ISLAMABAD: Artists have demanded Prime Minister Imran Khan and the head of the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) to take notice of the removal of 10 paintings by AJ Shamza from the National Art Gallery, which he gave to a woman claiming to be the niece of the late artist.
According to a report published in Dawn newspaper, addressing a seminar organized by Development Communications Net (Ducom-Pakistan), the artists said that for the first time in history, the artwork donated to the National Gallery was claimed by the heirs of an artist. Was done and it was given to them.
Former PNCA Director General Naeem Tahir said that in principle this should not have happened. He added that once an artist donates his work to the National Gallery, it becomes a national treasure and no one has the right to claim ownership of it or decide to return it.
Naeem Tahir said that artists sometimes donate their work orally or sometimes in writing, whatever the case, once the artwork comes to the National Gallery, it becomes a national asset and someone has to remove it from the gallery. Has no option. Mian Ijaz-ul-Hassan, chairman of the National Artists Association of Pakistan (NAAP), said, "I witnessed the exhibition of AJ Shamza's paintings in Lahore in 1985."
He said that 100 paintings were included in the exhibition and the price of each painting was Rs. 4,000 to Rs. 5,000. Now the price of one painting is in lacs. Ijaz-ul-Hassan said that AJ Shamza had donated 10 of his paintings to the National Art Gallery for the permanent exhibition as many other artists including me have donated.
Jamal Shah, former executive director of PNCA, said that in 2017, PNCA received a letter from the artist's heirs and a notice from the late Asma Jahangir asking for the return of the paintings. He said that when evidence was sought from AJ Shamza's heirs that the paintings were lent to the gallery, no evidence was given.
Jamal Shah said that the PNCA board had met on the issue and all the members had unanimously decided that AJ Shamza's paintings, after being donated to the National Art Gallery, are a national asset and should be returned to any heirs. He said that at that time I had an unpleasant discussion with the Federal Minister Shafqat Mahmood on this issue but I did not compromise on it.
Jamal Shah said that recently AJ Shamza's painting was auctioned in the United States by Christie's at a very high price. He said 137 paintings had been stolen from the National Art Gallery and some officials had been named in the inquiries. No action was taken despite the former PNCA executive director filing a complaint with the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA).
He said that the Prime Minister should form a high-level commission based on famous artists to investigate the theft of paintings and removal of AJ Shamza's artwork. Actor Tauqeer Naseer, who served in the PNCA for five years, said there were no problems with AJ Shamza's paintings during his tenure. Amna Ismail Pataudi, former PNCA executive director for visual arts, said she was forced to give paintings to the artists' heirs but did not do so because it was illegal and a crime.