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Samdani Foundation

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The Samdani Art Foundation is registered private trust in Dhaka that aims to increase artistic engagement between Bangladesh and the rest of the world. Founded in 2011 by collector couple Nadia and Rajeeb Samdani, the foundation has enabled Bangladeshi artists to expand their creative horizons and for international artists and art professionals to engage with Bangladesh. Bangladesh was a country founded in 1971 and born from a desire to speak its own language – and the foundation exists to give support to this voice, which anyone can learn unlike a race or a religion.

The Foundation collaborates with the Bangladeshi government through official partnership the Bangladesh Shilpakala Academy, the principal state-sponsored national cultural center of the country. The Samdani Art Foundation has supported international institutions such as the Kunsthalle Basel, the 2nd Kochi Biennale, and the 56th International Art Exhibition of la Biennale di Venezia, however the Foundation is not a grant making body and generally works with curatorial collaborations on an institutional level. The foundation has recently supported curators from the Tate Modern, Centre Pompidou, Kunsthalle Zurich, Guggenheim, Rubin Museum, Asia Art Archive, and many others to travel to the region for their research and to develop exhibitions geared at South Asian audiences. The foundation is led by Diana Campbell Betancourt with an advisory committee comprised of Beatrix Ruf, Massimiliano Gioni, Shahzia Sikander, and Monica Narula.

The Foundation produces the bi-annual Dhaka Art Summit (DAS), which is now in its fourth edition and exists as the world’s largest non-commercial research and exhibition platform for South Asian Art. The Summit facilitates inter-generational and inter-regional dialogues that were not previously possible due to restrictions of movements of people and goods across South Asia (which for DAS purposes includes India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Nepal, Bhutan, the Maldives, Sri Lanka, Afghanistan, and Myanmar). We also provide a platform for individuals with ties to the region which might not be national or ethnic. The foundation produces major bodies of work for the Dhaka Art Summit through deep engagements with artists over several years, and the works later belong to the artists and many have toured internationally such as Shilpa Gupta’s acclaimed project at the 8th Berlin Biennale, Tayeba Begum Lipi’s Love Bed which is now in the collection of the Guggenheim Museum and many others. The Summit is free for all and in 2016 welcomed over 138,000 visitors in just 4 days. For the fourth edition we plan to extend the summit to 9 days.

The Foundation collects art from all over the world, and the collection of 300+ works is available for audiences in Dhaka to view on a daily basis (by appointment). Works from Documenta, the Venice Biennale, Liverpool Biennale have a permanent home in Bangladesh, and the foundation will open a public art center in Sylhet, Bangladesh, in 2018 (phase 1). Works from the collection are also being exhibited internationally on loan to institutions such as the Centre Pompidou, Gwangju Biennale, Kunsthalle Basel, and the Kochi-Muziris Biennale.