There are many beautiful places to visit in Lahore and one of them is the Shakir Ali Museum. Having the most beautiful architecture, it is the official birth place of the famous artist, Shakir Ali, who was also an art teacher and principal of National College of Arts (NCA).
This museum was initially inaugurated after his death in 1975 by the Pakistan National Council of Arts (PNCA). All of his personal belongings, paintings and drawings are showcased in the gallery. Unfortunately, the museum needs to be restored and preserved because the condition of the museum is not good.
Talking about the architecture of the museum, it is built with “burnt bricks” – the ones that are found in the middle of a kiln. According to a representative of PNCA, Shakir Ali made and chose every brick and door hinge, which is why it took almost 10 years (1964-1975) to complete it. One can enter the museum through a heavy, black wooden door. Black and white pictures are framed on either side of the hall, showing the artist meeting various personalities during his life. On the right-hand side of the main door are degrees and diplomas of the painter with a brief bio data of the experts hanging above them. On the left is the living and dining room of the house-turned museum where paintings of Shakir Ali, his students and objects and antiques purchased by him are decorated on the wall. The hall also contains a huge monotone portrait of him which was painted by one of his students.
The living area had a number of items from the Arts and Crafts movement in Britain. A dinner set is also displayed on the country-style table and a fine tea set sits on the dresser. The chairs have tall narrow backs and can remind one of the works of Charles Rennie Mackintosh. There is also a beautiful and unusual stone wall.
Beside the living room or main room, there is the bedroom of Shakir Ali holding a simple yet brilliant feel of art. The room has two beds covered in traditional Sindhi style bed sheets, and has a sculpture of a girl is sitting right beside the bed.
There is a gallery showcasing the artwork of not only Shakir Ali, but also other famous artists of Pakistan. This gallery has beautiful windows – three windows in a row open up in the back lawn. The museum showcases an amazing variety of artwork produced by Pakistani artists – some are abstract pieces, some illustrating rural scenes, some screening the jewel like architecture from past years.
A research library has also been set up in the basement of the museum containing a wide range of arts books. The printed collection carries 3,737 books, journals, activity reports and portfolios. A number of books need to be reprinted since there are only a few copies of books left. The museum has written to PNCA head office for the reprinting of these books so that the tremendous work of the great artist could be preserved in a proper manner. Among the books which have been left with only 5-7 copies include Puppet in Pakistan, Ahmed Pervaiz: Fun aur Shakhsiaat, Mazameen-i-Mauseeqi, The Landmark Theatre and Kamal Ahmed Rizvi Kay Panch Dramay. Shakir Ali’s permanent collection that is on display at the museum comprises of drawings and paintings that need instant restoration and preservation.
The back lawn of the museum gives a splendid view of the house. It is from here that it gives the look of an old castle.
The museum is not only used to showcase the life of Shakir Ali but it has also become an arts centre where all art, music, acting etc. are encouraged and taught. Workshops and exhibitions are also being held in the museum.
This museum is located in New Garden Town, Lahore, and has the most beautiful architecture. The idea behind it was not only to preserve the great artist’s paintings and other masterpieces under one roof, but also to open this amalgamation of modern and traditional architecture to the public so that this great artist’s work could never be wasted or fade away. If preserved correctly and left open for the public, it could be a source of inspiration for upcoming artists.