Bangkok joins the biennial bandwagon

Thai capital to launch its first ever biennial as government and corporates lend support to contemporary art festival

by Lisa Movius  |  23 June 2017
Bangkok joins the biennial bandwagon
Bangkok (Image: Wikipedia Commons)
Bangkok will debut a contemporary art biennial next year. Bangkok Art Biennale was set up by Apinan Poshyananda, Thailand’s former culture minister, and the drinks magnate Thapana Sirivadhanabhakdi. The first edition is set to run from November 2018 to February 2019.

Poshyananda, who is also an artist and curator, is the event's artistic director and chief executive. He says that previous attempts to establish a biennial in Bangkok failed “due to lack of commitment from government and periods of political unrest”. With corporate support and the backing of the Bangkok Metropolitan Administration, the Ministry of Tourism, and the Thai Tourism Authority, he says that “we are ready to launch this event in the heart of the City of Angels. Now is the right time to draw attention to it as visitors will get the opportunity to enjoy layers of heritage and contemporaneity.” 

With biennials proliferating throughout Asia, Bangkok’s version will offer site-specific interactions with the Thai capital’s famously energetic street life, Poshyananda says. “Bangkok Art Biennale 2018 will offer a new dimension where heritage sites, temples, contemporary spaces and public parks serve as backdrop for creative imagination. More than 70 international and local artists will converge to create art works on the theme of Beyond Bliss.”

The theme is deliberately broad and philosophical, he adds. “In the age of chaos and confusion, we are all in search of our own bliss. Visitors will experience happiness, intuition and contemplation. Conversely, some will experience bliss as unrealised and impossible to reach.”

Thailand already has a biennial, set up in the resort town of Pattaya in 2014 and incorporating public spaces. The country’s thriving art scene is largely based in Bangkok and Chiang Mai, with many renowned artists and dozens of reputable non-profit and commercial spaces but few high-profile events. Poshyananda and Sirivadhanabhakdi hope to change this. 

The biennial’s advisory board includes Asian art luminaries such as Alexandra Munroe, a senior Guggenheim curator, Eugene Tan, the director of Singapore National Art Gallery, Sunjung Kim, the director of Art Sonje Center, and Nanjo Fumio, the director of Mori Art Museum. 

“Contemporary Thai art has long been recognised on the international art circuit,” Poshyananda says. “Despite a lack of government support, Thai artists are widely recognised and respected. The Thai art community will be [galvanised] through the dynamism of the Biennale.” 

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