The Dhaka Art Summit (DAS) is an international, non-commercial research and exhibition platform for art and architecture related to South Asia. With a core focus on Bangladesh, DAS re-examines how we think about these forms of art in both a regional and an international context. Founded in 2012 by the Samdani Art Foundation—who continue to produce the festival—in collaboration with the Ministry of Cultural Affairs, People’s Republic of Bangladesh, DAS is hosted every two years at the Bangladesh Shilpakala Academy.
Rejecting the traditional biennale format to create a more generative space for art and exchange, DAS’s interdisciplinary programme concentrates its endeavours towards the advancement and promotion of South Asia’s contemporary and historic creative communities. Led by Chief Curator Diana Campbell Betancourt, local and international guest curators from leading institutions are commissioned to conduct research across South Asia, unlocking new areas of inquiry to build collaborative group exhibitions and experimental writing initiatives, as well as film and talks programmes.
For each edition of DAS, Bangladeshi artists shortlisted for the Samdani Art Award exhibit their work under the guidance of an international guest curator. Organised in partnership with the Delfina Foundation, the Award has created an internationally recognised platform for the work of young Bangladeshi artists. Many shortlisted artists have later exhibited in international exhibitions and institutions, including the 11th Gwangju Biennale, South Korea (2016); curated by_vienna, Austria (2016); 11th Shanghai Biennale, China (2016); 4a Centre for Contemporary Asian Art, Australia (2017); and Kunsthalle Zürich, Switzerland (2017).
Expanding this support further, DAS 2018 will introduce two new platforms. The Samdani Artist-Led Initiatives Forum will recognise the importance of Bangladesh’s independently established and self-funded art initiatives by providing space and curatorial support for these groups to showcase their work during DAS. The Samdani Architecture Award invites architecture students across Bangladesh to submit proposals for the design of DAS 2018’s Education Pavilion. The winning individual or group will construct a pavilion to house DAS’s rich educational programming—including lectures, events, workshops, and dialogues—which is currently being developed by an international curriculum committee.
All of DAS’s exhibitions are supported by an ambitious commissions programme, which invites internationally acclaimed contemporary artists related to South Asia to create new work. Past commissions include Lynda Benglis, Simryn Gill, Po Po and Pablo Bartholomew, along with and some of the most exciting emerging names from the region: Ayesha Sultana, Waqas Khan, Munem Wasif, and many more.
Celebrated for its critically acclaimed exhibitions by local and international arts professionals, many of DAS’s past projects have toured internationally to venues and festivals, including the Berlin Biennale; the Gwangju Biennale; the Singapore Biennale; the Queens Museum, New York; Kunsthalle Basel, Switzerland; the Office for Contemporary Art Norway; and the San Jose Museum of Art, USA; to name just a few.
In an effort to encourage international arts professionals to travel to Bangladesh to develop exhibitions that include the work of South Asian artists, a new DAS Research Fellows programme has been launched to support artistic research in Bangladesh between each edition of DAS. This initiative has supported the work of curators from Tate Modern, London; the Centre Pompidou, Paris; the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York; the Museum of Modern Art, New York; and the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York; to name just a few.
Free to the public and ticketless, DAS 2016 drew over 138,000 local and 800 international visitors across its four-day duration. Extending its duration to nine days, the fourth edition of the summit, DAS 2018, will be held from February 2–10, 2018. For the first time in its history, DAS will seek to create new connections between South, South East Asia, and the Indian Ocean belt, exhibiting artists from Thailand, Malaysia, Madagascar, the Philippines, and several other countries.
SAI is a research partner of The Dhaka Art Summit.