Bliss­ful Times

The first Bangkok Art Bi­en­nale launches this month, bring­ing world-renowned artists, creative in­stal­la­tions and po­tent mes­sages to color the city's tem­ples, streets, gal­leries, parks and be­yond.

Travel + Leisure Southeast Asia - - CONTENTS - BY ELOISE BA­SUKI

The first Bangkok Art Bi­en­nale launches this month, bring­ing worl­drenowned artists to the city's tem­ples, streets, gal­leries and green spa­ces.

WAT PHO, WAT ARUN AND WAT PRAYOON are not just some of the Thai cap­i­tal’s most spir­i­tual sanc­tu­ar­ies. This month, the tem­ples will also trans­form into ground­break­ing gal­leries for the world’s Mod­ern-art elite. So, too, will the old East Asi­atic Com­pany build­ing on the city’s Chao Phraya River; the ren­o­vated Bank of Thai­land Learn­ing Cen­ter; the green refuge of Sukhumvit, Ben­jasiri Park; and an im­pres­sive list of Bangkok’s other iconic land­marks.

Por­tray­ing the theme “Be­yond Bliss,” the Bangkok Art Bi­en­nale (BAB), the first art bi­en­nale in Thai­land sup­ported by the in­ter­na­tional Bi­en­nial Foun­da­tion, will take over the city Oc­to­ber 19 through to Fe­bru­ary 3, 2019. The bi­en­nale, which means “ev­ery two years” in Ital­ian, fol­lows in the foot­steps of the fes­ti­val inau­gu­rated in 1895 in Venice and now rein­car­nated the world over. This year’s Bangkok edi­tion will fea­ture a few very fa­mous faces: Yayoi Kusama brings her renowned pump­kins from Ja­pan; French artist Aurèle Ri­card will ex­hibit his Lost Dog sculp­ture out­side the his­toric Man­darin Ori­en­tal Bangkok; and Scandi duo Elm­green & Dragset, known for their swim­ming pool in­stal­la­tions, will cre­ate some­thing sim­i­lar by the river.

We can ex­pect plenty of lo­cal tal­ent, too—of the 75 in­vited artists from across the world, more than half will be from Thai­land. “We wanted to give Thai artists, es­pe­cially emerg­ing Thai artists, a chance to show along­side these very fa­mous in­ter­na­tional artists,” says Dr. Apinan Poshyananda, the chief ex­ec­u­tive and artis­tic di­rec­tor of the BAB, who has cu­rated con­tem­po­rary art ex­hi­bi­tions from New York to Tokyo. He says 32-year-old Thai artist Pati­pat Chai­witesh is one to watch: “Pati­pat has in­ter­preted the theme to com­ment on pol­lu­tion and the de­struc­tion of na­ture… He is look­ing to the fu­ture of Bangkok, es­pe­cially the Chao Phraya River.”

Poshyananda and his cu­ra­to­rial team, which in­cludes Luck­ana Ku­navichayanont, the for­mer di­rec­tor of the Bangkok Art and Cul­tural Cen­tre (BACC), Adele Tan, the cu­ra­tor at the Na­tional Gallery of Sin­ga­pore, Sansern Milin­da­suta, an as­sis­tant pro­fes­sor at Bangkok Univer­sity, and Pa­trick D. Flo­res, a pro­fes­sor of Art Stud­ies at the Univer­sity of the Philip­pines, hope the fes­ti­val en­cour­ages view­ers to cre­ate a di­a­logue on what “hap­pi­ness” means to them.

“Us­ing the words ‘be­yond bliss’ is in­ten­tion­ally para­dox­i­cal be­cause it is al­most un­reach­able,” Poshyananda says. “We want to ad­dress the idea of chaos and trauma in the world to­day and the artists can use [their work] as a mes­sage; we are go­ing to get 75 dif­fer­ent mes­sages for the view­ers.” bkkart­bi­en­nale. com; from Oc­to­ber 19–Fe­bru­ary 3, 2019; free en­try.

The Chao Phraya River will be home to many ex­hibits.

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