The Afghanistan National Art Gallery was first established in 1983. The gallery began with only 200 paintings, most of them coming from the museum and presidential palace. By 1991, the number of paintings and other objects of art had grown to 820 pieces.
Unfortunately, during the civil war, 410 paintings were either destroyed or stolen. During the last five years about 90% of the damaged and stolen artifacts and paintings have been recovered.
Paintings in the collection include oil, watercolor, calligraphy, hand embroidery, miniatures, mosaics, sculptures, and woodcarvings. The paintings represent styles of realism, impressionism, and cubism, among others.
According to the brochure put out by the Afghanistan National Art Gallery, "Friends of the National Gallery of Afghanistan" have funded this restoration program."
However, while the bullet holes have been removed from the outside walls, and the building is in decent repair, it should not in anyway be considered a finished project.
Paintings are hung in a building with absolutely no climate control. Some paintings have no protective glass over them. Flash photography is allowed in the museum, and along with the dust which permeates everywhere in Kabul, further deterioration is likely occurring.
There is no proper lighting in the gallery - care should be taken to visit the gallery in the mid-to-late morning when the sunlight is shining in the windows.
Some of the work of the current master artists may be found at the Afghanistan National Gallery. It is both a pleasure and sad to visit the National Art Gallery in Kabul. The paintings are absolutely amazing. The mosaic art displayed, for example, is stunning in the artist's intricate use of walnut shells and bits of straw to create amazingly intricate paintings.
However, to see the lack of care of the art does not bring the honor these great men and women artists deserve for their relatively unrecognized talent.
Make sure you sign the guest book when you go - it's at the end of the hallway on the first floor. Cost is $5/person to get in, although children are usually free at most Afghan sites.
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