Visitor groups to the 5th Dhaka Art Summit (DAS) – an international research and exhibition platform for South Asian art and architecture – are largely comprised of young people. Many of the youths are overwhelmed by the artists' installations; some take selfies in front of the art while others linger in front of it to admire it.
Co-founder and Director of Dhaka Art Summit Nadia Samdani said, "Everything is exposure, so although it will take time, we believe that eventually our younger visitors will grow up and come to understand art."
Nadia Samdani is also the co-founder and president of the Samdani Art Foundation. In 2011, along with her husband Rajeeb Samdani, she established the foundation to support the work of Bangladeshi and South Asian contemporary artists and architects. Since 2012, as part of their initiative, they have been organising the DAS biennially.
The theme of this year's summit was "Seismic Movements." Collaborating with artists, thinkers, researchers, photographers, and participants, the DAS provoked its audience to reconsider historic movements.
When asked about the theme, Nadia said, "We wanted to reconsider partition, war, different movements, history, borders, and territory through art. These are melancholic parts of our history, therefore parts of humankind. We wanted to redefine art by holding art and history parallel to each other."
In 2017, Nadia Samdani and Rajeeb Samdani were the first South Asian art patrons to receive the prestigious Montblanc de la Culture Arts Patronage Award. Additionally, Nadia is a member of: the Tate's South Asia Acquisitions Committee, the Tate's International Council, Art Dubai's Advisory Council, and Alserkal Avenue's Programming Committee. She is also one of the founding members of The Harvard University Lakshmi Mittal South Asia Institute's Arts Advisory Council.
She continued, "The Samdani Art Foundation also emphasises the importance of research and education. Artists are coming to the DAS and presenting their research regarding their installations and artwork."
"Our intention is not just to make the DAS a grand event. Rather, we want it to have a great impact on people and their minds. It started out as an experiment – since there had been no artistic event like the DAS in Bangladesh. The response has been incredible from day one. The way the summit has stepped into its 5th edition, we, too, have grown with it. Our research team is growing as well. We want our content to be effective because we want quality rather than quantity."
To this end, the Samdani Art Foundation is creating the Srihatta – Samdani Art Centre and a Sculpture Park in the northeastern part of Bangladesh on nearly 105 acres of land. The institution will also include a residency space.
Bangladeshi award-winning architect Kashef Chowdhury, is working on the project. "It will open in different stages since it takes time to open a sculpture park. It will be a great opportunity for artists around the world."
True to the DAS' theme, the event is borderless as artists from 44 countries have come to Bangladesh to participate in it. To Nadia, this collective effort creates a space for art and movement built through alliances across: Africa, Australia, South and Southeast Asia.
Moreover, this platform is open for all and the summit has no visiting charge. As a second-generation art collector, Nadia has intentionally made this summit accessible to all.
She says, "The DAS is disclosure to everyone. Sharply insightful exhibitions, liberal conversations and panel discussions, plus deeply satisfying experiences are what define the DAS. It is the result of collective energy."