New Truck Art Exhibits in Houston, Paris

Two galleries featuring truck-art inspired art have recently opened.

In Houston from May 1 – May 8, Voices Breaking Boundaries features Art Car Sprawl in the First Ward which combines traditional Pakistani truck art with modern, digital influences. The Pakistan Chronicle describes the opening, which sounds as eclectic as the art itself:

The show… will feature Houston art car and Pakistani truck art history, and include a preview of VBB’s first art car, Digital Meets Pakistani Truck Art, designed by Eric Hester and Sehba Sarwar. Decorations on the car include video screens showing VBB’s history, truck art designs from Karachi collected by Sehba Sarwar on a recent trip to Pakistan, and an open mic podium welded out of the passenger seat.

The description of the show links to this article in the Independent about a leopard-print truck prepared by the Karachi School of Design, which sounds particularly memorable. Hopefully it is part of the exhibit.

In Paris, an exhibition hosted by Pakistan à Paris from April 29 – May 27 features the Foxy Shehzad as a centerpiece. (Strangely, the website of Pakistan à Paris, which is affiliated with the event, does not seem to mention the exhibit, while the Indians in Paris does)

Sadly, neither show seems to have any of their collection online. Why not share for would-be visitors who cannot make the trip?

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The BBC on Truck Art

The BBC has aired one of the more entertaining pieces of television coverage on truck art in its “Close Up” segment. Host Aleem Maqbool first visits the truck repair shops at Pir Wadhai, then the tribal truck art galleries, and finishes with a gift from one of the “famous” truck artists.

Click to play the segment

The artist featured at the end of the segment who prepares Maqbool’s portrait, deserves recognition. Though he may have the name wrong; Maqbool introduces him as Habib ur-Rehman, but his business card reads Al-Habib Ejaz. Regardless, not only is he the painter behind the Foxy Shehzad and responsible for many of the works in the Tribal Truck Art collection, he is possibly the first truck artist to have a Facebook page, albeit an underdeveloped one.

Appropriately, the segment even finds a rear “Love” painting to emphasize the origins of the art. Given that there is only so much explanation that can be included in a five-minute piece, this is a great way to capture the motivation behind vehicular artists.

Spending more time at the Pir Wadhai shops, Maqbool focuses on painted truck art. At about the 2:47 mark, he gives a nod to decoration pieces, pointing to an excellent peacock. The passing mention overlooks that the decoration piece can serve as a centerpiece and the most captivating, attention-generating part of the truck.

I have highlighted the Volkswagen Beetle at 3:00 elsewhere in the blog. The reporter would have done well to mention that cars decorated in the tradition of truck art are atypical for Pakistan. A painted car is about as unusual as an unpainted truck.

A painter mentions preparing a picture of Osama bin Laden at his customer’s request. I have never seen his likeness in truck art before. It might be more provocative than other visages of political figures, but is certainly well within the range of truck art.

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Karachi Decoration and the Future of Truck Art

The Pulitzer Center has a memorable feature filmed in and around truck workshops of Karachi. The coverage focuses on the workshop of Jamal “Lucky” Uddin, while other interviews highlights the importance of truck art to the average Pakistani. The challenges to the future of truck art, which are often overlooked in these brief segments, is noteworthy.

As the largest city in Pakistan and potentially the largest transportation hub, Karachi can make compelling claims as the center of truck art. There probably is not an accurate measurement of the “center” of truck art, but the craftsmen in Rawalpindi dispute the claim made by some of their Karachi peers. Curiously, the video closes with a few frames about the Karakorum Highway, but the connection is not clear. If the Karakorum highway is important to the development of truck art, Peshawar, not distant Karachi, deserves the claim of truck art capital.

The suggestion is that there are two trends that suggest a bleak trend for the future of truck art. The first is the global economic downturn, which leaves truck owners with left money to spend on decoration. The second, and more significant, is the growing use of shipping containers. While there are some colorful flatbed trucks, the absence of side panels significantly limit the decoration spaces. Still, as long as Pakistanis share the attitude of the guard who “loves” truck art (1:45), it is likely that truck art will remain for some time.

Take note of the excellent decoration pieces at 3:48 and 5:01.

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