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A Bastion of South Asian Art and Culture in Philadelphia

Friday, October 15, 2010

Zoe Papademetriou, Gallery Associate, Twelve Gates Art Gallery, Philadelphia

Burning World II, Image: Maureen Drdak (Exhibition: Maureen Drdak, Fareen Butt and Reeta Karmarkar
Nov 5th - Nov 27th)

Upward Bound, Image: Simeen Farhat, (Simeen Farhat Solo, Dec 3rd - Dec 25th)

In a city dominated by American history and culture, one gallery has emerged as a leader in the promotion of South Asian arts and culture. Twelve Gates Art Gallery, founded in June 2009, has quickly established itself as a cultural center for South Asian and Diaspora artists, students and patrons through exhibitions of contemporary art as well as film screenings, musical performances, poetry readings and lectures on topics directly related to current issues surrounding the Indian subcontinent. The gallery’s vision upholds the belief that globalization, and with it issues of Diaspora, has not destroyed the artist’s connection to their origins, but their new found situations have instead evolved it into a charismatic and vibrant relationship that is then translated into their work in a variety of themes that transcend simple categorization. Within its first year, Twelve Gates Gallery has brought a diverse range of art to residents of Philadelphia right as South Asian arts and culture is gaining global recognition as a premier source of artistic evolution and inspiration.

Located in the Old City neighborhood and surrounded by renowned galleries such as Snyderman-Works Gallery, Twelve Gates Gallery has produced a dynamic artistic environment due in large part to their commitment to educating the public on South Asian culture and history. This past June 2010, author and professor Dr. Zia Mian was invited to speak and answer questions about his latest book entitled “Bridging Partition: People’s Initiatives for Peace Between India and Pakistan,” a compilation of essays by leading scholars, activists and writers from both India and Pakistan as they reflect on the political and personal impact of partition, and explore the possibilities and limitations of a new citizens movement that seeks peace between the two countries.

In addition to their notable exhibits featuring works influenced by spiritual identity, gender and sexuality, and political ideas, Twelve Gates Gallery has hosted a number of traveling exhibitions, and participated in fundraisers to benefit South Asian related organizations. “Postcards in the Time of War” brought together the collaborative work of six artists and art professors at the National College of Art in Pakistan. In response to the environment of fear and destruction they currently found themselves in, they each created a suite of postcard artwork, visual messages based upon their connections to one another and to their world and born out of their anxiety, fear and will to keep living their lives. Proceeds from postcard sales went directly to benefit The Swat Relief Initiative. From June 2010 through the end of July, Twelve Gates was host to “Erasing Borders: Exhibition of Contemporary Indian Art of the Diaspora,” the Indo-American Arts Council’s 7th Annual exhibit featuring 24 Indian Diaspora artists whose work, which interprets diverse subject matter in a variety of media from the figurative to the abstract and conceptual, represents the powerful and unexpected results of cultural dislocation, and the importance of identity.

Twelve Gates Art Gallery continues into its second year with another compelling exhibit. “Off the Wall: De-Framing Contemporary Miniature Painting” from curator Atteqa Ali brings together the art of eight distinct artists trained in traditional miniature painting technique who have all re-interpreted the original media in their personal artistic exploration. The artists have all taken painting off the wall and either returned it to the manuscript, or positioned it in such a manner that it cannot be framed, thereby challenging traditional meanings and expectations for how miniature painting should be exhibited. The exhibit layout itself reflects these artistic desires, and very little of the art is displayed on walls. Instead, tables and pedestals are scattered throughout and visitors are invited to look closely and view the art as objects. 

On the steps of this show, Twelve Gates Gallery will also be traveling abroad with their South Asian art. As one of 30 international galleries, and one of three US-based galleries, Twelve Gates Gallery will be participating in SLICK 2010 Paris, a contemporary art fair in its 5th year that will be held in the heart of contemporary art in Paris by the Palais de Tokyo and the Musee de Art Moderne. Twelve Gates Art Gallery will be part of the SLICK-Orient project, which focuses on the artistic creations of the Middle-Eastern and Far East world and proposes a dialogue between Eastern and Western art. SLICK 2010 runs from October 19th through 24th.

(Zoe may be contacted at zpapadem@gmail.com)

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