Celebrated art connoisseurs, collectors and entrepreneurs Rajeeb and Nadia Samdani, also the cofounders of the Samdani Art Foundation, have been organising Dhaka Art Summit biennially since 2012. The extravaganza of art returns this year with a full-fledged exposition and projection of arts, opening at the National Art Gallery Auditorium of Bangladesh Shilpakala Academy (BSA), at 10 am, today. The duo, in an exclusive interview with The Daily Star, shared various aspects of the Dhaka Art Summit (DAS) 2020: Seismic Movements. Bringing together international curators, artists, critics, thinkers and art professionals from around the globe, DAS 2020 is set to feature an array of dynamic programmes, encompassing arts, histories, various movements, borders and fault lines. “We are grateful to the Ministry of Cultural Affairs, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Bangladeshi missions abroad, Bangladesh Shilpakala Academy and other government bodies for their support and collaboration. We look forward to work together in the upcoming summits,” says Rajeeb Samdani.
Every edition of DAS honours a young artist for their promising contribution in Fine Art through the Samdani Art Award and aims at promoting their work internationally. Samdani Art awardee (2014) Ayesha Sultana’s work is now in the collection of Tate Modern, London Reetu Sattar’s performance art Lost Tune, which was shortlisted for the awards in 2018, has been commissioned by Museum of Modern Art, New York.
Starting its journey with DAS’18, the exclusive exhibition, A beast, a god, and a line, curated by Cosmin Costinas, is currently underway. It has travelled to Norway, Myanmar, Hong Kong, Poland, and Dubai. The exhibition is set to make way to Thailand soon. “The prime purpose of DAS was to engage the emerging artists of South Asia, and we successfully did so. If you look back a decade, you will find the least global exposure of Bangladeshi emerging artists,” Rajeeb adds. “Now they are strong and actively participating in Gwangju Biennale, Bangkok Art Biennale, Asia Pacific Triennial of Contemporary Art, documenta, La Biennale di Venezia, Sharjah Biennial, Kochi-Muziris Biennale, Lahore Biennale and other events. Apart from that, the artworks of our modern masters and their historical legacies are being researched in DAS.”
“This year, the Dhaka Art Summit is being held under one theme-- Seismic Movement, which actually covers all other movements of this delta. 32 independent international and local curators from MOMA, Center Pompidou and Parasite curators, under the expert supervision of DAS’s chief curator Diana Campbell Betancourt, is presenting a lot of thematic shows, alongside the unique exhibition, Lighting The Fire of Freedom: Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, organised as a tribute to the Father of the Nation marking his birth centenary,” shares Nadia. “We will also showcase the educative art exhibition Roots, curated by Bishwajit Goswami.”
Over 500 artists from 44 countries and 40 artist-led organisations from across the world, including 12 artist-led local organisations under the auspices of Samdani Artists Led Initiative, are participating in the summit.
“This year, art lovers will get to see the 400 million year old fossils, an installation by Adrián Villar Rojas, an Argentinian sculptor known for his elaborate fantastical works which explore notions of the Anthropocene and the end of the world. 80 tons fossils were imported from Germany, which was a challenge,” mentions Nadia, while speaking of their challenges this time. “Murtaja Baseer’s early paintings on dinosaur, in harmony with this exposition, will also be on display,” adds Rajeeb.
Samdani Foundation has been working since 2012 with an aim to establish Bangladesh as the pioneer in bringing together the richness of art froms all around the world. “We dreamt that someday DAS will be the iconic art event of Bangladesh, with our artists owning the summit. I believe our dream has transformed into reality with 700 foreign delegates from around the world are joining us today,” says an emotional Rajeeb Samdani.
Around 30 scholars, professors and South Asian Art experts from different institutions, including University of California and Harvard University, USA, under the leadership of eminent US-based South Asian Contemporary artist Iftikhar Dadi, will also be in attendance at the event, facilitating open classes. The open for all art fiesta concludes on February 15.