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A new perspective on curating

  • Published at 01:41 pm January 26th, 2016
A new perspective on curating

Latitude 23 at Le Meridien, Dhaka, hosted the launching event of the Dhaka Art Summit 2016 Exhibition Guide yesterday, in collaboration with the Samdani Art Foundation. The event was a relaxed and intimate affair which included a small presentation on the different elements of the Dhaka Art Summit (DAS), followed by short speeches by a selection of solo artists, participants in the performance pavilion, critical writing ensemble programme, etc.

The programme began with a talk on 'A New Perspective of Curating', presented by Diana Campbell Betancourt, Artistic Director of the Samdani Art Foundation and chief curator of the Dhaka Art Summit.

She spoke about how the Summit creates a platform that allows curators from all across the world to come together and combine their individual expertise towards creating a unique event.

“The publication Art Review recently put out a preview of the Dhaka Art Summit, where they described it as a curious beast that was something in between a biennale, a museum, an art fair, a symposium, and how its strength was actually from this sort of ambiguity as to what it was.”

She went on to explain the aim and function behind creating an event such as the DAS and how it works, speaking of how it was first confused as an art fair because the first Indian art fair was called the India Art Summit.

“The Dhaka Art Summit is not a fair. Nothing is for sale. We don't get any income from any activities pertaining to art. The other thing with an art fair is that art fairs make money from galleries and charge per square footage. At the Summit, we work with a lot of artists who do not have galleries, who cannot afford these sorts of participation fees to allow them to exist. So the Summit is very important in that sense that we can allow curators to show artists that don't have funding bodies to bring them to the fore.”

She also spoke a little on how the DAS is often mistaken to be a biennale, since the event does work on a bi-annual platform.

“There is no central theme, since biennales usually have one curator who has a particular theme, and all of the works at the show will have something to do with that theme. With DAS, we really wanted to give a space for many curators to explore many different themes. So in that case, the Summit is more like a pop-up museum than it is a biennale because you can walk into a museum - you can see a solo exhibition of a particular artist; you can see an architecture and design exhibition from another department; you can see a group show of modern art and you can see a group show of contemporary art. There's many many different types of shows that you can see in one space. So in that sense, I would say the Summit is more like a pop-up museum than a biennale.”

“The other thing that the DAS is not, is a private museum. We really go out of our way to not show works from the Samdani collection in the DAS, because we do not want to use the Summit as a way to bolster our private collection.”

While explaining the function of the Samdani Art Foundation, Diana says, “We are a privately funded foundation, but the Summit is something where we can easily and beautifully partner with public institutions. So basically, the Samdani Art Foundation exists to support cultural exchange across South Asia.”

“So somehow, this beast, that is the DAS, is able to be all of these things at one time.

This year, there will be over 70 museums from all over the world participating at the Art Summit. Thanks to the success of the previous summit, this year's edition will be seeing many talented curators who are drawn here to begin research for their own collecting activities.

Diana adds, “We work with a lot of curators from different institutions around the world, and these curators are not allowed to curate for private museums or art fairs. It's this model that allows us to work with curators from the Tate, from the Centre Pompiduo, Guggenheim and from the Kunsthalle Zürich. We think it's important to note that infrastructure in South Asia is at the moment relatively limited, so the more opportunities we can prepare internationally, the more local artists can grow as the infrastructure starts to develop here.”

She ended her presentation with mention of a few highlights at the DAS this year which include showcasing works by legends such as artist and painter Akbar Padamsee, printmaker and sculptor Krishna Reddy, photographer Germaine Krull, etc.

After her presentation, the microphone was turned over to some of the artists involved in the Summit who were present in the audience and shared their views on how this new platform and new perspective has influenced their practice.

The first person to speak was Ayesha Sultana, 2014 Samdani Art Award winner, followed by Shumon Ahmed, whose work was featured at the 2014 Kochi Muziris Biennale. They were followed by Shehzad Choudhury, curator of the temporary art hub Longitude Latitude, who spoke about the Bangladeshi art spaces and symposiums, and Yasmin Jahan Nupur, who spoke about her experience at the Performance Pavilion in the previous Summit as well as her upcoming performances this year. The last speaker was Mustafa Zaman, editor of art quarterly Depart, who will participate as a solo project artist and as a member of the critical writing ensemble.

The event came to an end with a thank you note by Diana, where she mentioned Rajeeb and Nadia Samdani and their long term commitment towards promoting art in South Asia.

The newly launched Exhibition Guide is available online at:http://dhakaartsummit.org/assets/Uploads/DhakaArtSummit2016-ExhibitionGuide.pdf