Interview with Zeenat Chowdhury (Publications Director), and Katerina Don (Assistant Manager of Bengal Art Lounge) at Bengal Foundation, Dhaka, Bangladesh. The interview was held during the Artissima Art Fair in Turin, Nov. 2012.
A conversation with Zeenat Chowdhury and Katerina Don about the Bengal Foundation
Conversation description below
“The Bengal Art Foundation was set up 23 years ago with the sole objective of promoting the arts and culture of Bangladesh. It was set up by Abul Khair Litu who has a personal regard and love of the arts. It was his objective, which has become the Foundation’s mission, to portray Bangladesh in a positive way, the thriving art that exists there. Amidst all the negatives and all the adversities that surround us, he wanted to portray the positivity of our country through art and culture. Mr Khair feels that art is one way to connect through cultures and that art has such a positive influence on relationships and interactions.”
“The foundation itself has been involved in art for 25/30 years and we have managed to collect about 6,000 works. We have two galleries one that was opened in 2000 and one that was opened in 2011. But are also involved in the promotion of Bangladesh music, we have more than 150 CDs, albums, that promote our traditional music, like songs of Rabindranath Tagore. The songs of Nazrul Islam and other poets as well. Recently we have also opened another company called Bengal Music Company that has to do with the more contemporary music. Thus, parallel to the traditional music we also have the contemporary music. And this is done because there are a lot of young artists as well as a lot of young singers, who otherwise do not really have a platform to showcase their talent, to bring out their talent.”
“Right now the art scene in Bangladesh is quite good, people are getting to know about art. This was also another objective of the foundation itself, to mold peoples interest, to sort of cultivate their taste for art and bring it to a certain style and standard. People are very interested in art, there are lots of galleries opening up, people are buying art, they’re collecting art, and there are a lot of young artists as well.”
“The Bengal Foundation has two galleries. The Bengal Gallery of Fine Arts has been running for over ten years. This was the first professional and dedicated platform for visual arts in Bangladesh. Then we opened another gallery, the Bengal Art Lounge, last year in December with a show of Monirul Islam, a Bangladeshi artist who has been living in Madrid for the last 40 years. Bengal Art Lounge’s goal is to have more curated shows, more younger artists showcased.”
“It is an interesting time for Bangladesh right now, because there is definitely a search even in the western arts for a new language. There is always this need to have something that is discovered.
I do not think that Bangladesh will be the next big discovery, we do not want that, we do not want to create a bubble around that that will burst. It is something that is gradually growing. In many cases Bangladesh is a country of grass roots successes, with small things growing into big things, you see it in the social business you see it in any field.”