Nadia and Rajeeb Samdani
Conglomerate interests (Golden Harvest Group and Gulf International Finance Limited); philanthropy (Samdani Art Foundation and Dhaka Art Summit)
Bangladeshi investors Nadia and Rajeeb Samdani are prodigious collectors of work by artists from their region with a vast collection including modern and contemporary Bangladeshi artists as well as others from India and Pakistan. Part of that mission has been to bring international attention to these artists, in particular through Rajeeb being a founding member of (with Nadia later joining) the South Asian Acquisition Committee at the Tate museum network in England.
But the couple have also focused on bringing the international art world to Bangladesh. They are perhaps best known for their Dhaka Art Summit, a biennial convening that brings together curators, artists, and other arts professionals from around the globe. It’s a gathering to support art from the area—“Bangladesh doesn’t have a dedicated contemporary art museum,” Rajeeb has said—and it also plays host to new works and commissions from international artists like Lynda Benglis and Simryn Gill.
In 2014 the Samdanis were nominated in the Young Collector of the Year category for the Forbes India Art Award, in recognition of their impressive collection of artists such as Anish Kapoor, Bharti Kher, Jitish Kallat, Ravinder Reddy, Chitra Ganesh, and Subodh Gupta. Nadia, whose parents were also collectors, has been collecting since a young. At age 22, according to Robb Report, she purchased a painting by Bangladesh’s pioneering avant-garde artist SM Sultan. They continued collecting early 20th-century art, including work from Indian modernists to Picasso and Dalí, but eventually transitioned to buying contemporary art.
“I can’t tell you when exactly I found myself looking at contemporary art, but I know it was a natural reaction to better connecting with what artists are saying today,” Nadia told Robb Report in 2020.
And the Samdanis plan to soon expand their art empire with another major achievement: the opening of the Srihatta–Samdani Art Centre and Sculpture Park, which is currently slated to be inaugurated in 2021 in Sylhet, a city in eastern Bangladesh. Projects by Haroon Mirza, Superflex, and Raqs Media Collective are already on tap for the 100-acre space.
“Like the Dhaka Art Summit, Srihatta was born from a long-time dream to innovate a new destination for South Asia in Bangladesh, one that revolves around art,” Nadia Samdani has said of the project. “Rajeeb and I are now realizing our dream—in the district where our families come from—to build a permanent home for the Samdani Art Foundation’s activities and a dynamic art center international in approach.”