Rajeeb Samdani standing in front of "Dislocation IV" by Rashid Rana

Creating an Awareness of Contemporary Art in Bangladesh

Interview with the art collectors Nadia and Rajeeb Samdani

On the boat to the glamorous Hotel Cipriani on a warm summer evening, I'm looking forward to meeting Nadia and Rajeeb Samdani, two contemporary art collectors from Bangladesh who have organized a dinner for international guests on the occasion of the 55th edition of the Venice Biennale.

Nadia and Rajeeb Samdani are not only passionate collectors of international contemporary art, they are also active promoters of young art from Bangladesh. In 2011 they founded the Samdani Art Foundation, where they show their collection and organize events and exhibitions. Every two years they promote the Dhaka Art Summit, the most important art event in the region.

How did you come up with the idea of opening your collection to the public?
As there is no contemporary art museum in Bangladesh, and since our foundation’s collection is now focused on contemporary art from Bangladesh and all over the world, and since we are also involved in creating an awareness of contemporary art in Bangladesh, we wanted to share our collection with everyone. And we also don’t believe in acquiring any art and keeping it in a private home where no one has access to it, because art is something that is meant to be appreciated by all and not meant for any individual only.

Do you enjoy visiting collections of other private collectors?
Private collections are always interesting to visit because every individual collector has their own taste and appreciation of art. That’s why in most cases all private collections are unique and different. Another thing we enjoy about private collections is that the entire journey of the collector can be seen through their collection. You can also see many artworks which have never been published or seen anywhere else before.

This is what the BMW Art Guide by Independent Collectors aims to do...
The BMW Art Guide by Independent Collectors is a unique and one of a kind single guide for the art lovers. The amazing thing about the guide is that it publishes private collections from across the globe, which is rare to come across anywhere else. Whether it’s a collection in India or Latin America, you will find it all here.

What does collecting art in Bangladesh mean? Are there many collectors of contemporary art?
Collecting art is something very personal, it doesn’t matter which part of the world you live in. The current focus of our collection is only contemporary but from all over the world. Bangladeshi collectors mainly tend to go for Masters and Moderns but it is slowly changing now and that is one of the focal points of our foundation: we highlight emerging contemporary artists and try to create an awareness of the vibrant contemporary art scene in Bangladesh.

What are the main characters of Bangladesh contemporary art? Is it possible to identify common themes among the artists, or a common background?
Contemporary art in Bangladesh is mostly inspired by the artists’ personal experiences or point of views. Inspirations or themes differ with each artist, some are political, some deal with gender issues or environmental issues.

And what about galleries and auction houses in Bangladesh?
In Bangladesh, we don’t have any auction houses, there are about 20 galleries in Bangladesh and most of them are based in the capital city, Dhaka.

What captured your attention at this Venice Biennial?
So far the pavilions we have visited, the UAE pavilion, the Bahamas Pavilion and the German Pavilion caught our attention. We really loved the video of Mohammad Kazem titled Walking on Water at the UAE pavilion. And we were touched by the Dayanita Singh video titled Mona and Myselfand we think the US Pavilion was also interesting.

Which artists are you following with interest right now, and why?
From Bangladesh definitely, Yasmin Jahan Nupur, who is currently exhibiting at the Bangladesh pavilion; her installation is titled Crossing the border: Being Together. She is the youngest artist in the Bangladesh pavilion. We love her work and she is one of the artists who puts a lot of thought into each of her work. Each of her work is influenced by her personal experiences. Also Tayeba Begum Lipi, Mahbubur Rahman, Naeem Mohaiemen from Bangladesh and British Bangladeshi artist Rana Begum are definitely on our list. Another artist we would definitely follow is Prabhavathi Meppayil from India who is exhibiting at the Venice main pavilion.

What are your latest acquisitions?
Our latest acquisitions are an installation Crossing the Border: Being Together by Yasmin Jahan Nupur, which is being exhibited at the Bangladesh Pavilion right now, a set of chairs by Ai Weiwei from his Fairytale series, a bench titled Looted Art, a video NO by Tunisian artist Nadia Kaabi Linke and a bench by British Bangladeshi artist Rana Begum. This is the first time Rana has designed a furniture.

Interview: Silvia Anna Barrilà

The freelance journalist Silvia Anna Barrilà is specialized in the art market. Since 2008 she has been writing for the Italian financial newspaper Il Sole 24 Ore and for international media covering art, including Damn, Auction Central News, Artinvestor, and Monopol.

The collection of Nadia and Rajeeb Samdani is included in the second edition of the BMW Art Guide by Independent Collectors which will be available in September 2013.

More about the Venice Biennale here!

Rajeeb Samdani standing in front of "Dislocation IV" by Rashid Rana
Nadia and Rajeeb Samdani at the Bangladesh Pavilion in Venice

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