• Christies auction house James Christie logo

    Sale 1975

    South Asian Modern + Contemporary Art

    20 March 2008, New York, Rockefeller Plaza

  • Lot 108

    ZAHOOR UL AKHLAQ (1941-1999)


    Price Realised  


    ZAHOOR UL AKHLAQ (1941-1999)
    acrylic on board
    36 x 48 in. (91.4 x 121.9 cm.)
    Painted in 1987

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    Painter, sculptor, and print-maker Zahoor ul Akhlaq was undoubtedly one of the most significant artists working out of Pakistan during the latter 20th century whose profound artistic and conceptual influence has shaped contemporary art practice for following generations, including Shazia Sikander and Rashid Rana. Zahoor was influenced by the master calligrapher Yusuf Dhelvi, whose work he was exposed to as a child and later underwent a Modernist phase under Shakir Ali when he was a student at the National College of Arts (NCA). Zahoor's extensive knowledge and interest in the indigenous vernacular and tradition, as well as contemporary Western thought led to his deconstruction and re-appropriation of the classical miniature allowing him to be classified as one of the pioneers of the neo-miniaturist genre. "In Lahore, Zahoor ul-Akhlaq brought Post-Modern ideas to the forefront in the 1970's and '80's. At NCA, he insisted on miniature painting's relevance and viability as a source for contemporary artists. His own paintings took elements from the miniature tradition and combined them with an abstract painterly style." (Ali, Atteqa. "Postmodernism: Recent Developments in Art in Pakistan and Bangladesh," In Timeline of Art History. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2000-, http://www.metmuseum.org/toah/hd/pmpk/hd_pmpk.htm (October 2004).

    Though influenced by sources as far-ranging from Mark Rothko and Jasper Johns to Rene Descartes, Zahoor was interested in interrogating formal traditions in Islamic arts (calligraphy, geometric abstraction, architectural structures, spatial perspectives). Zahoor uses the geometry of the grid to attempt a universal message through the distillation and abstraction of the pictorial image as he works out its very essence to reveal truth. According to art historian, R. Connah, "One can apply a conventional picture analysis to this painting by Zahoor ul Akhlaq exposing the purposeful grid blurring both figure and ground, the perspective play as the artist sets up the calligraphic frames which he continued to dissolve throughout his career, on and off the canvas. The cage lines, the formation of the setup, the frame that begins all frames; the way to attack, control and then dissolve the canvas which is the Colonial legacy itself." (correspondence with R. Connah, 2007).


    Collection of Sheherezade Alam and Nurjahan Akhlaq

    Pre-Lot Text



    This work will be published in the following publication end 2008:
    Roger Connah, Exiles and Danced Furies, Zahoor ul Akhlaq: Art and Society in Pakistan, Oxford University Press.


    Ottawa, Canada, Galerie Montcalm, 1989.
    Connecticut, USA, Yale University, 1989.