top of page

Our Story

Founded in 2011 by collector couple Nadia and Rajeeb Samdani, Samdani Art Foundation (SAF) has been collaborating with artists, architects, curators, writers, and thinkers to shift how culture is experienced around the world by creating opportunities for profound encounters with Bangladesh. The foundation has developed and continues to produce the Dhaka Art Summit, the world’s highest daily visited contemporary art event that is now entering its seventh edition, expanding the audience engaging with contemporary art across Bangladesh and increasing international exposure for artistic practices that do not lie within the “art capitals of the world” or which have not yet been written into the limited canon of art history. SAF has collaborated with institutions on every continent in unique and meaningful ways; from producing a symposium on collective practices with RAW Material Company from Senegal; being a research partner for the Asia Pacific Triennial in Australia and contributing to the first time Bangladeshi artists were exhibited and collected by QAGOMA; curating and producing the first work of Bangladeshi contemporary art to be collected and exhibited at Tate Modern by Yasmin Jahan Nupur, commissioning and producing the touring exhibition A Beast a God and a Line curated by Cosmin Costinas which was born in Dhaka and traveled to Myanmar, Hong Kong, Thailand, Norway, and Poland, to donating a Rashid Choudhury tapestry to the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, the first time that this important master of Modern South Asian art history has had a major institutional presence in the United States, to lending to the 35th Sao Paulo Biennale in Brazil, to being a partner of Documenta 14 and Documenta 15 in their meaningful presentations of Bangladeshi art, among many other examples, SAF takes pride in its role of furthering the reach of what it does in Bangladesh to the rest of the world. You can learn more about SAF’s many collaborations here.

Samdani Art Foundation (SAF) has been collaborating with artists, architects, curators, writers, and thinkers to shift how culture is experienced around the world by creating opportunities for profound encounters with Bangladesh.

SAF believes that the planet has much to learn from Bangladesh and South Asia, and its international collaborations (which know no geographic borders) seek to expand creative horizons and collapse outdated frameworks for considering art and culture within the limited frameworks of North American and Eurocentrism. As a non-commercial research and exhibition platform for art and architecture related to South Asia, DAS rejects the traditional biennale format to create a more generative space for art and exchange that re-examines how we think about these art forms in a regional and wider context. It supports curators from all over the world at key moments in their careers to ground their thinking with working experience in Bangladesh, to learn new ways of exhibition making that can engage with both specialists and visitors who are new to contemporary art.  It also supports scholars to consider art histories that do not take Europe and North America as the central point of comparison, as evidenced by MAHASSA, a major collaboration with the Getty Foundation, Asia Art Archive, and Cornell University’s Institute for Comparative Modernities. All of SAF’s education and exhibition programs are free and ticketless, and the foundation supports the production of new thinking through residencies, exhibition opportunities, and other programs that it produces with its partners. While it is an independent organization, SAF collaborates with the Bangladeshi government through official partnerships with the Ministry of Cultural Affairs, People’s Republic of Bangladesh, and the Bangladesh Shilpakala Academy which allows it to extend the reach of its programs widely in the country.

Dhaka Art Summit

The bi-annual Samdani Art Award, organized in partnership with the Delfina Foundation, has created an internationally recognized platform to showcase the work of young Bangladeshi artists to an international audience at the Dhaka Art Summit. Over 70 emerging Bangladeshi artists have had the opportunity to work with an international curator, often for the first time, and have feedback from an international jury to support their creative development, and most of these artists have had international exhibition opportunities resulting from this mentorship and exposure. While it is not a funding body, many emerging Bangladeshi and Bangladeshi diaspora artists such as Ayesha Sultana, Munem Wasif, Naeem Mohaiemen, Rana Begum, and many others have had their early major institutional presentations supported through SAF’s partnership.

Awards & Initiatives

Faysal Zaman, (অ )পূর্ণ, (un)filled, 2021-2023. Installation. Photographer: Farhad Rahman

A permanent home for the collection is currently in development: Srihatta – Samdani Art Centre and Sculpture Park will open in 2025, designed by Dhaka-based, Aga Khan Award for Architecture-winning architect, Kashef Mahboob Chowdhury of URBANA. Located in Sylhet, Bangladesh, Srihatta will house the Samdani Art Foundation Collection, accommodate space for up to ten artists in residence, and commission new works by world-class South Asian and international artists.  Opening up new possibilities for art and community engagement in rural Bangladesh and raising standards for the public accessibility of institutions in South Asia, the first project realised on this site is Rokeya – an interactive sculpture created in collaboration with the local community by leading Polish artist Paweł Althamer in early 2017. Ephemeral projects such as these remain in public memory, and serve the basis for a new kind of sculpture park that is less about object making, and more about ritual, community, and climate.

SAF Collection

bottom of page