Destination Bangladesh: art world decamps to third Dhaka Art Summit

Four-day event is billed as “the world’s largest non-commercial platform for South Asian art”


A key art-historical exhibition throwing new light on historic post-war works by South Asian artists forms part of the third Dhaka Art Summit in Bangladesh, which opens tomorrow (5-8 February). The show, entitled Rewind, features 12 artists including the late Bangladeshi practitioner Rashid Choudhury and Indian-born Monika Correa. The Indian art collector Amrita Jhaveri is sponsoring the exhibition, which is part of a programme encompassing solo art projects, group shows, panel discussions, and workshops.

The summit—a meeting point for more than 300 art professionals—will be held in the Bangladesh Shilpakala Academy. According to the organisers, the event is “the world’s largest non-commercial platform for South Asian art”. The summit “is not a biennial, and not a symposium, nor a festival, but rather somewhere in between and removed from the pressures of the art market”, they say.

The Mumbai-based curator Diana Campbell Betancourt is the summit’s artistic director and the chief curator of the 2016 edition. She is overseeing Rewind, along with a solo projects section comprising 17 pieces by artists such as Lynda Benglis, Simryn Gill and Sandeep Mukherjee. Tino Sehgal’s performance Ann Lee (2011), shown courtesy of the François Pinault collection, is also included.

Guest curators include Nada Raza, an assistant curator at Tate Modern, and Daniel Baumann, the director of the Kunsthalle Zürich. Raza is organising an exhibition entitled The Story of the Missing One, the centerpiece of which is a Modernist watercolour by the early 20th-century Indian painter Gaganendranath Tagore. Performance art, a staple of biennials and fairs worldwide, is also on the agenda; a Performance Pavilion called Shifting Sands, Sifting Hands is run by Nikhil Chopra, Madhavi Gore, and Jana Prepeluh.

Nadia Samdani and her husband Rajeeb are the summit’s founding patrons. They launched the Samdani Art Foundation in 2011; the first edition of the summit opened the following year. More than 90% of the funding for the Dhaka Art Summit comes from the Samdani Art Foundation, with the remainder coming from private and governmental sources.

A spokesman for the Dhaka Art Summit says: “One of the reasons the summit lasts four days, apart from the production costs, is that it is ticketless and free for all, which means there is no income.”