Dhaka Art Summit 2018: Connecting borders through grandeur

by Alvee Khan

photos by Abdullah Apu

Dhaka Art Summit (DAS), an art exhibition showcasing paintings, artworks, performances, installations, graphical representation and visual art, successfully celebrated its fourth edition at the Shilpakala Academy from February 2 till February 10. The much-awaited biennial event was welcomed by thousands of art lovers of the country.
To summarize for the uninitiated, Dhaka Art Summit is an international non-commercial research and exhibition platform for art and architecture related to South Asia. It seeks to re-examine how we think about these art forms in a regional and wider context, with a focus on Bangladesh. Founded in 2012 by the Samdani Art Foundation in collaboration with the Ministry of Cultural Affairs of Bangladesh, the summit is hosted every two years at the Bangladesh Shilpakala Academy.
Expanding on the success of past editions, DAS 2018’s programme has widened its focus to create new connections between South, Southeast Asia, and the Indian Ocean belt. It is exhibiting artists from Thailand, Malaysia, Madagascar, the Philippines, and several other countries, highlighting the dynamic evolution of art in contemporary South Asia and reviving historical inter-Asian modes of exchange.
Over three hundred artists exhibited across ten curated exhibitions led by chief curator Diana Campbell Betancourt. The guest curators from leading institutions are commissioned to conduct research across South Asia. Over one hundred and twenty speakers from all over the world participated in sixteen panel discussions and two symposiums that strive to strengthen future developments of art in South Asia within the region’s rich, yet lesser-known, past.
Other initiatives of the summit include Samdani Art and Architecture Awards, critical writing ensemble, film screening, educational pavilion, workshop and more.
The glorious presence of Bangladeshi arts and architectural designs – be it classical, contemporary and folk- have their distinctive and prominent projections.
DAS is held at all the galleries of the National Art Gallery at Shilpakala, while food stalls and sponsored stalls are arranged beside the parking space on the field. The summit is free and open for all.

The ground floor hosts A Utopian Stage Below the Levels Where Differences Appear every day at the entrance.
The first floor showcased Bearing Points, Expression of Time, A Utopian Stage, The Asian Art Biennale in context, One Hundred Thousand Small Tales and Total Anastrophes. Bearing Points was curated by DAS chief curator Diana Campbell Betancourt and it replaces the Solo Projects section of previous editions of DAS. With a series of five large-scale thematic presentations, including many commissions from artists and architects, orienting the viewer towards lesser-explored transcultural histories of South Asia while weaving together strands of thoughts from the nine other guest curated exhibitions and public programme. Total Anastrophes, curated by Milovan Farronato with artistic leader Runa Islam, reimagined the 8th edition of the annual Volcano Extravaganza in Dhaka.
It turned the inside of the Shilpakala Academy Auditorium into the inner echo chamber of an active volcano. One Hundred Thousand Small Tales was curated by Sharmini Pereira and it addressed the artistic output that bore witness to the many narratives, episodes and accounts of what has taken place in Sri Lanka during its recent history. A Utopian Stage, curated by Vali Mahlouji, explored the radical ‘Third World-ism’ at play at the Festival of Art, Shiraz-Persepolis (1967–77).
A unique crucible for artistic exchange, this performance festival stimulated exposure and confrontation by situating Iran in relation to Asia, and juxtaposing Asian and African artists with the international avant-garde. The Asian Art Biennale in context examined Dhaka as a longstanding place of innovation within the arts, exploring the history of the Asian Art Biennale. Expression of Time, curated by Md. Muniruzzaman, presents an intergenerational exhibition to show a cross-section of the dynamism of young Bangladesh.
The second floor houses 3 exhibitions. Planetary Planning at gallery 4, curated by Devika Singh, Planetary Planning takes its starting point from the 1969 Nehru memorial lecture ‘Planetary Planning’, delivered in New Delhi by architect and designer, Buckminster Fuller. A Beast, A God and a Line is in gallery 3 and it considers Bengal’s position at the core of different geographical networks, reflecting the circulation of people and ideas in different historical times, curated by Cosmin Costinas. The whole of gallery two displayed works from Samdani Art Award 2018. Under the curatorial direction of Simon Castets, emerging Bangladeshi artists such showcased their works of art.
On the third floor, gallery 6 housed Samdani Artist-led Initiatives Forum, highlighting 12 of Bangladesh’s most vibrant artist-led initiatives to curate presentations demonstrating their on-going work and future ambitions.
The Shilpakala field held food stalls and sponsored stalls with sitting arrangements for the guests. Various renowned food joint such as Madchef, North End, Pizza Roma, Hakka Dhaka, Cookups etc. served their delicious foods to satisfy the visitor’s taste buds. The lawn had a water dance display and the stage at the lawn presented musical performances and recitations. The whole premise was decorated with art frames and ample space was reserved for car parking. The summit started at 10.00 am in the morning till 8.00 pm for eight days.
For more information, visit www.dhakaartsummit.org.

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