Nadia & Rajeeb Samdani

Building an art scene in Bangladesh through the Dhaka Art Summit

There was a local art scene in Bangladesh before the Samdanis, but the couple are the ones that swung a spotlight on it. The third biennial Dhaka Art Summit was held in February and, under the direction of foundation curator Diana Campbell Betancourt, was its usual hybrid of solo shows, commissions, gallery presentations, talks and panel discussions. The summit pulls in international artworld types (Para Site’s Cosmin Costinas, the Pompidou’s Catherine David and Stedelijk Museum director Beatrix Ruf were among the judges of the Samdani Art Award, for example, won by Rasel Chowdhury for his photography series tracing the railway line from Jamalpur to Dhaka) and puts art and discourse from the region under their noses. Privately the Samdanis collect (mainly South Asian art, but with some Western names sprinkled through too), and the pair are busy working on the 2018 opening of the country’s first contemporary art museum, in Sylhet, a city in northeast Bangladesh.