Culling from the best for the world
Preparing the seedbed
As the inauguration day of the first ever art summit draws closer, the organizers alongside artists and art connoisseurs are all bucked up to see how the vision of organizing an international art event on the national turf translates into reality. It all began when Samdani Art Foundation (SAF), in collaboration with Bangladesh Shilpakala Academy and Bangladesh National Museum, mapped out a route to arrive at a nodal point from where the emerging art scene of Bangladesh, consisting of varied artistic practices including those that engage in new discourses and media, would receive a boost.
Dhaka Art Summit, which is to take place from April 12 to 15 in the city, with the City Bank and American Express as its sponsors, has sparked an aesthetic adrenalin flow in all and sundry. In this climate of high expectation, the organizers are doing their best to ensure a multidimensional event consisting of exhibitions in two main venues, a speakers' forum and collateral shows organized by Dhaka's major galleries. These are the usual assortment of activities that goes into any such mega event, and SAF is looking to bring in a number of globetrotting art world stalwarts consisting of curators and artists, whose presence, they hope, will make a difference.
Going for an extensive showcasing of both the worlds – the mainstream and emerging art scene – SAF has chalked out a plan to fill out two main venues – the exhibition halls at Bangladesh Shilpakala Academy, where the main entries to the summit will be showcased, and the cavernous gallery of Bangladesh National Museum, which will host a show of Bangladeshi Masters and the Samdani Young Talent Award exhibition. Several other venues will work as an extension to these two venues, where local gallarists and artists, of their own accord, will host curated exhibitions alongside seminars, presentations, etc.
Nadia Samdani, director of SAF, among others who are working round the clock with the aim of staging the event that is looking to attract global attention to Bangladeshi art, feels that this initiative has been long overdue.
Such a fluid platform to showcase the contemporary art of Bangladesh reminds one of another similar effort. The Asian Art Biennale, though never to be mixed up with art fair or summits that have now gained popularity in the most part, served as a site for cross-cultural exchanges.
The Biennale, ever since its launch in 1981, has successfully mediated the emergence of new tendencies in art in the country. As an important melting pot for contemporary art from the countries of the Far East (especially Japan), South East and the Middle East, as well as Australia and other non-Asian countries, the bi-annual event energised the thriving art scene by ensuring exposure to deshi artists who, back in those days, had little opportunity to scan the expanding horizons of art by other means. At the level of national art practice, its influence was seminal. However, due to the absence of a curatorial structure, the Biennale has lost its charm in the recent years.
The new millennium has brought in newer challenges; nowadays the demand is on the rise for exhibition spaces that are ambitious enough to create scopes for artists with their eyes set on the global surge for installation, performance and other new media exploration. Therefore, not having a filter to sift the best and the relevant in contemporary art practices played havoc with the expectations of the artists and connoisseurs. The problem has many facets, and the institutional practice is only one of them. Therefore, the need for art events with a strong focus on artists who are ambitiously exploring unconventional ideas and processes has always been there. One can only expect that this SAF organized event will institute a deepening of understanding about the changing art practices in the country that are re-orienting our vision away from the stilted and the fixed.
So, one hopes that in the collective journey towards a new awareness of the emerging art scene, this event will have an important role to play. With similar goals in view, the Foundation aims to focus on the entire length and breadth of the Bangladeshi art scene in the first edition of the summit. And at the same time it strives to attract art collectors from all over the region and beyond. The foundation is set on creating a space where artists are to find their promoters, those personalities who are the pivot around which the global art scene spins, and who possess both the eye for breakthrough artists and the apex of the avant-garde and the tools to 'reintroduce' our artists in the global arena.
The SAF organised art summit will also serve as a platform for the young artist to receive other forms of support. The Foundation will present two awards – Samdani Artist Development Award (worth Taka 10 lakh) and Samdani Young Talent Award (Taka 5 lakh). Artists within the 20-35 age group are eligible.
At the invitation of SAF, an international jury will come to Dhaka. The jury panel will include Kyla McDonald, curator of Tate Modern Museum (England); Dr. Deepak Ananth, art historian and expert (France); Elaine W. Ng, editor and publisher of Art Asia Pacific; Indian artist Ravinder Reddy and Bangladeshi expatriate painter Shahabuddin Ahmed.
Neha Kirpal, Director of India Art Summit; Dr Amin Jaffer, International Director of Asian Art at Christie's; Dr Deepanjana Klein, Chief of Modern and Contemporary South Asian Art Department; Yamini Mehta, Specialist and Head of Modern and Contemporary Indian Art of Christie's, among others, will speak at a number of seminars in Dhaka.
SAMDANI AT A GLANCE
The Samdani Art Foundation, founded by Nadia and Rajeeb Samdani, is committed to the development of education and infrastructure for art in Bangladesh. As part of their activities within and outside Bangladesh, the Foundation had launched a comprehensive volume on contemporary art in Bangladesh which was inaugurated in Venice during the Venice Biennale.
The foundation, which is non-profit, also funds Bangladeshi and South Asian art initiatives internationally, and has supported the participation of Bangladeshi artists in international platforms such as Open 14 in Venice, Italy in 2011.
The foundation will announce the Samdani Artist Development Award and the Samdani Young Talent Award, to be selected by an international panel of judges, at the first edition of the Dhaka Art Summit.