Promoting South Asian art, artists

Cultural Correspondent | Published: 18:10, Mar 13,2018


Rajeeb Samdani.

Rajeeb Samdani, the co-founder of Samdani Art Foundation, claims that Dhaka Art Summit, which the foundation organises in every alternative years in Dhaka, has secured an important position in the global art calendar as a unique exhibition dedicated to promoting South Asian art and artists internationally.

After completion of the fourth edition of the summit that took place from February 2 to February 10 at Bangladesh Shilpakala Academy featuring over 300 artworks from 35 countries, Rajeeb in an interview told New Age about the background of organising the biennale, its success stories and future plans.

An estimated 1,200 foreign delegates from different countries of Asia and Europe covering their expenses came to Dhaka for participating at the summit, which indicates its importance in global art scene, Rajeeb said, adding that over 300,000 visitors from all walks of life went to the venue in nine days to watch the displayed artworks.

‘For its unique character, Dhaka Art Summit is regarded as a major art event which offers foreign delegates a glimpse into the current trend of South Asian art and discover new artists. It offers the best works by the most talented artists those can attract visitors from all walks of life,’ he said.

The managing director of Golden Harvest Group Rajeeb Samdani has been collecting artworks with his wife Nadia Samdani since 2008. The couple founded Samdani Art Foundation in 2011 to promote the talented young artists of the region globally.

‘The first edition of Dhaka Art Summit was organised in 2012. We included artists from other South Asian countries to draw attention of the world in a time when the westerners are showing more interest in South Asian art following the shift of global art market from the west to the Asia with the economic growth of many Asian countries during the past 10 years.

‘But, the fact is that Bangladesh or Bangladeshi artist is not included in such discussion on South Asian art even though the fact is that modern art practice in South Asia began with emerge of some experimentalists in the 19th century Bengal. For giving a glimpse of the rich tradition and contemporary art scene of South Asia to the global audience, we initiated to organise Dhaka Art Summit,’ Rajeeb said.

The main intention of organising the show was to explore the rich heritage of fine arts of South Asia and to promote the contemporary young artists, who have huge potentials to get international recognition, Rajeeb said. ‘It is obvious that Bangladesh as a host nation always get especial attention.’

And the summit got huge responses from the local and international audiences, which boosted the organisers to expand its coverage. ‘In 2014, we included artworks of the South Asian diasporas while in 2016 we focused more on the rich history of the South Asian modernists,’ Rajeeb said.

Dhaka Art Summit ’18 had even a bigger coverage by displaying artworks of the artists from Asian countries to address some burning problems on ethnic issues, Rajeeb said, adding that artworks of some South Asian diasporas based in the west and artists from some European countries were also included in the show, whose works also go well with the theme.

‘In this edition, we had 56 international partners like Sharjah Biennale, Museum of Modern Art Warsaw and Hong Kong Parasite and others to organise the show that got huge coverage in international media,’ Rajeeb said.

The secret of achieving such huge response from the leading galleries, museums, institutes, art promoters, scholars and press is the organisational capacity of the summit. Rajeeb said they organise theme-based shows by appointing foreign curators, which made the exhibition unique. ‘We are grateful to Diana Campbell, the artistic director and chief curator of the foundation, who selects themes and other curators and artists,’ he said.

Dhaka Art Summit is a great example of public-private partnership for enhancing the image of the country abroad and helping the country in cultural diplomacy, he said.

For encouraging young artists and promoting them internationally, Samdani Art Foundation has introduced two awards including Samdani Art Award and Samdani Architecture Award.

The winners of Samdani Art Awards get internationally reputed curators as their mentors and many of the winners have got chances to display their works in world famous museums and exhibitions such as Zurich Museum, Venice biennale and Asia Pacific Triennial, said Rajeeb adding that famous galleries were also representing some winners.

Rajeeb and his wife Nadia have joint collection of over 2,000 artworks. Their collection was featured as one of the top 200 collections globally and named as one of the Top 200 Collectors by Artnews in 2015, 2016 and 2017, included in Art Review’s Power 100 in 2015, 2016, 2017 and ArtNet News World's Top 100 Art Collectors in 2016.

Their collection has been featured in international art exhibitions such as Documenta 14, Germany in 2017; Shanghai Biennale, China in 2017; Office for Contemporary Art, Norway in 2016; Centre Pompidou, France in 2015; Gwangju Biennale, South Korea in 2014 and Museum of Modern Art, Poland in 2018.

Rajeeb Samdani is the co-chair and a founding committee member of the UK-based Tate’s South Asian Acquisitions Committee, a member of Tate's International Council, Art Dubai’s Advisory Council and Alserkal Avenue UAE’s Programming Committee. He is also one of the founding members of Harvard University’s South Asia Institute Art Council.

He is the only South Asian Collector to receive the prestigious Montblanc de la Culture Arts Patronage Award 2017. ‘I’m very fortunate to be a Bangladeshi at this moment,’ Rajeeb said.

They have plan to make a sculpture park in Sylhet on 105 acres of land with the aim to make a well-sought destination and to make a permanent art centre of the foundation.

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