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Dhaka Tribune

Dhaka Art Summit opens today

South Asia’s biggest platform for art and architecture, this biannual event offers Dhakaites unprecedented exposure to the work of 160 contemporary artists, Bangladeshi and international

Update : 03 Feb 2023, 04:31 PM

The Dhaka Art Summit's (DAS) sixth edition opens today at Shilpakala Academy. Free to the public, DAS runs daily, 3-11 February, 10 am-8 pm, occupying three floors of the National Art Gallery building. 

South Asia's biggest platform for art and architecture, this biannual event offers Dhakaites unprecedented exposure to the work of 160 contemporary artists, Bangladeshi and international, in a single venue over nine days.

“Dhaka Art Summit has become a global platform,” says director Nadia Samdani, whose Samdani Art Foundation, co-founded with her husband Rajeeb, produces the event. “This edition reaches far and wide, involving more people, and making it more meaningful.”

Titled Bonna (Flood), DAS 2023 reckons with climate change, gender relations, and intergenerational communication. Many works are made with local, green materials (clay, bamboo, wood, cowdung, thatch, etc.) that can be later recycled, inspiring both artists and the general public to consider issues of sustainability. Intergenerational exchanges, childlike wonder, and the idea of play pervade the Summit, through installations, participatory and performance art, and invitations to make art, play games, ask questions, and have unexpected encounters.

“Young audiences are always our priority because they are our future,” Samdani says. 

“A lot of people can't relate to art in the traditional sense – say, oil paintings or watercolours. So, we have a lot of performances, poetry, architecture, film, sound, installations and interactive things. We are telling young people that art can be anything, any way you express yourself.”

Rajeeb Samdani and Nadia Samdani

Samdani says this message of inclusivity is central to the DAS vision: “Dhaka Art Summit is for everybody. Not just art patrons or international visitors. It is for our local people, whether taxi drivers or garment workers. It's for the older generation and the young.” 

In the absence of any contemporary art museum in Bangladesh, Samdani says DAS functions like a “pop-up,” opening up new ways of seeing and forms of experimentation and expression.

For DAS 2023, chief curator Diana Campbell is joined by guest curator Bishwajit Goswami, whose exhibition Duality, a six-part considers of the “real Bangladesh,” is a collaboration of Brihatta Art Foundation with research support from Muhammad Nafisur Rahman. 

Architect Sean Anderson of Cornell University curates To Enter the Sky, a show featuring imagined spaces and buildings crafted from “architecture of turbulence,” including 1000 children's drawings. 

Curator Teresa Albor's hybrid store/exhibit Purposeful Goods brings social enterprise as a socially engaged art practice to DAS for the first time, offering handicrafts, books, children's drawings, clothing, and more for sale (all proceeds go to the participating organizations; please bring cash). 

Co-curated by Campbell and Akansha Rastogi of the Kiran Nadu Museum of Art, with Samdani Art Foundation's Ruxmini Choudhury, the exhibition Very Small Feelings features voices from Bangladesh, India, and the global diaspora in an ode to the power of telling stories. Anne Barlow, Director of Tate St Ives, curates the 2023 Samdani Art Award, an ongoing collaboration with Delfina Foundation that champions emerging Bangladeshi artists.

“I hope people make beautiful memories at Dhaka Art Summit,” says Samdani. “I hope people connect with this year's focus on climate change, interact with the artists and artworks, learn, and see.”

Open daily 10 am-8 pm, February 3 -11, Shilpakala Academy. No bags larger than 6” x 8”, or outside food or drink are allowed in the venue.

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