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Dhaka Tribune

Global coverage for Bangladeshi art

Update : 22 Oct 2015, 03:55 PM

In an interview published by Thursday, Ginanne Brownell Mitic highlighted the work of Rajeeb and Nadia Samdani, founders of Samdani Art Foundation.

Their foundation, established in 2011, has put on the Dhaka Art Summit (DAS) every two years since 2012. Better known as DAS, the summit bills itself as the “world's largest non-commercial research and exhibition platform for South Asian art.” The third edition is scheduled to take place in Dhaka between February 5 and 8, 2016.

Bangladeshi couple among ARTnews's top 200 collectors - See more at:

Rajeeb is co-chair of Tate Modern’s South Asian acquisitions committee, his wife is a committee member.

Nadia describes herself as a second-generation art collector. The couple has continued her family tradition of collecting art, moving from acquisitions of Bangladeshi masters towards contemporary artists.

As visitors to foreign biennales and art fairs, the Samdanis found that Bangladeshi art was not well represented.

As collectors, they felt that there were “so many talented artists in Bangladesh” and decided to set up the foundation to promote Bangladeshi art.

After initially planning to promote Bangladeshi art abroad, they decided to bring the world to Dhaka instead.

DAS is unique among biennales in having several curators; most biennales have just one. For the upcoming summit, curators from Paris' Centre Pompidou, London's Tate Modern and the Kunsthalle Zurich are all curating shows.

Nadia explains that since each edition is a two-year research platform, the curators are appointed almost two years in advance.

Rajeeb says the foundation and DAS are always trying to maximise opportunities. He points out that the Tate curator's research work was funded by DAS. In return, he says, DAS will get a world-class exhibition done by a curator of a top museum.

The foundation also awards the Samdani Art Award for Bangladeshi artists. The winner gets a three-month residency at the Delfina Foundation in London.

The first time a major foreign museum collected a contemporary Bangladeshi artist was after the first DAS edition in 2012. [The Solomon R Guggenheim Museum in New York purchased Tayeba Begum Lipi’s “Love Bed,” which had been commissioned by the Samdani Art Foundation.]

Nadia says that the Guggenheim acquisition was followed by the Tate and then the British Museum.

DAS 2016 will focus on architecture.

The artists who will be shown are not all originally from South Asia, but are people with strong ties to the region. Lynda Benglis, for example, has lived in India for over 30 years but is from the United States.

DAS will also support an art criticism writing programme with almost 20 writers. Rajeeb says there is very little available to read about South Asia in terms of the art scene, and practically no serious art criticism.

Take a look: Bangladeshi couple among ARTnews's top 200 collectors

DAS had over 70,000 visitors in 2014. In 2016, the expectation is to have 120,000 visitors.

Rajeeb and Nadia say they especially hope curators, journalists and galleries will come.

“We are not an art fair, so we do not need collectors to come and spend money.”

Several galleries signed artists after the last edition, with the result that at Frieze [in London] one can see galleries showing Bangladeshi artists.

“And that has never happened before,” Rajeeb says.

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