How did the Dhaka Art Summit begin?

It all began when young collector couple, Rajeeb and Nadia Samdani, saw a global interest in South Asian art, but noticed that the focus was on art from India and Pakistan. They wanted to help put Bangladesh on the map, and decided to put this festival together for people to come to Bangladesh and see the best of its art. They even sponsored curators from global institutions to travel to Bangladesh for research, which is something we are continuing to do as part of the Samdani Art Foundation

What is the role of Samdani Art Foundation in general and in the context of the summit?

The Foundation supports the development of South Asian art infrastructure in Bangladesh, and the exhibition of South Asian art globally. It has funded projects all over the world, including the Venice Biennale, and its funders sit on the Tate Acquisitions Committee and help support the institution’s growing collection of South Asian art, which includes the Bangladeshi artist Naeem Mohaiemen. We also organize and fund the Dhaka Art Summit, and will be increasing our global activities after the summit. Our first announced new commission is with Shahzia Sikander, who will explore the relationships and shared history between East and West Pakistan. 

Saiful Huq Omi. From the ‘Breaking Ships’ series.

How will this second summit build on the first?

The first Summit was focused solely on art from Bangladesh. The second focuses on the entire South Asian Region, and the third in 2016 will expand beyond the visual arts into architecture.

How did you develop the programme of projects and talks for the summit?

I tried to pick a programme that would highlight the breadth of artistic practices in the region and speak to the local, regional, and global platforms for this art.  

I also included more informal talks in the VIP lounge. There is a panel on young collectors, which includes my husband Thierry Betancourt and architect and Forbes Art Award nominated young collector Ashiesh Shah, moderated by New York Times freelance correspondent Gayatri Rangachari Shah.  And another panel on innovative curatorial platforms will include people like Beatrix Ruf, Milovan Farronato, Lauren Cornell, Raqs Media Collective, and Marianne Burki from Swiss Pro Helvetia

Lida Abdul’s Brick Sellers of Kabul, 2006. Video still. Courtesy of the Artist and Giorgio Persano Gallery.

How does the Dhaka Summit fit into the context of the wider art world in both Bangladesh and the Indian Subcontinent? Is there much cross border interaction between the artistic communities in Bangladesh, India and Pakistan?

Movement of people, goods, and ideas between the region is extremely difficult, so there is limited interaction in the region. We are hoping to serve as a catalyst for more artistic exchange and to contribute to softer borders across the entire South Asian region, which also includes Sri Lanka, the Maldives, Nepal, Afghanistan and Myanmar. 

What would your advice be to a first time visitor to the Dhaka Summit?  

Don’t miss the Samdani Art Award exhibition, with ten shortlisted artists who are poised for international success! Also arrive by the 7th to see Asim Waqif's floating sculpture Control  launch into the Dhaka skies.