Dhaka Art Summit
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TALKS PROGRAMME

 
 
Image of Novera Ahmed, with her work Give Us This Day. Courtesy of Salima Hashmi.

Image of Novera Ahmed, with her work Give Us This Day. Courtesy of Salima Hashmi.

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Cross - Border Art Histories - Bangladesh and Pakistan
Friday, February 5th 2016, 3:30pm - 4:30pm, 3rd floor auditorium

Cross-border exhibitions and symposia focusing on the relationship between India and Pakistan have proliferated in the Subcontinent, and also around the world over the past five years, fuelled by dedicated commercial galleries hosting these exhibitions in India, and private patrons hoping to ease political tensions through soft-power channels. Bangladesh is notably absent in this “cross-border movement,” often used as subject matter for research, rather than being included through critical engagement, the country’s artists, or local art scene.

Most people know the relationship of Bangladesh and Pakistan as one of animosity given the bloody history of the country’s path to independence in 1971, breaking away from being the East Pakistan that was created in 1947. In his book Modernism and the Art of Muslim South Asia, Ifitkhar Dadi elaborates that “according to [Akbar] Naqvi, a common West Pakistani perception maintained that ‘the Bengali artists were born with artistic taste, while we in the West [Pakistan] had to acquire it through hard work.’(1) When it comes to the arts, “it is worth noting that despite political tensions there was lively exchange in the art world between the East and West Pakistan, with numerous exhibitions and artists traveling back and forth frequently.”(2)

Zainul Abedin (b. 1914-1976) is considered the founding father of Bangladeshi modern art, establishing the Government Institute of Arts in 1949 and the Sonargaon Folk Art Museum and Zainul Museum in Mymensingh in 1975, as well as widely exhibiting internationally as a critically acclaimed artist in his own right. However, Abedin was also a bureaucrat for the Pakistani government, and while he renounced his ties during the War for Independence, the fact that he set up the Department of Fine Arts in Peshawar, Pakistan (which still has an annual prize bearing the artist’s name) and travelled as part of Pakistani delegations internationally cannot be ignored, and he was very close with the artistic community in what was West Pakistan.

Moving forward to the 21st century, Pakistan continues to play an important role in the education of some of Bangladesh’s leading contemporary artists. Ayesha Sultana (b. 1985) and Shimul Saha (b. 1983) both studied at Lahore’s Beaconhouse University, Bangladeshi art patron Farooq Sohban has supported cross-cultural exchange across the two countries, and Associate Professor of the History of Art and Visual Studies at Cornell Univeristy, Ifitkhar Dadi examined this exchange in his book Modernism and the Art of Muslim South Asia.  During this panel, they were all in conversation with Founding Dean of Beaconhouse University and leading Pakistani Art Historian Salima Hashmi, who spoke about the porous role of education and exchange across the two countries.

References:
1. Dadi, Iftikhar, Modernism and the Art of Muslim South Asia, 1st ed., Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina, 2010. Print.
2. Dadi, Iftikhar, Modernism and the Art of Muslim South Asia, 1st ed., Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina, 2010. pp 98-99. Print.

 
 
 
Image from first CRACK art camp, Polash with his girlfriend. Courtesy of Shawon Akand

Image from first CRACK art camp, Polash with his girlfriend. Courtesy of Shawon Akand

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Art Initiatives off the Centre
Friday, February 5th 2016, 5pm - 6pm, 3rd floor auditorium


While many people with an interest in South Asian art may be familiar with well-marketed arts programming in major cities like Dhaka, New Delhi, Lahore, Kochi, Colombo, or even Yangon, there are many dynamic initiatives happening on the periphery of the art world that address captive and active audiences in more remote contexts, also further removed from censorship (both commercially or politically driven). Many artists who participated in the Dhaka Art Summit 2016 – from Simryn Gill who spends a large amout of time in Port Dickinson, Malaysia, to Lynda Benglis in Santa Fe, New Mexico, Ahmedabad, India, and even Kastellorizo, Greece, find their creative process fuelled through their existence off the centre. What role does the journey play in the creative process, how do these unique locations incubate new thinking and artistic production, and what possibilities do these contexts provide in developing art initiatives? This panel brought together artists and curators working in Jaffna, Kustia, Chittagong, Odisha, Guwahati, Thuye’dan, out in the streets of Karachi, and Dharamshala, and was moderated by TBA-21's Chief Curator Daniela Zyman, who spoke of the impact that these individuals are creating within the region and the various paths that were taken to make these initiatives sustainable, in despite-the-odds contexts, and the importance of working outside of more traditional network models.

 
 
 
Documents from the collection of Bagyi Aung Soe's family's collection.  Yin Ker's presentation slide

Documents from the collection of Bagyi Aung Soe's family's collection.  Yin Ker's presentation slide

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Protecting the Past and Building the Future: Legacy and Estate Building in South Asia
Saturday, February 6th 2016, 11:30am - 12:30pm, VIP Lounge

While resources that help understand and preserve South Asia’s rich legacy of modern art remain scarce; recent years have seen a surge of artist estates, art archives, and private museums. This panel focused on the role Artist Estates play in shaping the field of art and enhancing its wider circulation. Moderated by Sabih Ahmed, Senior Researcher at the Asia Art Archive, the panel brought together artists Vivan Sundaram, Pablo Bartholomew, and Mainul Abedin, art historians Yin Ker and Kerstin Meincke, and art collector Amrita Jhaveri, all of whom have been invested in preserving the legacies of important artists from/working in South Asia by way of building estates and by consolidating artist archives. What are the ways in which these estates and collections contribute to the field; what are the challenges of building accessible and multivalent legacies of art for the future; and, what roles family members, collectors, scholars and institutions play in preserving orphaned estates, are some of the questions that were discussed while touching upon figures including Amrita Sher-Gil, Umrao Singh, Richard Bartholomew, Bagyi Aung Soe, Lionel Wendt, Mrinalini Mukherjee, Germaine Krull, Raghubir Singh, Zahoor ul Akhlaq and Anwar Jalal Shemza.

Keeping in mind the increasing amount of interest and curiosity around how artist estates are built today, this panel took place in the DAS VIP Lounge where other artists’ families were also present to contribute to the discussions.

 
 
 
Jyoti Bhatt, Diaries, 1975 - 1981, from The Asia Art Archive's Baroda Archives.  Presentation slide courtesy of Hammad Nasar. 

Jyoti Bhatt, Diaries, 1975 - 1981, from The Asia Art Archive's Baroda Archives.  Presentation slide courtesy of Hammad Nasar. 

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Collecting South Asian Art in a Non-Western Institutional Context
Saturday, February 6th 2016, 2:30pm - 4pm, 3rd floor auditorium

The 2014 Dhaka Art Summit invited panelists from Tate Modern, the British Museum, the Guggenheim, and the Centre Pompidou to speak about the proposed plans and resulting responsibilities as these Western institutions have been increasing their collections of Art from South Asia. Following this panel, the 2016 Dhaka Art Summit invited panelists from both private and public institutions to discuss the challenges and the possibilities of collecting art and archives from South Asia in a non-Western context. Suhanya Raffell, Deputy Director and Director of Collections at the Art Gallery of New South Wales in Sydney, Australia, will spoke about her current role as well as the instrumental work she did to set up the Asia Pacific Triennial, one of the most important events for the South Asia region which also builds the collection of the Queensland Art Gallery in Brisbane. Roobina Karode, Director and Chief Curator at the Kiran Nadar Museum of Art (KNMA) in New Delhi, discussed her work developing India’s largest private museum, which is currently housed in a shopping mall and free to the public. Hammad Nasar, Head of Research and Programmes at the Asia Art Archive, Hong Kong, spoke about AAA’s work collecting archives in the region and making them accessible digitally as well as in Hong Kong. Rina Igarashi from the Fukuoka Asian Art Museum in Japan discussed her over two decades long experience conducting research and collecting art from Bangladesh and her work developing the Fukuoka Asian Art Triennale: an exhibition that helps build the museum’s extensive collection of South Asian art. Many of the most celebrated works at the 2014 Dhaka Art Summit were commissioned by the Sharjah Art Foundation, and Sheikha Hoor al Qasimi discussed the history of the collection and the commissioning process for the Sharjah Biennial as well as the Sharjah Art Foundation collections. The conversation was moderated by Beatrix Ruf, the Director of the Stedelijk Museum in Amsterdam, who is responsible for the development of some of the leading collections in the world.

 
 
Map of Sri Lanka, Brian Brace Taylor, taken from Geoffrey Bawa, pp. 183 (Concept Media Pte. Ltd, 1986).  Used by Sharmini Pereira, as a presentation slide.

Map of Sri Lanka, Brian Brace Taylor, taken from Geoffrey Bawa, pp. 183 (Concept Media Pte. Ltd, 1986).  Used by Sharmini Pereira, as a presentation slide.

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Navigating the Uneven Terrain of Regional Group Shows: A Field Guide
Saturday, February 6th 2016, 4:30pm - 6pm, 3rd floor auditorium

This panel discussion included moderated dialogs between paired speakers, and culminate with a group discussion drawing connections across these discussions, moderated by John Zarobell, (Assistant Professor and Undergraduate Director of International Studies at the University of San Francisco). The conversation opened with a discussion between Kate Fowle (Chief Curator for the Garage Museum of Contemporary Art in Moscow and Director-at-Large at Independent Curators International, New York) and Catherine David (Deputy Director of the Centre Pompidou and Curator of Documenta X), who historicised the challenges around curating regional group exhibitions abroad. Hans Ulrich Obrist (Co-Director of Exhibitions and Programmes and Director of International Projects at Serpentine Galleries, London and Curator of Indian Highway) and Omar Kholeif (Manilow Senior Curator at Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago) who spoke about their experiences and research in developing large-scale regional exhibitions of Indian (Obrist) and Arab (Kholeif) art, and how the role of the regional exhibition, or its expanded form, informs their curatorial practice. This was followed by a discussion by Beth Citron (Curator, Modern and Contemporary Art at the Rubin Museum) and Stuart Comer Chief Curator of the Department of Media and Performance Art), who spoke about western institutions (including their own) and new initiatives and remits within them that expand the curatorial framework for 'the regional' in terms of research and resources. Artists Dayanita Singh and Amanullah Mojadidi addressed how they navigate growing interest in their art based on gender, nationality, or medium, and how to draw curators back into the work. Finally, art historians and curators, Anshuman Das Gupta (Shantiniketan) and Shanay Jhaveri (Metropolitan Museum of Art) and Sharmini Pereira (Co-Founder and Director of the Sri Lanka Archive of Contemporary Art, Architecture & Design), spoke about their experience drawing substantive ideas out of a region and their recent work with transnational and trans-generational shows, that are regional in their approach but nevertheless radiate beyond it – and how they challenge traditional exhibition formats within their individual practices.

 
 
 
Louis Kahn, National Parliament Building, Dhaka. Image credit: Randhir Singh

Louis Kahn, National Parliament Building, Dhaka. Image credit: Randhir Singh

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Architecture in Bangladesh
Sunday, February 7th 2016, 4:30pm - 5:30pm, 3rd floor auditorium

How to present the challenges that contemporary architecture faces in Bangladesh? The 'liquid landscape' of its deltas could be a starting point. For the last fifteen years, as Bangladesh has been taking part in the free market economy, a new generation of architects tries to redefine the terms of contemporaneity in the country. As the urbanism of large cities demands new housing strategies, the concepts of sustainable and responsible development require the creation of new modes of response. This panel discussion related to Aurélien Lemonier’s architecture exhibition at the Dhaka Art Summit, and drew together Bangladeshi architects and critics Kashef Chowdhury, Kazi Khaled Ashraaf, and Nurur Rahman Khan along with Farrokh Derakhshani, Director of the Aga Khan Award for Architecture, to highlight strategies of responsible development from social, economic and environmental lenses.