Gallery Rohtas 2 in Lahore continues to follow the vision of Rohtas Gallery founded in 1981 in Rawalpindi/Islamabad. Rohtas gallery was founded by Suhail Abbasi, Naeem Pasha and Salima Hashmi in that year. Its stated objective was to showcase art which had no support in the era of General Zia-ul-Haq. Among the established artists who exhibited with Rohtas Gallery were Zubaida Agha, Zahoor-ul-Akhlaq, Jamil Naqsh, Mussarat Mirza, Salima Hashmi, Shahid Sajjad, Sheherezade Alam and Salahuddin Mian.
Many young artists of that time commenced their careers in the 80’s and 90’s at Rohtas. These included Anwar Saeed, Shahzia Sikandar, Quddus Mirza, Naazish Ataullah, Ali Raza, Naiza Khan, Huma Mulji, Rashid Rana, Imran Qureshi and Aisha Khalid.
Rohtas 2 opened its doors in Lahore in 2001 with a resolve to support and nurture young artists alongside recognizing significant older practitioners. It hoped to familiarize the public with social and artistic concerns which motivate artists today.
Rohtas 2 encourages fresh ideas in the visual arts, enabling artists to explore emerging techniques and processes. Rohtas 2 has provided support to initiatives such as ‘Darmiyan’ in which a group of artists worked in response to the U.S bombing in Afghanistan. The gallery has hosted poetry readings, book launchings and concerts. It has promoted photography and encouraged new forms such as multimedia and video installations. Rohtas 2 has also exhibited the work of women, living in ‘Dastak’, a local shelter home.
Rohtas 2 facilitates research; providing access to its slide library and visual data base. The stated aim of Rohtas 2 has always been educational, for both artist and audience; the city of Lahore was also in desperate need of an exhibition space where younger artists could exhibit work, which did not cater to the commercial gallery circuit. It fosters an environment of inquiry and debate on cultural and art related issues, with a view to promoting tolerance and creativity among all those who come into contact with its modest establishment. Recent exhibitions have included video installations, photography and performance based works. Whereas this gallery was privileged to host Zarina Hashmi’s first solo showing Lahore in 2003. It also witnessed Faiza Butt’s home coming marked by her solo exhibition The Linear Return in 2008. Huma Mulji’s Arabian Delight was acquired by Saatchi Gallery in a preview at Rohtas 2 before it’s unveiling at Dubai Art Fair in 2008, in a show titled Desperately Seeking Paradise. Waqas Khan was given a chance to show his first body of work in exhibition titled Shift in 2009 which became a turning point of his career. Parallel to this, two major shows were given to Indian artists Pritika Chowdhry and Manisha Parekh in 2012. These exhibitions gave a counter narrative to the Pakistani art market and audience. In the last one decade this gallery has supported many significant projects and has given opportunities to very young artists in the field to prove themselves. Ghulam Mohammad became first Pakistani to claim the prestigious Jameel Art Prize 4 which was hosted by Pera Museum in Istanbul in 2016. The Victoria & Albert Museum, London is the executor of the prize. Following the tradition of Mohammad, this year Wardha Shabbir was selected as one of 11 finalist of 2018 Jameel Prize 5. She had her first solo exhibition at Rohtas 2 in 2012.
Rohtas 2 counts on the continuing help of its many friends and enlightened patrons, but above all, its supportive artists. This joint venture of Vasl Collection with Aliel is a significant example of Rohtas’s ideology. One can see the promise of future talent exploring its potential in close liaison with ALIEL as an enlightened partner.
Asad Hayee – 2018