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.
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.