Sanam Taseer for SiddySays

Sanam Taseer is a barrister turned gallerist.

Despite being trained and educated for a career in law, Sanam opted for a road less traveled and opened an art gallery some years back. She brought forth a new awareness for art in a section of society that had long disconnected from this medium of expression. Many more have followed in her path since, we spoke to Sanam about her career choices and how she braved this pioneering move. 

What exactly does a gallerist do?

A gallerist will discover, nurture, display and ultimately sell the work of an artist that she believes in. I try not to interfere too much in the artistic process but will speak up when I feel an artist has stagnated or is being repetitive or unoriginal. We also act as art consultants for young collectors and try and advise them as to whether a painting will be a good investment or even just a good aesthetic match.

Not exactly a mainstream profession, how did you decide what you wanted to do?

My father was a collector and a patron of young artists for as long as I can remember. I used my first ever paycheck to buy a painting. I still have it.

You rebranded your gallery from ‘The Drawing Room’ to ‘Taseer Art Gallery’. Tell us about this transition, what does it signify for your work?

This gallery was my father’s idea. He believed in Pakistani Art. I felt it was important to pay him that homage.

How do you choose what goes on exhibit at the gallery?

I like to think of it as a collective decision. The art community in Lahore is very vibrant and tight knit. We are always working together to promote new talent.

Sanam Taseer

You invest a lot of time promoting young artists, what is your inspiration?

I felt that there was a gap in the market and very few places in Lahore for young collectors who were interested in avant garde art to go.

What advice would you give artists looking for gallery representation?

Approach an older artist and ask her for some frank advice on whether your work is mature enough to show. If they believe in your work they will probably make an introduction or two.

You weren’t always a Gallerist, what did you do before?

I was CFO of my father’s newspaper Daily Times. Before that I worked as a barrister in London and in Cornelius, Lane and Mufti.

Changing career paths is a serious move, how did you brave it?

Starting any new business, especially if it’s a luxury product, is tough. There were a lot of sleepless nights and self doubt.

Did you face any obstacles when starting your gallery?

It was the beginning of the recession. Hard times.

Speak to us about your relationship with art, is it just business or do you love it too?

I must admit I spend most of my profits helping out young artists or buying work I can’t afford. It’s like putting a kid in charge of a candy shop.

Do you collect art personally too?

So much, too much. I also buy things that border on ludicrous. I bought a life sized doll suspended in a canister of water once. It made children cry.

Who were your main influences in bringing you to where you are now?

Mostly all the senior artists who were patient, talked to me about art and introduced me to countless young artists as well as fellow gallerists who have always been generous with help and advice.

Where did you go to school? and what did you study there?

I trained as a Barrister at Lincolns Inn. Before that I was at LGS and Benenden – A British boarding school.

Speaking of learning, do you have a mentor that you look upto?

I have to say, I think my phopho Salima Hashmi is the tops.

What is an average workday like for you?

Its quite fun, dropping by to artists studios, exhibitions etc. The dull part is keeping my website updated and fighting with couriers.

What has been your greatest achievement so far?

Some of my artists have done so well. I’ve been the gateway to careers in Europe and the Far East.

What would you say to any young entrepreneurs reading this?

To study the humanities, to read, to listen, to never stop educating yourself.

Photography by Mujtaba Hussain Shah.

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Written by Sadaf Zarrar
Founding Partner