Dhaka Art Summit returns with vision to ignite movement beyond art exhibition


Throughly international but “deeply rooted in its local context,” the fifth iteration of the Dhaka Art Summit is set to take place from February 7–15 at the Shilpakala Academy.

Organized and sponsored by the Samdani Art Foundation the non-commercial art exhibition drew huge crowd in previous years, with three hundred thousand odd visitors attending the event since its inception in 2012. The Samdani Art Foundation was founded one year before the first event by collector couple Nadia and Rajeeb Samdani.

This year the summit is also expecting a large number of visitors from the general public as well as artists, curators, and intellectuals. 

Titled ‘Dhaka Art Summit 2020: Seismic Movements’ (DAS 2020), the organizer says this year’s theme ‘Seismic Movements’ is meant to  provoke visitors to reconsider art, history, movement, borders and fault lines. 

Hoping to play a role in making Bangladesh be the epicentre of a radical upheaval of how people think about art the DAS 2020 will showcase intellectual and curatorial contributions, spanning four floors of the Shilpakala Academy. 

Built through alliances across Africa, Australia, South and Southeast Asia, and extending into Europe and the US,  the platform will be free to the public and include contributions by 500 artists, scholars, curators and thinkers, in the form of panel discussions, performances and symposia. 

The organizers hope that the programs during the event  will make participants  ponder the questions “what is a movement and how do we ignite one beyond the confines of an art exhibition?”

New forms of togetherness

DAS 2020 is about shaking up the commonly held understanding of the present and the past. To realize this vision it intends to break down barriers between art, film, craft, architecture, design, research, and institution production to think of new forms of togetherness, says the summit’s chief curator Diana Campbell Betancourt. 

“Seismic movements do not adhere to statist or nationalist frameworks. They join and split apart tectonics of multiple scales and layers; their epicentres don’t privilege historical imperial centres over the so-called peripheries; they can accumulate slowly or violently erupt in an instant,” said Betancourt. 

The theme is meant to inspire thinkers to think about all forms of movements — planetary, geological, colonial, independence, social and feminist futures, spatial movements, the conditions that move people to act and the power that comes with moving collectively, she said. 

“We do not just consider forms of artistic production, but also forms of ‘institutional’ production, that enable artistic practices and pedagogies, generating new vocabularies of socially organization and building better ways to create and live together,” Betancourt explains in her curatorial statement introducing the summit. 

The chief curator asks the questions that what does a movement look like while it is being made and how do we learn from the lived experience of making one? 

“We are interested in what will happen through the movement of ideas from inside the Bangladesh Shilpakala Academy to outside in real life, and this is why the exhibition design of DAS 2020 keeps a porous barrier between the inside and the outside of the venue,” she said. 

Samdani Art Award

Named after the primary sponsor and organizer, The Samdani Art Award aims to support, promote, and highlight Bangladeshi contemporary art, and was created to honour one talented emerging Bangladeshi artist between the ages of 22 and 40. 

The 5th edition of the Samdani Art Award is to be curated by Philippe Pirotte (Rector, Art History and Culture Education Department, Stäedelschule). This year’s award is realized in partnership with the Goethe Institut of Dhaka. 

The shortlisted artists will be commissioned to make new work for the exhibition in close dialogue with Pirotte. 

The winner of the exhibition will receive a funded residency at the Delfina Foundation in London, and will be selected by an international jury chaired by Aaron Cezar (Director, Delfina Foundation) with Adrián Villar Rojas (artist), Carolyn Christov-Bakargiev (Director, Castello di Rivoli), Julie Mehretu (artist), and Sunjung Kim (President, Gwangju Bienniale Foundation). 

Previous award winners include: Mizanur Rahman Chowdhury (2018), Rasel Chowdhury (2016), Ayesha Sultana (2014), and Khaled Hasan and Musarrat Reazi (2012). 

All other artists will have a residency in Srihatta (Samdani Art Centre and Sculpture Centre), after the Dhaka Art Summit.