Before the ongoing pandemic hit Bangladesh hard, the country's art scene was vibrant with several important art events taking place successfully.
Once it arrived though, artists put their brushes aside to help doctors in making PPEs and head shields. Freelance artists were worst hit, but some artists and organisations showed their spirit to create art, take innovative initiatives and hold virtual exhibitions.
Coronavirus took away the lives of many eminent artists. Adapting to the new normal, the open call for the Asian Art Biennale Bangladesh 2020 is currently underway.
TBS highlights the five most important events in the art scene of the country in 2020.
Dhaka Art Summit 2020: Seismic movements
Convening a critical mass of artists, thinkers and participants, Dhaka Art Summit 2020 (DAS 2020) drove its audience to reconsider histories, movements, borders and other fault lines through the lense of art. Among many curated exhibitions, 'Lighting the Fire of Freedom', an initiative of Centre for Research and Information, ICT Division, in collaboration with Bangladesh Shilpakala Academy, and the Ministry of Cultural Affairs, paid the richest tribute to Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman on his birth centenary. Organised simultaneously with DAS 2020, the exhibition, curated by Ruxmini Reckvana Q Choudhury, narrated the journey of the Father of the Nation (1920 – 1975), chronologically, through a rich variety of archival and contemporary materials, including personal photographs, newspapers articles, videos and artworks.
Homelands: Art from Bangladesh, India and Pakistan
Durjoy Bangladesh Foundation, with its mission to support the presentation and awareness of South Asian Art on the global stage, collaborated with the University of Cambridge in an international exhibition, titled 'Homelands: Art from Bangladesh, India and Pakistan' at Kettle's Yard, UK. The exhibition, showcasing works by 11 contemporary artists of South-Asian origin, addressed the continuing resonance and contested histories of Partition in 1947. The exhibition also addressed the independence of Bangladesh in 1971.
International Art Festival 2020 Nilphamari
The third International Art Festival 2020 Nilphamari concluded on a high note. Artists from five countries created a cornucopia of artwork in a four-day art camp, the outcomes of which were on display at the idyllic ambience of Nilsagor, Nilphamari. Five generations of artists spontaneously participated in the grand festival, which was one of the most memorable celebrations of art.
Art for Humanity
The global pandemic put all Pahela Baishakh celebration plans on the backburner, and the artists decided to join the fight against the virus. Instead of papier-mâché masks or traditional clay pot painting, they made personal protective equipment (PPE) for doctors, teachers, nurses, staff and sample collectors of Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujib Medical University and other hospitals. Shilpacharya Zainul Abedin's youngest son, engineer Mainul Abedin, donated an 8.5 x 4.5 inch sketch to the Coronafine Group of the Faculty of Fine Art, DU, to raise funds for the pandemic hit people. The historic 1970 artwork was sold at an auction, for TK20 lakhs to eminent art collector and Chairman of Summit Group, Muhammed Aziz Khan.
Demise of veteran artist Murtaja Baseer
On August 15, eminent artist Murtaja Baseer passed away after losing his battle against Coronavirus. Baseer, also a poet, short story writer, novelist, researcher, numismatist and filmmaker, was awarded Ekushey Padak in 1980 and Shadhinata Padak in 2019. A three-month long art exhibition titled 'Baseer: An Eloquent Mind' is currently underway at Quamrul Hassan Exhibition Hall, Bengal Shilpalay in the capital's Dhanmondi. The exhibition features around 150 collected works representing some of the most influential series of the master.