Imran Qureshi, one of Pakistan’s most celebrated contemporary artists, is about to transform the roof garden of the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Painting directly onto the surfaces of the aerie overlooking Central Park, Qureshi will create another of his arresting “dialogues between life and nature,” as he calls them.
Qureshi is a painter of miniatures, but that term applies more to the 16th- to 19th-century Mughal tradition in which he was trained than it does to the scale of his work, which has ranged from iPad-sized frames to an entire city square. Over time, and with increasing abstraction, he’s deployed his mastery of this minutely disciplined art form to comment on contemporary issues affecting Pakistan. Blessings Upon the Land of My Love, his award-winning installation at the 2011 Sharjah Biennial, covered a courtyard with what at first glance appeared to be blood—as if depicting the aftermath of a bombing—but which, upon closer inspection, consisted of paint splatters combined with an exquisite, lyrical foliage motif that evoked Pakistan’s rich heritage. The juxtaposition dazzled and shocked, as does Qureshi’s miniature rendition of the work.
Americans don’t “know the positive side of Pakistan,” says Qureshi, “and what they do know, they do not know accurately.” Perhaps the painted message on the Met’s rooftop will open our minds. Qureshi’s roof garden commission will be on view from May 14 to November 3; 1000 Fifth Ave.; metmuseum.org.