Cultural Arts: Imran Qureshi

Posted on May 21, 2013 by


Upon walking to the rooftop garden at The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York this year, visitors are shocked to find what looks like a giant, violent, and bloody crime scene. Pakistani painter, Imran Qureshi was commissioned this year to share his art at the rooftop garden. Hidden in what looks like a bloody mess, the visitor finds carefully painted plants, leaves, angel wings, and other various fauna. The painting, titled, “And How Many Rains Must Fall Before the Stains Are Washed Clean”, clearly depicts the birth of new life and hope in the face of terror and violence.

Qureshi, a Muslim, notes that the painting can have many different meanings to many different people, but shares, in an interview, some of his inspirations and thoughts on the piece. In a quote to the Metropolitan Museum Qureshi states, “These forms stem from the effects of violence. They are mingled with the color of blood, but, at the same time, this is where a dialogue with life, with new beginnings and fresh hope starts.” The art gets inspiration from the major religiously fueled violence surrounding Qureshi’s home in Pakistan and the Middle East. 

While there are messages hidden within the violent art at the Rooftop Garden, New York Times journalist, Ken Johnson, notes that, “Translated to the United States, however, something about the work is lost.” In a similar painting of Qureshi’s, in the United Arab Emirates, visitors seemed to have a much different and more powerful reaction to the artwork. Visitors in the UAE were brought to tears, while one visitor in New York was seen posing with wife pretending to be a bombing victim.  Johnson goes on to note that acts of terror are much less frequent in the United States than in Qureshi’s hometown of Lahore and the rest of the Middle East. Johnson also credits the different reactions to the artwork around the world to the “awareness of war and terrorism comes mostly from the mass media, we have become relatively desensitized to the sufferings of usually distant others. 

In the attached articles, slideshow, and video it is easy to see how far away the Muslim world can seem. Many Americans do not fully understand the religious violence going on in the Middle East. This work of art and the way it has been received so far in the United States reminds us that as Westerner’s we can do more to better understand foreign religions, people, and cultures. It is important to understand such things so that terrible events like those in Boston can be interpreted without applying negative stereotypes to large groups of people. 




  1. Article 
  2. Article
  3. Slideshow
  4. Video interview
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