A rural tea district in Bangladesh may soon become a major destination for contemporary art fiends. As Gareth Harris reports for The Art Newspaper, a pair of prominent Bangladeshi art collectors has announced plans to build an expansive new museum on a sprawling property in Sylhet, a city in northeastern Bangladesh. The Srihatta-Samdani Art Centre and Sculpture Park strives to be a hub for modern art, with a special focus on the work of Bangladeshi and South Asian artists.
Nadia and Rajeeb Samdani, influential collectors who have been credited with drawing attention to Bangladesh’s contemporary arts scene, are the visionaries behind the project. The couple previously established the Samdani Art Foundation, a private arts trust based in Dhaka, and the Dhaka Art Summit, a biennial exhibition devoted to the art and architecture of South Asia.
The new museum, which will open in phases starting in late 2018, is Bangladesh’s first major institution of contemporary art, Harris writes. The space will act as a permanent home for the Samdani Art Foundation’s expansive collection of South Asian-focused art. It will also spotlight the works of international artists like Ceal Floyer, Lucy Raven and Dominique Gonzalez-Foerster. The museum is funded entirely by the foundation, and admission will be free.
Preliminary plans for the project describe a vast, dreamy landscape. According to a press statement, the institution will encompass a 100-acre sculpture park set against the backdrop of India’s Assam Hills, long stretches of walkways made of Kota stone, 10,000 square feet of artist residency spaces, and a 5,000 square-foot gallery with towering ceilings and an “undulating brick façade.”
The gallery was designed by the Bangladeshi architect Kashef Mahboob Chowdhury, and a number of local artists—among them Zihan Karim and Ayesha Sultana— are already scheduled to inaugurate the new space. Sarah Douglas of Art News reports that the Polish artist Pawel Althamer has completed a piece for the museum’s park: a large sculpture of a reclining woman, which was created with the help of patients at a nearby drug rehabilitation center in Sylhet.
The project is a personal one for the Samdanis. As young art enthusiasts growing up in Bangladesh, they “didn’t have a place to go to where they could immerse themselves in contemporary art” Ann Binlot writes in Forbes. The Srihatta-Samdani Art Centre and Sculpture Park seeks to fill that void by creating a beautiful space that can be enjoyed by art lovers from near and far.