Photographer Rasel Chowdhury Wins Bangladesh's Top Contemporary Art Award

Photographer Rasel Chowdhury Wins Bangladesh’s Top Contemporary Art Award

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Rasel Chowdhury. Photo: Sarker Protick

Documentary photographer Rasel Chowdhury beat out 300 other applicants to win this year’s Samdani Art Award. The winner was announced today at the Dhaka Art Summit, which is curated by Diana Campbell Betancourt. It is the largest showcase of South Asian contemporary art in the world.

Bangladesh’s premier art prize is awarded bi-annually to emerging artists between the ages of 22-40 living and working in the country. Chowdhury, who is a contract photographer for the New York Times and Getty, will enjoy an all-expenses paid three-month residency at the Delfina Foundation in London in order to work on his craft.


Previously, Chowdhury’s images have been displayed at the 2014 Singapore Photo Festival, in the 2014 exhibition “Eyes on Bangladesh in New York” in Queens, and at the Getty Images Gallery in London.
Samdani Art Award exhibition (installation view) Photo: Dhaka Art Summit
Overcoming the grueling selection process, the artist came out on top after three selection rounds. The director of the Delfina Foundation Aaron Cezar compiled a preliminary longlist of 20 artists, which was then whittled down to 13 finalists by Daniel Baumann, director of Kunsthalle Zurich.

In a statement, Cezar emphasized that the award reflects “the development of Bangladeshi contemporary art as it absorbs new ideas and practices into its rich historic contours.”

Samdani Art Award exhibition (installation view) Photo: Dhaka Art Summit
This years finalists also included Shumon Ahmed, Gazi Nafis Ahmed, Palash Bhattacharjee, Samsul Alam Helal, Zihan Karim, Ashit Mitra, Salma Abedin Prithi, Rupam Roy, Atish Saha, Shimul Saha, Rafiqul Shuvo and Farzana Ahmed Urmi. The artists’ works are included in the finalists’ exhibition curated by Daniel Bauman.
Samdani Art Award exhibition (installation view) Photo: Dhaka Art Summit
The award and its eponymous foundation was founded in 2011 by the Bangladeshi industrialist, collector and arts philanthropist Rajeeb Samdani and his wife Nadia in order to shine a light on Bangladesh’s art scene.

Editor’s note: Earlier Pathshala Alumnus Khaled Hasan had won the 1st Samdani Art Award in 2012. Interestingly, the Asian Art Biennale conducted by the government of Bangladesh prohibits the entry of photography and video.

Author: Shahidul Alam

Time Magazine Person of the Year 2018. A photographer, writer, curator and activist, Shahidul Alam obtained a PhD in chemistry before switching to photography. His seminal work “The Struggle for Democracy” contributed to the removal of General Ershad. Former president of the Bangladesh Photographic Society, Alam set up the Drik agency, Chobi Mela festival and Pathshala, South Asian Media Institute, considered one of the finest schools of photography in the world. Shown in MOMA New York, Centre Georges Pompidou, Royal Albert Hall and Tate Modern, Alam has been guest curator of Whitechapel Gallery, Winterthur Gallery and Musee de Quai Branly. His awards include Mother Jones, Shilpakala Award and Lifetime Achievement Award at the Dali International Festival of Photography. Speaker at Harvard, Stanford, UCLA, Oxford and Cambridge universities, TEDx, POPTech and National Geographic, Alam chaired the international jury of the prestigious World Press Photo contest. Honorary Fellow of Royal Photographic Society, Alam is visiting professor of Sunderland University in UK and advisory board member of National Geographic Society. John Morris, the former picture editor of Life Magazine describes his book “My journey as a witness”, (listed in “Best Photo Books of 2011” by American Photo), as “The most important book ever written by a photographer.” His recent book “The Tide Will Turn” published by Steidl in 2020, is listed in New York Time’s ‘Best Art Books of 2020’. Alam received the “International Press Freedom Award” for 2020 from ‘The Committee to Protect Journalists’.

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