Samdani Art Foundation
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The Samdani Art Award, Bangladesh's premier art award, has created an internationally recognised platform to showcase the work of young Bangladeshi Artists to an audience of international arts professionals. The Award aims to support, promote, and highlight Bangladeshi contemporary art, and was created to honour talented emerging Bangladeshi artists between the ages of 22 and 40.

Through the Samdani Art Award exhibition, which forms part of the programme at the Dhaka Art Summit, many of the previously shortlisted artists have gained recognition and have been selected to participate in various international exhibitions and residencies, including: Kochi-Muziris Biennale (2018 and 2016); Liverpool Biennial 2018; MACBA, Barcelona (2017); 4A Centre for Contemporary Asian Art, Sydney (2017); Kunsthalle Zurich (2017); The Asia Pacific Triennial of Contemporary Art (2018); Shanghai Biennale 2016; Gwangju Biennale 2016; among others. The 2014 Award winner, Ayesha Sultana, recently had her work acquired by Tate, making her the first emerging Bangladeshi artist in their collection.

In the year between each Dhaka Art Summit, the Samdani Art Foundation, in partnership with the Delfina Foundation—with whom the Samdani Art Award has partnered with since 2013—sends an open call for applications. The Delfina Foundation then identifies twenty semi-finalists, and the guest curator selects the shortlist of ten finalists following one-to-one sessions with each of the artists.  The winner will be selected by a jury chaired by Aaron Cezar of Delfina Foundation with Adrián Villar Rojas, Carolyn Christov-Bakargiev, Julie Mehretu, and Sunjung Kim.

The winner of the Samdani Art Award receives an all-expenses paid, six-week residency at the Delfina Foundation in London. A residency at the Delfina Foundation can be a career-defining moment for an artist to develop their ideas, sharpen their practice, and widen their networks.

The 2018 Samdani Art Award was curated by Simon Castets, Director, Swiss Institute Contemporary Art, New York, and the winner was Mizanur Rahman Chowdhury.

The 2016 Samdani Art Award was curated by Daniel Baumann, Director/Curator, Kunsthalle Zürich, and the winner was Rasel Chowdhury.

In 2014 Ayesha Sultana was the Samdani Art Award winner, and in 2012, the winners were Khaled Hasan and Musarrat Reazi

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We are pleased to announce that the guest curator of the Samdani Art Award 2020 will be Philippe Pirotte, Rector and Professor Art History at the Städelschule Academy of Fine Arts in Frankfurt, Germany, who also recently served as co-curator of JIWA: Jakarta Biennale 2017. One of the most prestigious art academies in the world, Städelschule has preserved its pledge to provide equal, international, adventurous and independent education in art. Maintaining a unique approach consisting of class-based teaching and an emancipated form of education, the Academy draws students from all over the globe, who are invited to make independent use of Städelschule’s comprehensive offer—including art-based and academic discourses—to formulate their own enlightened and contemporary artistic positions. Pirotte is also Director of Portikus, an institution for contemporary art and a fundamental element of Städelschule’s programme, dedicated to exhibiting, publishing and discussing young and emerging and established artists, recently including: Michael Dean; Lawrence Abu Hamdan; and Otobong Nkanga; among others.

Prior to joining Städelschule in 2014, Pirotte was the Director of the Kunsthalle Bern (2005-2011), and Senior Advisor to the Rijksakademie for Visual Arts in Amsterdam. He remains Adjunct Senior Curator at the UC Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive (since 2012), was co-founder of objectif-exhibitions, a not-for-profit institution in Antwerp, Belgium (1999-2005), and curated La Biennale de Montréal: Le Grand Balcon (2016). Most recently he assumed a visiting professorship at the department of Art Design and Media at the Nanyang Technological University in Singapore. During the Dhaka Art Summit 2018, Pirotte organised the discussion-based workshop, ‘A New Iconoclasm?’ with fellow Städelschule faculty member, Willem de Rooij, and artist Simon Denny, creating a conversation with Bangladeshi participants about the recent (global) resurgence of iconoclastic gestures and discourse. Talking of his experience, Pirotte explained:

“For me the Dhaka Art Summit is a welcome alternative to the biennale circuit. Assuming in a discursively responsible way that such initiatives become more and more condensed events, in a global competition for attention, the Dhaka Art Summit, advances the notion of the “summit” which allows for very different, yet all interesting projects and initiatives, to share a venue, in which conceptual diversity is preferred over the constraints of one curatorial premise. Talks, exhibitions, prizes, documentaries, and even a fair of artist initiatives enrich each other in new surprising ways. Maybe the Dhaka Art Summit is not only an interesting answer to the often fatigue perceived in the biennale circuit but also to the global inflation of art fairs.”

Supported by the Goethe-Institut Bangladesh, in 2019 Pirotte will travel to Dhaka to conduct studio visits with twenty semi-finalist artists in Dhaka and Chittagong, pre-selected by the Delfina Foundation post open call. Through these studio visits, Pirotte will then select a shortlist of ten finalists who will be invited to participate in, and commissioned to make new work for, the Samdani Art Award exhibition during DAS 2020. In the months between the announcement of the finalists and the installation of the Award exhibition, Pirotte will regularly engage with each of the finalists to discuss the progress of their work, and engage with their practice, in preparation for the Samdani Art Award 2020 exhibition when their commissioned work will be showcased for the first time.



Ariful Kabir

(b. 1990 in Chattogram, lives and works in Besancon, France) 

Ariful Kabir is an interdisciplinary artist whose work spans painting, sculpture, installation and performance. Instead of focusing on particular subjects, his inspiration stems from his immediate context, alternating between Bangladesh and France, where he is currently based. In his performances, found objects such as a coffin, wheel, rope and a blindfold have been used as metaphors for the political situation in Bangladesh and his personal experience there. Kabir’s performances also explore the ephemerality of the medium itself in relation to the construction and deconstruction of time, drawing from various histories such as that of Buddhism. 

Photo: Ariful Kabir, Metaphor Of Explosion, 2015, mixed media. Courtesy of the artist. 


Ashfika Rahman

(b.1988, Dhaka, lives and works in Dhaka, Bangladesh)

Ashfika Rahman’s practice explores and experiments with photography, using media ranging from historical techniques like 19thcentury printmaking, to documentary approaches and contemporary media. Photography is the predominant medium that she uses to express her views on complex systemic social issues such as police violence, rape, and religious extremism – often overlooked by the administrative machinery of the state. In her practice, she creates a conceptual timeline of the stereotypes of victims, repeated across history, notably in regard to minors. 

Photo: Ashfika Rahman, Files Of The Disappeared, 2018-on going, photography. Courtesy of the artist. 


Faiham Ebna Sharif

(b. 1985 in Dhaka, lives and works in Dhaka, Bangladesh)

Faiham Ebna Sharif is an artist and researcher interested in long-term explorations of subjects such as tea plantations, the film industry of Bangladesh, the Rohingya refugee crisis, HIV patients, climate change, and migration from the micro-scale of the local bus to the meta-scale of humanity. Although Sharif studied international relations, he chose photography as his medium of expression. Sharif collects manuscripts, published primary sources (such as newspapers and other local media), as well as visual records (painting, photography and video) and oral histories parallel to and contributing to his artistic practice.

Photo: Faiham Ebna Sharif, Fantasy Is More Filmic Than Fictional Bangladesh Film Industry, 2014, photography. Courtesy of the artist.


Habiba Nowrose

(b. 1989 in Sirajganj, lives and works in Dhaka, Bangladesh) 

Habiba Nowrose explores human relationships and gender identities through photography. She makes photographic portraits as this allows for the introduction of different perspectives and interpretations regarding topics such as the life of HIV positive patients or mourning over the death of a loved one. Nowrose takes careful mental note of objects, colours, patterns and locations that attract her on a repeated basis, which she then re-introduces in her carefully constructed compositions. These elements play a fundamental role in her interactive and psychologically moving image making process.

Photo: Habiba Nowrose, Life Of A Venus, 2019, Photography. Courtesy of the artist. 


Najmun Nahar Keya

(b. 1980 in Dhaka, lives and works in Dhaka, Bangladesh) 

Najmun Nahar Keya, primarily a painter, uses old photographs, gold gilding, drawings and prints which she juxtaposes to create nostalgic settings. Having grown up in the old part of Dhaka, Keya draws her inspiration from the rapid social, economic and environmental changes happening in the area as a result of urbanisation. Often using identifiable architectural structures and characters she encountered in the past, she depicts memories and narratives tied to them. She is interested in the duality of society focusing on life-style, culture, cityscapes, urban motifs, customs and architecture. 

Photo: Najmun Nahar Keya, Between The Sky And The Earth-9, 2016, graphite, oil and acrylic on canvas. Courtesy of the artist.


Palash Bhattacharjee

(b. 1983 in Chattogram, lives and works in Chattogram, Bangladesh)

Palash Bhattacharjee works with performance, installation, and video within his practice. His works are the result of aesthetic experimentations derived from personal experience, set in relation to human sensitivities and emotion. These are conscious and unconscious expressions of his everyday behaviour, excitement and obsessions within the context of a society where narratives of a human’s existential reality seem to be losing meaning in the face of larger political, social concerns. 

Photo: Palash Bhattacharjee, Compose, five channel video installation with sound and object, exhibition at Samdani Art Award Show at Dhaka Art Summit 2018. Courtesy of the artist and Samdani Art Foundation. 


Soma Surovi Jannat

(b. 1990 in Dhaka, lives and works in Dhaka, Bangladesh)

Soma Surovi Jannat works with illustration, drawing and painting. Her work bridges different stimuli from her surroundings, aiming to depict what often are grim circumstances through an optimistic lens. Jannat transforms her two-dimensional works into installations, developing a visual language that allows the viewer to perceive the presence and correlation of different elements across varied circumstances. Numerous facets with individual storylines are joined to present a dominant narrative, which allows for the experience of a complex visual illusion. Interaction, collaboration and social engagement are characteristic of her working process.

Photo: Soma Surovi Jannat, Exploring The Santal's (Tribe) Story, 2017, drawing with mud on mud wall. Courtesy of the artist. 


Promiti Hossain

(b. 1991 in Dhaka, lives and works between Dhaka, Bangladesh and Shantiniketon, India)

Promiti Hossain’s artistic practice is comprised of drawing, painting and collage. Her work addresses her private experience as well as the subjectivity of gender. The constant news stories of gender-based violence against women and children, which she comes across daily, inspire her to draw attention to the struggles women face in the world. Her anatomic-style ink drawings of insects, flowers, and the female body allow marks and mistakes to represent the challenges women face in society.

Photo: Promiti Hossain, Agony 2, 2018, mixed media on paper. Courtesy of the artist.


Sounak Das

(b. 1993 in Dhaka, lives and works in Dhaka, Bangladesh) 

Sounak Das works with photography, moving image and sound. His interest in photography was sparked by his exploration of photo albums of his father’s theatre performances created in the 1990s. The loss of his father in 2012, which is accompanied by a rich tradition of rituals in the Hindu religion, drove him to explore spirituality and ritualistic practices in more depth. He makes portraits of religious leaders as an act of documenting his own experience with Hindu spiritual practice. Das has produced, worked and collaborated with various artists on numerous projects, using VR, installations, performance art, and various film formats: documentaries, art films, commercials and after-movies.*

*A term used to describe short documentary style films to show behind the scene stories, informal interviews, etc of fashion shows, film production, advertising, etc. 

Photo: Sounak Das, The Shamshan Ghat, 2014, photography and film. Courtesy of the artist.

Sumana Akter

(b. 1983 in Narayanganj, lives and works in Narayanganj, Bangladesh)  

 Sumana Akter is interested in performance art in addition to painting. Her work takes a critical stance towards social, political and cultural issues, such as the environmental concerns of the Sundarbans caused by industrialisation. In her performances Akter references the century-old Bengali Kantha (quilt) stitch practice and traditional childhood games that are increasingly forgotten across generations due to urbanisation and technological dependency. Her own voice becomes an important tool in her performance practice.

Photo: Sumana Akter, We Fight To Save A Flower – part 3, 2016, Performance. Courtesy of the artist. 


Tahia Farhin Haque

(b. 1996 in Dhaka, lives and works in Dhaka, Bangladesh)

Tahia Farhin Haque’s work shatters traditional stereotypes about women, specifically in Islamic countries, by bringing women’s unique perspectives to the forefront of her photography practice. She hopes to lend a voice to issues that are unheard of and unseen in the rest of the world, while making her viewers question their paradigms on a personal level. She believes her gaze is affected by her conservative Muslim background, and wants to express this through her work.

Photo: Tahia Farhin Haque, I Could Not Save You, 2016-2018, photography. Courtesy of the artist. 


Zihan Karim

(b. 1984 in Chattogram, lives and works in Chattogram, Bangladesh)

Zihan Karim’s works address the subtleties of time, space, and social issues through various media, objects and architecture through installation, sound, and projection. He blends analog reality with the virtual to initiate new layers of observation, leading viewers into an advanced perceptual world. Karim’s transposing of sequential events of one specific time to another might ultimately inspire new situations, and the artist likes to observe the reaction of his audience to these scenarios. 

Photo: Zihan Karim, Seven Object, 2018, video installation. Courtesy of the artist.