The Dhaka Art Summit with 249 artists is being seen as a new beginning of cultural bonds between Bangladesh, India and the rest of the world. And cutting edge and contemporary art are becoming its talking heads, says a leading Bangladeshi art honcho.
"South Asian countries were gradually becoming stronger, collectively making an effort to promote the region as an attractive destination for art lovers," Nadia Samdani, the founder and director of the Dhaka Art Summit, told IANS in an e-mail interview.
"One of the biggest stirs in the South Asian region is the India Art Fair, which has attracted the world towards South Asia. Colombo has also started Colombo Art Biennale which is another step from South Asia. And we from Bangladesh have organised the first summit," said Samdani referring to the April 12-15 event.
One of the most influential names in the arts promotion and collectors' fraternity in Bangladesh, she described the trends in art in her country.
"Bangladesh was practising a wide variety of art, but young and emerging artists have moved away from conventional art to cutting edge and avant garde forms like video art, sound art installations, digital art, photography and performance art."
"There is a good market for art in Bangladesh and the great thing about Bangladesh is that other than the individual collectors, the corporate houses are also now building up their own collection, including the Bangladesh government. The foreign ministry is also now a regular buyer of Bangladeshi art," Samdani said.
Her aim at the summit was to showcase the Bangladeshi cutting edge work and bring talented artists - like Tayeba Begum Lipi, Mahbubur Rahman (of the Britto Arts Trust, an experimental art forum), Mohammad Wahiduzzaman, Ayesha Sultana, Khaled Hasan, Musrat Reazi and Promotesh Das Pulak - to the subcontinent and the world.
"This is for the first time in Bangladesh that all the major art galleries and 249 artists came together under one roof and displayed their art works. And it has created a positive awareness," Samdani said.
Belonging to a leading industrial family in Bangladesh, Samdani is also the trustee and CEO of the non-profit Samdani Art Foundation, which hosted the summit.
"This is the first time that an art event in Bangladesh drew so many art collectors from abroad. At the same time, the international media has covered the event," Samdani said.
The Dhaka Art Summit carries forward a trend set by the the India Art Summit in the Indian capital in January 2012 which drew more than 1,000 artists, 91 galleries, 85,000 people and delegations from 20 countries in four days.
By comparison, Dhaka was smaller but significant.
Citing numbers, a spokesperson for the Samdani Art Foundation said the "Dhaka Art Summit drew 40,000 visitors, including several from India, and sold 30 art works in direct artist-to-buyer transactions".
"However, unlike most of the art fairs, the Dhaka Art Summit was designed a bit differently keeping the Bangladeshi artists in mind. Since the concept of galleries has not developed in Bangladesh yet, we wanted to give our artists an opportunity where they will be able to participate in the fair directly," Samdani said.
The first edition of the summit therefore "concentrated on Bangladeshi art and artists", she said.
A collector herself, Nadia along with her husband owns at least 2,000 art works - including those of the Tagore clan and early Bengal masters. But she is evangelistic when it comes to new art.
"Art is a strong part of our culture. We traditionally see political influence that is repeatedly seen in works by Bangladeshi artists. But we also see that the younger generation are influenced by the global crisis," Samdani said.
The younger generation of artists were appreciated by local and foreign visitors at the summit who felt some of them had to be nurtured to make a mark in international art, Samdani said.
The foundation has awarded two emerging artists for their work with the help of an international jury comprising three eminent Indian artists and scholars.