The fourth edition of the Dhaka Art Summit (DAS) will be held from February 2 to 10, 2018, at its traditional venue, the Bangladesh Shilpakala Academy. Produced by the Samdani Art Foundation and its network, in collaboration with the Ministry of Cultural Affairs, People’s Republic of Bangladesh, and partnerships with the Bangladesh Shilpakala Academy, as well as the National Museum and National Art Gallery of Bangladesh, DAS is unique in its ability to be a true hub for art and architecture related to South Asia. Expanding on the success of past editions, DAS 2018 will extend its duration of exhibitions and programming to nine days, and will, for the first time, widen its focus to include connections to Southeast Asia. This will be the third Summit led by Samdani Art Foundation Artistic Director, Diana Campbell Betancourt, who returns as the Chief Curator of DAS 2018.
Over the last five years, the Dhaka Art Summit (DAS) has innovated an entirely new modality for bringing together art and arts professionals from across South Asia, including Bangladesh (65% of the artists exhibited are Bangladeshi), Afghanistan, Bhutan, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Pakistan, Maldives, Myanmar, and India. Given the breadth and depth of the exhibitions and auxiliary programming nurtured within its doors, DAS meets at a cross point between intervening kunsthalle and pioneering think tank, structuring an art event that exists in terms unparalleled within the scope of South Asia. By connecting South Asian practitioners and artworks to both the Bangladeshi general public and the wider world, free from the reliance on commercial channels for mobility, DAS has fostered important new inquiries into Modern and Contemporary art in the region.
DAS 2018 will be the first edition to look at Bangladesh in relation to both South and Southeast Asia, visibly shifting the focus of the programming away from an Indo-centric stance. To this end, DAS 2018 contains an unprecedented focus on lesser-known art histories of Sri Lanka, an in-depth examination of exhibition histories in South Asia, and—for the first time in DAS's history—a contact to Iran, a country that South Asia was deeply culturally connected to until its deliberate severance by colonial rule.
Widening the scope of DAS to a nine-day event has allowed for a repositioning of DAS, heralding many important new additions to its exhibitions and events programme . For the first time, DAS 2018 will feature both an Opening Celebration Weekend (February 2–4) and a closing Scholars’ Weekend (February 8–10), with several tiers of new programming slated for both.
The opening weekend will include the announcement of the Samdani Art Award winner, presented by incoming Director of Tate, Dr. Maria Balshaw. Throughout the week, a new film and event performance program will feature outdoor nightly film screenings, and a highly anticipated staging of the eighth edition of the Volcano Extravaganza—held for the first time offsite from Stromboli. The inclusion of performance and the historical imperative of the performing arts festival both hold particular prominence at DAS 2018, highlighted by a contemporary exploration of Iran’s radical Festival of Art, Shiraz-Persepolis (1967-77).
The closing weekend will feature two concentrated symposiums, the first devoted to the work and legacy of Colombo-born art historian Ananda Kentish Coomaraswamy, the second, titled “Displays of Internationalism: Asia Interfacing With The World Through Exhibitions, 1947-1989”, will analyse the history of Asian art exhibitions. A closing panel, held in collaboration with The Exhibitionist, will bring together critics from across South Asia to consider and chronicle the last five years of biennales and other recurring exhibitions within the region.
Augmenting these events will be a new Artist-Led Initiatives Forum within the Summit, featuring curated presentations from eleven artist-led Bangladeshi initiatives, as well as contributions from visiting artist-led initiatives from Nepal, Northeast India, and other neighbours to Bangladesh. In between the closing and opening weekends, a section of Bengali language programming will be given new and unprecedented focus in both the Talks Programme and the Critical Writing Ensembles, enhancing the existing English language structures celebrated in past editions.
DAS 2018’s new Education Pavilion will transform DAS into a free art school for the creative community of Bangladesh, complementing the exhibitions programs and re-imagining the traditional tool boxes used when considering art-making and artistic practices. Through an ongoing collaboration with Pro Helvetia - Swiss Arts Council, DAS 2018 will also launch a bilingual art mediation program, enabling engagement between Bangladeshi artists and cultural producers to bring their exhibition and artworks to life, complementing the traditional forms of wall texts and catalogs.