What makes the Samdani Art Foundation (SAF) unique?
The Samdani Art Foundation is a solely non-commercial entity, which is unique to both Bangladesh and a rarity across the South Asian region. While there are other art foundations in Bangladesh, SAF is the only one not tied to commercial activities within the art world. SAF also rejects the art camp model of other local foundations, which ask artists to produce works for free in return for participating in their programs. SAF is privately funded and does not sell any artworks, nor does it generate income by engaging with the commercial activities of galleries or art fairs. All of SAF’s programmes are free and never require registration or participation fees.
In 2012 the Samdani Art Foundation founded the bi-annual Dhaka Art Summit (DAS), an international non-commercial research and exhibition platform for art and architecture related to South Asia, which re-examines how we think about these art forms in a regional and wider context. DAS’s interdisciplinary programme creates a generative space for art and exchange, and is unique in that it commissions, funds, and produces works as opposed to merely exhibiting them.
Many projects commissioned and produced by SAF for DAS—such as those by Shilpa Gupta, Rashid Rana, Jitish Kallat, and Munem Wasif—have travelled to international institutions such as the Berlin Biennale, NYU Abu Dhabi, San Jose Museum of Art, Gwangju Biennial, and the Singapore Biennial. This is not a collection building strategy; works commissioned for DAS often travel to other international exhibitions after the event and will continue to belong to the artists. SAF does not recover production money or take commissions pertaining to the work it produces.
The Foundation has been successful in providing a non-commercial platform for international institutions to consider art from Bangladesh in their curatorial research process, which has led to the inclusion of work by Bangladeshi artists and architects in international exhibitions. Munem Wasif, Ayesha Sultana, and Rana Begum have recently showcased their work in Korea at the 11th Gwangju Biennale–the Biennale’s first inclusion of Bangladeshi artists. Architect Kashef Chowdhury’s work in the 2015 Venice Architecture Biennale was the Biennale’s first inclusion of a Bangladeshi architect, which speaks to the rising role of Bangladeshi architecture on the international scene. Munem Wasif participated in fifth edition of the Singapore Biennale after its curator reached out to SAF for information about Bangladeshi emerging artists. SAF supported Naeem Mohaiemen’s solo exhibition at the Kunsthalle Basel in 2014, leading to the artist’s inclusion in documenta14. In 2017, Kunsthalle Zürich included two Bangladeshi artists from the Samdani Art Award (Samsul Alam Helal and Raqiful Shuvo) in the group exhibition Speak, Lokal, curated by DAS 2016 guest curator Daniel Baumann. Raqiful Shuvo and Farzana Ahmed Urmi recently participated in the 11th Shanghai Biennale with the support of SAF. There has been unprecedented mobility for emerging Bangladeshi artists in recent years, which SAF is proud to have supported and will continue to do so through its various initiatives.
The Samdani Art Foundation has a great number of projects including the Samdani Seminars, the Samdani Artist Led Initiatives Forum, the Samdani Art Award, the Samdani Architecture Award, the Dhaka Art Summit, and the recently launched DAS Research Fellows programme. SAF also supports a great number of global events and the participation of artists from Bangladesh in international exhibitions.
For further information about our projects, please visit the dedicated section on our website here.
How many artworks are in the collection?
There are approximately 2,000 artworks in the Samdani Art Foundation collection.
For further information about our collection, please visit the dedicated section on our website here.
What are the highlights of the collection?
South Asian and diaspora highlights include works by Anish Kapoor, Gaganendranath Tagore, Abanindranath Tagore, Rabindranath Tagore, Huma Bhabha, Naeem Mohaiemen, Rana Begum, Raqs Media Collective, Shilpa Gupta, Shahzia Sikander, Novera Ahmed, and Zarina Hashimi.
The Samdani’s also collect international art, an invaluable study tool for local arts enthusiasts and students. International highlights include works by Lynda Benglis, Chris Ofili, Alighiero Boetti, Paul Klee, Ettore Spalletti, Cindy Sherman, Marina Abramovic, Ai Weiwei, Pawel Althamer, Mona Hatoum, Philippe Parreno, Dominique Gonzalez-Foerster, Cardiff and Miller, and Anthony McCall.
Many of these works, and the South Asian works, will be installed at Srihatta – Samdani Art Centre and Sculpture Park opening its first phase in late 2018.
Where is the Samdani Art Foundation collection based?
The collection is currently based at Golpo, the Samdani family residence in Gulshan, Dhaka. In 2018, the Foundation will open phase one of Srihatta – Samdani Art Centre and Sculpture Park in Sylhet, Bangladesh on a 100+ acre outdoor site. The term 'art centre' is used rather than museum to create a sense of accessibility for the local community and flexibility for the space to determine its own format rather than conform to a South Asian private museum format. Srihatta will house part of the Samdani Collection and commission new works by South Asian and international artists. A permanent Dhaka exhibition space is planned for after 2020.
Who can visit the collection?
The collection is open and viewable by appointment.
What is the Samdani Art Award?
The bi-annual Samdani Art Award, organised in partnership with the Delfina Foundation, has created an internationally recognised platform to showcase the work of young Bangladeshi artists to an international audience at the bi-annual Dhaka Art Summit. Inviting applications through an open call, Bangladeshi artists between the ages of 20–40 are eligible to apply. Applications are then shortlisted by an invited jury of international artists and curators who chose ten finalists to receive one-on-one sessions with an invited guest curator. The winner will receive an all-expenses paid, six-week residency at the Delfina Foundation in London. Each short-listed artist will be given an international curator as a mentor as part of the Biennials’ Associate Artists programme and at least two of the short-listed artists will be commissioned for the upcoming Liverpool Biennial.
Many past short-listed artists have since shown their work at international exhibitions and institutions including; 11th Gwangju Biennale (2016), curated by_Vienna (2016), 11th Shanghai Biennale (2016), 4a Centre for Contemporary Asian Art (2017), and Kunsthalle Zürich (2017).
For further information about the Samdani Art Award, please visit the dedicated section on our website here.
Who is behind the Samdani Art Foundation (SAF)?
Nadia Samdani is the President of the Samdani Art Foundation, which she co-founded with her husband Rajeeb Samdani in 2011. SAF is led by Diana Campbell Betancourt, its Artistic Director, an International Advisory Committee, and a local organising committee, chaired by Farooq Sobhan, President and CEO of the Bangladesh Enterprise Institute (BEI), an independent research institute in Bangladesh.
What is the source of these private funds?
Rajeeb Samdani is the Managing Director of Golden Harvest and Chairman of the Dubai-based financial institution Gulf International Finance Limited. Golden Harvest is a diversified Bangladeshi conglomerate with over 5,000 employees, involved in numerous business sectors: food, real estate, information, technology, agro, infrastructure development, dairy, aviation, insurance, commodity, and logistics.
Rajeeb Samdani is also the Secretary of the General of the Bangladesh Human Rights Foundation, which is one of the largest Human Rights organisations in Bangladesh. Mr. Samdani is also the Founder of the Taher Ahmed Chowdhury Charitable Hospital in the city of Sylhet. The Samdani family financially supports both of these initiatives as part of their corporate social responsibility efforts.
Is there a tax exemption from the sources invested in the Samdani Art Foundation (SAF)?
Due to local regulations, there is no tax benefit for any of the funds invested in the Samdani Art Foundation or any of its projects.
Does the Samdani Art Foundation (SAF) plan to expand outside Dhaka?
The Samdani Art Foundation has offices based in Dhaka and Mumbai, which facilitate its work across South Asia. SAF does not currently plan to open any international offices or exhibition spaces, but it is developing a permanent art centre in Sylhet, Bangladesh–a forty-minute flight from Dhaka. The majority of SAF’s funds are spent on activities in Bangladesh in order to support the local art scene.
SAF engages with institutions outside the region by supporting curatorial research and exhibition-making in Bangladesh. Such an example is SAF’s Artistic Director Diana Campbell Betancourt’s current work with the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago to lend many artworks from the SAF collection for the exhibition MANY TONGUES: Art, Language, and Revolution in the Middle East and South Asia, curated by Omar Kholeif, set to open in November 2018. This will be the largest showing of work by Bangladeshi and South Asian modern and contemporary artists in the United States.
What is the Arts Centre in Sylhet?
Srihatta – Samdani Art Centre and Sculpture Park is currently under development with plans to open its first phase in late 2018. Srihatta is being designed by Aga Khan prize winning Bangladeshi architect Kashef Mahboob Chowhdury. It will be located in a 100+ acre outdoor site in Sylhet, Bangladesh with a 5,000 square foot indoor exhibition space to house works from the Samdani Collection. Srihatta will also include ten rooms to be used as residency spaces for local and international artists and curators to contemplate art and nature.
SAF will also commission new works for Srihatta by South Asian and international artists. This space will aim to improve the existing public art infrastructure in the country, as well as increase accessibility to contemporary art, reaching a wider Bangladeshi audience. The first realised project on this site was Rokeya – an interactive sculpture created by leading Polish artist Paweł Althamer in collaboration with the local community, completed in early 2017.
For further information about the development of Srihatta – Samdani Art Centre and Sculpture Park, please visit the dedicated section on our website here.
Located in northeast Bangladesh, surrounded by rain forests, hills, rivers, and valleys, Sylhet is one of the leading tourist destinations in the country. As the Samdani Art Foundation seeks to promote international artistic exchange between Bangladesh and the rest of the world, Sylhet has proven to be an easily accessible international Bangladeshi city–an ideal location for Srihatta – Samdani Art Centre and Sculpture Park. Sylhet is also the hometown of the Samdani family.
What Initiatives will Srihatta – Samdani Art Centre and Sculpture Park promote?
Once open, Srihatta – Samdani Art Centre and Sculpture Park will house part of the Samdani Art Foundation’s permanent collection and have exhibitions dedicated to contemporary art from Bangladesh and South Asia, as well as to international artists. It will also have a performance programme and a vast outdoor area for sculpture and architectural pavilions. As part of an international exchange initiative, Srihatta will host the Samdani Seminars, which currently take place in Dhaka. Srihatta will also have an international residency program. Visiting the space, as with all SAF’s programmes, will be free.
What are the Samdani Seminars?
The Samdani Seminars are a free lecture and workshop programme, which facilitate engagement between international arts professionals and local communities across Bangladesh through participatory artworks, lectures, and workshops, to engage a broader audience with the arts. The Seminars complement the syllabi of Bangladesh’s leading educational institutions by covering the mediums and subjects not currently included, accessible to those of all ages, to encourage an inclusive dialogue around art.
Curated by the Samdani Art Foundation’s Artistic Director Diana Campbell Betancourt, the first annual Samdani Seminars began in 2015 and focused on exploring the possibilities of the body and the space it occupies. The premise was for artists to consider the body as the primary tool of expression, a tool that also allows the engagement with traditional arts such as painting, sculpture, and photography. The 2017 Samdani Seminars focused on sound and listening as tools for art-making. The Seminars also consider Arte Util, institution-building, and organisational strategies for local artist-led initiatives and collectives.
For further information about the Samdani Seminars, please visit the dedicated section on our website here.
Who takes part in the Seminars?
Twelve leading international artists and curators from eight countries participated as visiting faculty in the previous series of Seminars in 2015. They worked alongside individuals from theatre, music, dance, and architecture backgrounds which ensured the programme facilitated collaborations across creative disciplines. Half of the Seminars were open to the public and enjoyed by audiences of over 300 art enthusiasts and students. The other half of the 2015 Seminars were closed-door discussions, each with a group of around 16 participants, selected by the visiting faculty and artists from a strong applicant pool.
The current 2017-18 Seminar programme,featured Lawrence Abu Hamdan, Haroon Mirza, Asim Waqif, Pawel Althamer, Susan Philipsz, Tarek Atoui, Sebastian Cichocki, Nick Aikens, Council, and Open School East. Many of the ideas and movements introduced in these sessions fed into the Dhaka Art Summit 2018’s Education Pavilion.
Why Dhaka and Bangladesh?
Besides being the current home of Nadia and Rajeeb Samdani, Bangladesh and Dhaka, in particular, have a vibrant art scene still in need of support to flourish on both a local and international stage. By producing the Dhaka Art Summit and funding international events to encourage cultural exchange, the Samdani Art Foundation provides an opportunity for leading figures of the international art world not only to engage with South Asian art, but also to become familiar with the Bangladeshi art scene. Furthermore, it is important for SAF to provide opportunities for the local community to engage with regional and international art. Bangladesh does not have a dedicated contemporary art museum, making SAF’s collection an important bridge for Bangladeshi art enthusiasts and students to experience first-hand examples of international modern and contemporary art.
What is the Samdani Architecture Award?
The inaugural Samdani Architecture Award was launched in 2017, and was open to all third and fourth year architecture students from Bangladesh to propose a design for DAS 2018’s Education Pavilion. Creating much needed opportunities for young architects, the first prize winning entry was realised and animated with the Education Pavilion programme, during the Dhaka Art Summit 2018.
For further information about the Samdani Architecture Award, please visit the dedicated section on our website here.
What is the Samdani Artist-Led Initiatives Forum?
The Samdani Artist-Led Initiatives Forum recognises the importance of Bangladesh’s independently established and self-funded art initiatives and collectives. Supporting these initiatives’ ongoing efforts, the Forum will help each to continue to work locally while building their profile internationally through SAF’s network.
For further information about the Samdani Artist-Led Initiatives Forum, please visit the dedicated section on our website here.
How does the Samdani Art Foundation sustain itself financially?
The Samdani Art Foundation is privately funded by Nadia and Rajeeb Samdani.