorically congealed into delicate bloodbaths.” Jochen Stöckmann from Deutschland Radio Kultur is also reminded of the American Action Painter: “Although Imran Qureshi does not spray the paint as violently as the “dripper” Jackson Pollock once did, the trained miniature painter from Pakistan deliberately lays red smears over flower ornaments on large oval formats, making his ambiguous multlayered paintings seem all the more sustainable.” Qureshi, Stöckmann concludes, “has set standards for the KunstHalle.” Brigitte Werneburg, however, was not impressed by the large works. “Imran Qureshi’s strengths clearly lie in his works on paper,” explains the art editor of taz. “The evil yet beautiful flowery dreams can also be discovered on the large-format canvases. (…) However, the canvases, the way they are presented in Berlin in the exhibition hall on Unter den Linden, seem relatively brash and one-dimensional. The artist still has to grow into this format.”  

Qureshi’s work vacillates between hope and horror. “The paintings are both beautiful and terrifying, reports Bloomberg News, “blending the brutality and fragility of modern life with a tradition of painstaking craftsmanship that has survived centuries. Qureshi said his exotic red flowers represent hope for a better future in a violent present.” Marie Kaiser from Radio 1 finds Qureshi’s “flowery dreams” unsettling. “In his first European solo exhibition,” reports the Berlin city magazine Zitty, “Qureshi engages with the volatile social situation in his home country, but without putting political or aesthetic assertions boldly in the foreground.” “The paintings,” writes Barbara Wiegand from rbb Kultur, “stylistically bridge the gap between tradition and modernity. In a fascinatingly delicate way, they render both the beauty of life and terror and death in color.” The exhibition “also stands for an opening of the program going beyond the Western art scene (…) Perhaps it will manage to give new impetus to the art world. In any case, the first exhibition presenting Imran Qureshi is well worth seeing.”

“What seem to be traces of brute force transform all of a sudden into an ornamental and expressionist web of effervescent floral opulence,” writes Birgit Sonna in Art. “After the gargantuan task he mastered for the KunstHalle, Qureshi is already forging head. While he exhibited a by no means unsqueamish work on the roof garden of the Metropolitan Museum in mid-May, he subsequently was invited to Venice by Biennale Director Massimiliano Gioni. In terms of Deutsche Bank’s commitment to contemporary art, we are relieved that following the end of the alliance with the Guggenheim Museum, art will continue to be shown in the rooms on Unter den Linden, if only because after the impressive exhibitions of Yto Barrada, Roman Ondák, and now Imran Qureshi we cannot do without an "Artist of the Year.”

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