Dhaka Art Summit hopes to shed some light on the bright guns of the Bangladeshi art scene, says Shailaja Tripathi

They say there is a time for everything. And, evidently, Bangladeshi contemporary art is inching towards that ‘time' when it can command attention in the international art scene. And it's a rather interesting time too, for its neighbours India and Pakistan have progressed rapidly in this regard in the last few years. It wasn't as if the scene lacked any verve — in fact, artists engaging with raging social and political atmosphere coupled with the nation's turbulent history kept the atmosphere charged — but it still got eclipsed by more volatile and exciting markets. Shahabuddin and Zainul Abedin do figure in significant auctions but insiders claim there are many more. And the Dhaka Art Summit this week seeks to open their treasure trove containing many more such gems for the world to see. Organised by Nadia and Rajeeb's Samdani Art Foundation in collaboration with Bangladesh National Museum and Bangladesh Shilpkala Academy, the Bangladeshi art world has many more gems to offer.

The four-day affair promises to be a gala event for it happens to be the first ever showcase of Bangladeshi art on such a large scale. And the organisers have rightly kept the focus on Bangladeshi art and artists by not inviting any foreign galleries or artists. Unlike India, which has thousands of galleries, Bangladesh, Nadia, Founder and Director of SAF, reveals has only a handful, say about 30. At the Summit, they have invited 19 artists and over 200 artists to participate. Nadia says the structure of the art market is such in Bangladesh that it needed to keep away foreign players initially. “Here the galleries don't represent any artists, unlike elsewhere, so it's first important to bring everybody together on one platform. Through a wide range of activities — curated exhibitions, studio visits and talks — Nadia says they attempt to showcase the 40 years of Bangladeshi art to the visitors. “There is performance art, video art, sculptures and sessions covering a wide range of topics, like corporate houses, photography, collectors.

Mahbahur Rahman is an artist to watch out for and he is doing a performance piece, whereas Mohammad Wahiduzzaman, another powerful artist from the country, also features in the Summit,” says Nadia. In 2009, Devi Art Foundation had hosted a solo by Mohammad Wahiduzzaman

The Summit will have three exhibitions curated by the Britto Arts Trust, an independent artists' group founded by Mahbahur Rahman which had set up Bangladesh's first national pavilion at the 53rd Venice Art Biennale in 2009. Along with India, Bangladesh too debuted on the Venice Art Biennale. Tayba Begum Lipi, who was commissioned to do the pavilion at the prestigious venue, is one of the most significant artists of the country and at the Summit too Tayba's work will resonate with the viewers. One of the pieces to be showcased at the Summit is an installation and depicts an AK47 whose surface is covered with dried flowers. “Bangladesh Museum is putting together an exhibition on the masters. So we have the established artists, emerging artists and the avant garde artists,” adds Nadia.

SAF will also announce the Samdani Artist Development Award and the Samdani Young Talent Award, to be selected by an international panel of judges, at the first edition of the Dhaka Art Summit. “Since the idea is to create a buzz around the Bangladeshi art world, we wanted to encourage more participation by not charging anything from the participating galleries and artists,” says Nadia, who was one of the first buyers at this year's India Art Summit.

The couple added to their extensive collection, an installation by Pakistani artist Rashid Rana.