Spring had descended upon Sydney. Or so the solstice calendar says. Days can be as cold as possible, but then there are the odd days of absolute summery joy. But winter is never New York bad, so my angst is really, well, misplaced.

Art has always drawn me. Show me a museum and I will show you my road map to that museum. Uffizi, Lourve, Musee de Orsay, David at Florence, Metropolitan, V&A, NGA, Tate, MOMA, Smithsonian, NGA DC, Rijskmuseum, The Van Gogh Museum, Tintin Museum. The list goes on and on. You get the point.

What mesmerises a person so much when they look at art? What makes you stand, drawn stunned into silence, at the sheer enormity of what lies in front of you? These are all questions with no answers. You are either stunned into silence, or grasp at straws, babbling internally, often incoherently at the magnificence that lies in front of you.

Krakow is one of the six places in the world housing a Da Vinci. Go see Lady in Ermine at Krakow Castle. Be prepared to stand there, in awe, as the dimmed lights cast a shadow which makes you wonder, is she smiling, looking down, indifferent or is she just posing for a brilliant artist? Stand there long enough and a picture develops, part imagination, part the sheer force with which it can draw you in, spellbound.

I felt nothing like that when I first glanced at Mona Lisa. Might be the hordes, might be the constant camera madness, might be the pressure of the build up. Honestly, it was so ordinary I was disappointed.

On the flip side, ask me about a Pakistani artist, other than Guljee and Saadequain. Ask me about famous art pieces in Pakistan, which are not adorning some rich persons house to show-off wealth and class. Ask me when I last graced a museum in Pakistan. Twenty years ago, maybe. I don’t know a single artists name, except my own mothers, who is an artist.

Therein lies the tragedy. Raised by a mother who is an artist, on whose feet my brother and I learnt about Renaissance, Cubism, the Impressionists, Reuben, Rembrandt, Van Gogh, Pissaro, Picasso, Rapheal, Vermeer, Caravaggio and so many others, yet nothing about Pakistani art. Nothing.

Is it destined to adorn the houses of the rich? The galleries frequented by 0.001 of the population? When does the public ever see them? Am I destined to teach Nora, my niece, the Western great Artists, while shunning the ones who I should most clearly identify with, our own?

These questions run through my mind on a cold, blustery Wednesday at the New South Wales Gallery for Art (NSW). Staring at Van Goghs “Head of a Peasant,” interspersing it with the lone Picasso, the thought occurs to me over and over again, “When do we get the chance back home to be mesmerised by a master?”

I find NSW Art Gallery wholly lacking in any substantial artwork. Their exhibits are fabulous, with Rembrandt and Van Gogh lined up and Frieda Kahlo currently being exhibited but their normal works lack anything that will make you stand in awe. It is a come-in-see-and-exit experience for me. Nothing like London, or Washington where the only time I ever left was when I’d be escorted out at closing time.

What does Boticellis “Birth of Venus” and Van Gogh’s “Starry Night,” have in common? At first glance, one depicts the goddess Venus emerging in all her glory, while the other depicts the view from his Asylum room. On the surface as disparate as can possibly be, they are as similar as ever. The passion of the artist, the intensity translated into a picture. One was a man, painting for the Medicis of Florence at the height of their power, another, a man slowly sinking into the madness he imagined himself to be: a failure. I have stood in front of both works, humbled, in awe and fixated at a spot, refusing to budge.

That is art. Passion and feeling.