How did the art world adapt to Covid-19?
The coronavirus outbreak has brought the activities of art galleries and event spaces to an abrupt halt. Although galleries across the world have quickly turned to digital avenues, the art scene in Bangladesh is only now picking up pace. After nearly six months of inactivity, galleries in the capital are finally coming out of hibernation, with stringent precautions. Aiming to adapt to the new normal, these spaces are getting ready to welcome visitors.
REOPENING, BUT WITH CAUTION
Just last month, Bengal Foundation introduced a den for Bengal Boi at the premises of Bengal Shilpalay. The popular book-spot is set to reopen with an exhibition sometime this month.
"As we're slowly being reintroduced to the activities of the city, I realized that I kind of enjoyed the silence of the pandemic," said Jinnatun Jannat, an artist. "Art galleries can offer that much-needed quietness, along with a space for creative reflections."
Begal Foundation's Chief Curator Tanzim Wahab believes that effects of the pandemic could be turned around in positive ways. "This crisis has prompted the galleries to try out new methods. It has also made people more conscious and disciplined," he said.
"The upcoming exhibition by Bengal Foundation will run for three months to ensure that people have ample time to visit the gallery. However, we understand that it may be difficult for many to come to the event physically. To accommodate them, we plan to have a version of the show available online."
Lalmatia's Dwip Gallery is also preparing their schedules and planning to reopen by next month.
ONLINE ONLY, FOR NOW
On the other hand, Goethe-Institut Bangladesh intends to remain closed until further instructions for educational institutions are provided. "We plan to continue with our online programmes," said Programme Coordinator Mahmud Hassan. Similarly, Alliance Française de Dhaka and EMK Center are also running their online initiatives only.
ISOLATING IN ART SPACE
In July, an experimentation project was initiated by art gallery Kalakendra. For the project, three young artists used Kalakendra's space at Mohammadpur to make their art, living in the gallery itself to follow social distancing guidelines. The project inquired how isolation impacted their thoughts and productivity. Kalakendra also offered online portfolio review sessions for emerging artists.
Studio 6/6, another gallery located at Mohammadpur's Tikka Para, recently concluded their debut artist residency project with artist Nabil Rahman. This resulted in their reopening with a physical exhibition, following all health guidelines and an appointment system. An extended version of this exhibition may be announced soon.
During the pandemic, independent curator and researcher Kehkasha Sabah introduced a process-based curatorial practice with De | Real, a digital project created by 26 multidisciplinary artists from different parts of the globe.
"My online curation experience was very different. Since I planned to introduce two collaborators each day, I had to work late hours throughout the 14 days of the project," the curator mentioned. With over 2,800 hits by end of July, the virtual exhibition is a venture Kehkasha wants to continue exploring.
After the exhibition Muktir Mohanayak, commemorating National Mourning Day, Bangladesh Shilpakala Academy (BSA) organised an art exhibition, titled Unnoyoner Kobi Manobotar Ma to mark Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina's birthday on September 28. The exhibition is open to the public upon online appointments, and will continue until October 27, 2020. Virtual versions of both these exhibitions, an initiative by Liaquat Ali Lucky, Director General of BSA, is available on the academy's website.
On behalf of Galleri Kaya, Rajen Gain informed The Daily Star that the pandemic has had very little effect on their activities, since they have always maintained a virtual presence alongside their physical exhibitions. As a part of their regular programmes, collectors and potential buyers are sent soft copies of the artworks. "Our gallery has been closed since March. However, if anyone wants to view any of the artworks physically, we arrange private visits upon their special requests, with proper safety measures," Gain concluded.