Blog : Bangkok Art Biennale 2018

3 Well-designed Cafés in the Charoen Krung/Khlong San Riverside Zone for Relaxation After Viewing Fine Art at BAB 2018

3 Well-designed Cafés in the Charoen Krung/Khlong San Riverside Zone for Relaxation After Viewing Fine Art at BAB 2018

Making plans to see some great art in the Chao Phraya riverside zone on the final weekend of Bangkok Art Biennale 2018? Today we have an added suggestion for your trip: include some “café-hopping!” Here are 3 spots in the Charoen Krung/Khlong San area where you can stop, rest, and sip some tea or grab some coffee.

/// THAILAND ///
Story: Taliw /// Photography: Sroisuwan.T and Wara Suttiwan

Heijii Bangkok

Heijii Bangkok

Our first stop is near several BAB 2018 riverside art locations: it’s only an 800-meter walk from O.P. Place, 950 meters from the Mandarin Oriental Hotel, and a single kilometer from the East Asiatic Building to Heijii Bangkok, a café that has the classic flavor inside and out of an old Chinese community that keeps up with the times. The menu is to die for, with homemade drinks, pastries, and snacks freshly prepared each day. For an iced drink, we recommend Hong Kong Papaya Milk or OP Place Ice Cold Brew (Black), both with the distinctive flavor of house blend coffee beans picked seasonally. Hot coffee comes from an Aeropress coffee machine.

Heijii Bangkok Heijii Bangkok

  • Address: Charoen Krung Soi 43 (where you’ll see the Poste 43 Residence at the mouth of the alley)
    Hours: (soft opening) 09:00 a.m. – 6:00 p.m., Closed Monday

About White Café & Bistro

About White Café & Bistro

Another café you should know about is on Charoen Krung Road near Assumption College Bang Rak. From the first moment, friendly baristas welcome you into this space dominated by white, clean tones that give a sense of openness,. About White Café & Bistro is a great neighborhood spot to sit, chill, and rest up. Board games are provided to relax with here, too.

About White Café & Bistro

Recommended treats are Iced Chocolate: rich, mellow, and iced, or the incredibly refreshing Iced Mixed Berry: drink it along with a slice or two of their great cheesecake.

About White Café & Bistro

  • Address: Charoen Krung Road (Near Assumption College Bang Rak)
    Hours: Monday – Friday 8.00 a.m. – 8:00 p.m. and Saturday – Sunday 9:00 a.m. – 8:00 p.m.

Vacation Bangkok

Vacation Bangkok

This café in the Charoen Rak/Khlong San area lives up to its name, Vacation Bangkok, and the motto, “Make every day a vacation.” A short 800-meter walk from the Peninsula Hotel, it has a simple, comfortable interior décor: sitting here feels like relaxing at a friend’s house. It feels spacious, with a plush sofa, a corner with a long table, and an outdoor area to hang out in. For refreshment there are coffee, fruit drinks, and a “casual dining” menu you can fill up on without ever getting too full. Every dish is homemade, with select ingredients and a unique recipe. There is Berry Sister, a mellow blend of fruits and yogurt, and Banana Mango Orange, with those three fruits frozen and blended with no added ice, syrup, or plain water. If you get hungry, try the Kimchi Rice Ball and/or Caesar Salad, delicious!

Vacation BangkokVacation Bangkok

  • Address: Charoen Rak Road
    Hours: 11:00 a.m. – 10:00 p.m., closed Mondays

Examples of art on exhibit at the Bangkok Art Biennale 2018 festival of international contemporary art in Charoen Krung/Khlong San and nearby areas

Lost Dog by Aurèle Richard
Venue: The Mandarin Oriental Hotel

For the Bangkok Art Biennale 2018, renowned French artist Aurèle Richard debuts “Lost Dog”, a giant sculpted bull terrier in a shiny golden coat. He uses the canine figure as a means to communicate the deterioration of human values that’s having devastating effects on the environment. The call to attention is manifested in “Lost Dog CO2”, an artwork made of plants – a key factor that’s central to reducing air pollution. The artist invites children to spray paint messages encouraging people to protect the environment. Nearby, another sculpture, “Lost Dog Ma Long”, is on hand to welcome visitors at the hotel entrance. Lost Dog Ma Long recently exhibited at the 2018 Venice Biennale.

Zero by Elmgreen and Dragset
Venue:  The East Asiatic Company Building

Working together, Micheal Elmgreen of Denmark and Ingar Dragset of Norway present an installation called “Zero” on the waterfront terrace of the old East Asiatic Company Building. Resembling an upright swimming pool circumference, the 8-meter-tall artwork is silhouetted against the panoramic view of the Chao Phraya River in the backdrop. The installation explores the relationship between different cultures, in this particular case an imagined rendezvous between the peoples of the Chao Phraya River and the Nordic Seas.

Diluvium by Lee Bul
Venue: East Asiatic Company Building

What seems like a frightening scene is, in fact, an architectural installation by South Korean artist Lee Bul. Aptly called “Diluvium”, the sculptural composition gets its inspiration from the earth surface that’s in a constant state of change. The sophisticated thought experiment consists of multiple metal frames wrapped in reflective plastic sheets. They are welded together randomly like the crushed remains of a place hit by force majeure. Resembling a chance occurrence, the exhibit is located inside the old East Asiatic Company building that’s well known for its beautiful Renaissance Revival architecture.

Nothing is Led Comparable by Sara Faviau
Venue: East Asiatic Company Building

French artist Sara Faviau is well known for working with wood, especially her unique idea of mixing old and contemporary skills. For the Bangkok Art Biennale 2018, she presents “Nothing is Led Comparable”, an installation crafted of wood native to Thailand. The timber includes teakwood, Anan or Krankrao (Fagraea frangrans), and sandalwood. The artistic composition is on view at the old East Asiatic Company Building well known for its beautiful Renaissance Revival architecture.

Becoming White by Eisa Jocson
Venue: O.P. Place

Contemporary choreographer and dancer Eisa Jocson is a visual artist with a background in ballet.

For the Bangkok Art Biennale 2018, the versatile artist debuts “Becoming White”, a live performance that she creates to call attention to the exploitation of migrant laborers from the Philippines at Hong Kong Disneyland. The performance is given in conjunction with other shows such as video, art exhibits, and installations.

You may also like

30 Works of Art You Can’t Miss at BAB 2018
30 Works of Art You Can’t Miss at BAB 2018

BAB Box, Creative Space for Art Lovers

BAB Box, Creative Space for Art Lovers

Passing by a futuristic real estate development on Wireless Road named “One Bangkok,” you’ll notice three large art works on the grass lawn, and not far away a boxlike two-storey rectangular building tagged with the name “BAB Box.” We’re seriously suggesting you check it out.

/// THAILAND ///
Story and video: Taliw /// Photography: Wara Suttiwan

A lot of folks know that BAB Box is one of the international contemporary art festival “Bangkok Art Biennale 2018” sites, and indeed it is. But you might not know that BAB Box is more than simply an exhibition space.

“…We’d like everyone to have the time, space, and interest to come experience this that we call ‘joyous, energetic art,’ or ‘beyond bliss.’ Easy enough to hear us say it, but maybe harder to actually do it.”

—Professor Dr. Apinan Poshyananda, Chief Executive and Artistic Director of Bangkok Art Biennale

BAB Box is the command center for Bangkok Art Biennale 2018. It’s a creative space for art lovers to stop by and swoon. It’s a place to meet, a tourist destination, and a location for amazing world-class art. Perhaps most important, BAB Box tells us Bangkok will continue to host of international contemporary festivals in the future. This last is true for at least two more events.

We were lucky enough to speak with Prof. Dr. Apinan Poshyananda, Chief Executive and Artistic Director of Bangkok Art Biennale 2018, who told us, “Bangkok Art Biennale will be here at least three times: this one (2018-19), next year (2020), and again in 2022. Since this will involve continuity and long-term planning, I thought we should have a designated Bangkok Art Biennale location, and that’s how BAB Box came to be.”

After the first Bangkok Art Biennale showing pulls up stakes in February, art activities will continue: films, performances, workshops. This is to be a creative space, providing elements of knowledge to Bangkok communities. On looking around it became apparent that this was a perfect place to hold activities for artists and art lovers.

BAB BOX at One Bangkok
Name: The Adventure of Sinxay, from the Hooptam Laos – Thai Group
BAB BOX at One Bangkok
Name: L’enfer, c’est les autres (Hell is the others), by Natee Utarit

“So . . . what were the selection criteria for the art works shown at BAB, and BAB Box in particular?” Dr. Apinan replied, “Our theme is ‘Joyous Energy, the Power of Art,’ or more simply ‘Beyond Bliss.’ Here is just one of the 20 exhibition sites, but this one is special in that we created it specifically for this showing.

“The idea was to draw out famous Thai and foreign artists to present here. We set it up to international standards of temperature and humidity control, security, and numbers of visitors. We had long discussions about the art, and were looking especially for content dealing with history and diverse cultures coming into contact and interacting with each other.”

BAB BOX at One Bangkok
Animal Kingdom; Artist CANAN
BAB BOX at One Bangkok
Standing Structures for Human Use; Artist: Marina Abramović
BAB BOX at One Bangkok
Inverso Mundus; Artist: AES+F

BAB Box is a two-storey building full of open space. The first story contains the work Animal Kingdom by the Turkish artist CANAN. Next to it is Happy Happy Project: Love Me Pig I, by Choi Jeong Hwa of Korea.

The second floor showings are from a diverse selection of artists, beginning with The Adventure of Sinxay, a painting by Hooptam Laos – Thai. Walking deeper in we find wooden columns and crystals, interactive installation art entitled Standing Structures for Human Use, by famous artist Marina Abramović, followed by a canvas oil painting from Thai artist Natee Utarit entitled Allegory of the End and Resistance, and a video piece projected on three large screens by the Russian collective AES+F called Inverso Mundus.

BAB BOX at One Bangkok
Happy Happy Project: Breathing Flower, Artist: Choi Jeong Hwa
Happy Happy Project: Fruit Tree, Artist: Choi Jeong Hwa
BAB BOX at One Bangkok
Your Dog, Artist: Yoshitomo Nara

BAB Box isn’t merely a gallery limited to showing art works, but also a creative space. We can enjoy hanging out at the BAB Café, to sit, rest, sip our favorite drinks, hand in hand with the charm of the surrounding art.

“We think of it as a space to relax and contemplate the art we’ve seen, Thai or foreign, and talk about it. It’s a coffee house! Maybe after exercising in the park you’ll stop by of an the evening and drink something. There’s even a roof deck, perfect for shooting the breeze,” said Dr. Apinan.

BAB Café is an open space design accessible from above, with tables, chairs, and sofas, set out to accommodate customers in a simple atmosphere whose charm comes from choice of materials, dark colors, and a design pleasantly compatible with the overall BAB Box ambiance. And there’s a nice, diverse food menu you’ll want to check out.

BAB Café

The food on the menu is enticing, starting with a Ham & Cheese Panini (185 baht), warm toasted bread stuffed with ham and cheese, delicious fresh vegetables on the side: simple, but pleasingly mellow. Or there’s a Smoked Salmon Croissant (215 baht): salmon is stuffed into a freshly baked croissant and served with French fries. Don’t ignore the Caesar Salad (155 baht), made up of fresh, fresh vegetables with a side of crispy fried bacon.

Drinks? BAB Café has a nice variety, starting with basic coffee, but on to innovative tastes such as Mintchee (135 baht), a blended drink mixing lychee with mint leaves for an incredibly refreshing and cooling taste. You might want to sip some Strawberry Soda (85 baht), colorful and sweet (with a hidden sour) from strawberry syrup and a splash of soda, topped with a fresh strawberry. And there’s lemon or lime tea (125 baht), known by all, favorite of many.

BAB BOX
• Address: One Bangkok, Wireless Road (MRT Lumphini)
• Time: 10:00 a.m. – 9:00 p.m., closed Sunday
• FB: www.facebook.com/bkkartbiennale/

Bangkok Art Biennale is held between October 19, 2018 and February 3, 2019 at 20 locations in Bangkok.

Marina Abramovic, the Icon of Performance Art

Marina Abramovic, the Icon of Performance Art

Marina Abramovic, a New York-based pioneer of performance art, became the hottest news early 2018 when she announced what she intended to do for her upcoming exhibition at the Royal Academy of Art in London in 2020. No, it will have nothing to do with living in an art gallery for days, or sitting in a chair for hundreds of hours, or looking strangers in the eye like in 2010.

/// THAILAND ///
Story: Singhanart Nakpongphun /// Photographs: (100 Picasa / 100 Letters: 1965-1979) Singhanart Nakpongphun /// Photo credit: Photos courtesy of the artist and the Marina Abramović Institute (MAI)

 

It will be entirely something new, a performance art show that will see Marina Abramovic being charged with electricity, a lot of electricity. The project is a collaboration with the Spanish art fabrication company Factum Arte to make art specifically for her exhibition in London. It will involve as much as one million volts of static. For that, Abramovic will be the first woman artist to occupy the entire main gallery of the 250-year-old Royal Academy of Arts.

People who are unfamiliar with the artworks of Abramovic may softly ask if she is crazy. Of course, not. To help you understand her innovative ideas and what she stands for, our baanlaesuan.com team presents a glimpse into her life and work. Some of her groundbreaking masterpieces are exhibited along with those of 75 other artists as part of the Bangkok Art Biennale 2018. The country’s inaugural art festival is going on now and runs until February 3, 2019.

Marina Abramovic was born in 1946 in Belgrade, the capital of Serbia back in the day when it was part of a federation of republics known as Yugoslavia. After World War II ended in 1945, vast swaths of Europe were reduced to ruins and life under communist revolutionary Josip Broz, a.k.a. Marshal Tito, was tough for its citizens. But Abramovic’s family was safe and sound, albeit a far cry from being a happy one. She could still recall that her parents had a terrible marriage during a 2013 interview. Her parents became national heroes and were given positions in the post-war Yugoslav government. Her father was a high-ranking official in the security apparatus that protected the Yugoslav dictator, while her mother was director and curator of an art museum in Belgrade.

Despite her mother’s strict military style control of the household and an unhappy childhood, Abramovic developed an early interest in art and began painting as a child. She graduated from the Academy of Fine Arts in Belgrade in 1970 and went on to complete post-graduate studies in Zagreb (now capital of Croatia) in 1972. At age 27, she returned to Serbia and taught at the Academy of Fine Arts and began making art for her first solo performances.

Marina Abramovic, 100 Picasa / 100 Letters: 1965-1979, a compilation of letters she received while living in Belgrade. The book is on display at the Art Books Fair 2018 at Bangkok CityCity Gallery.

Abramovic became known for staging a work of performance art, called “Rhythm O”, at Studio Morra in Naples, western Italy in 1974. The exhibition involved Marina Abramovic standing still for six hours while the audiences were allowed to do anything they wished to her using one of 72 objects she had put on the table. They included, among other things, bread, roses, honey, nails, a scalpel, scissors, even a pistol with a single bullet in it.

Dubbed one of her most challenging events, Rhythm O was a show that tested the limits of the relationship between the performer and audience members. It began gently. But later on as the show turned ugly, one person picked up a gun and aimed at her head, and another person jumped in and took it away. At the end of the day, her body sustained a fair amount of injuries from being attacked and treated badly. No doubt it was an experience that pushed her body to the limits.

Here is a video clip in which the artist talked about Rhythm 0. (Warning: The images and content may be disturbing to individuals under age 18.) Check it out.

Unlike most communist countries in Eastern Europe, post-war Yugoslavia had a liberal travel policy permitting foreigners to travel freely through the country and its citizens to travel worldwide. On the breakup of Yugoslavia in 1990, Serbia remained in federation with Montenegro until 2006 when they split and became two separate republics. Marina Abramovic left Belgrade forever in 1979 first for Amsterdam, and then New York.

“Relation in Time” 1979 by Marina Abramovic and Ulay, a durational show in which their hair was tied together for 16 hours. Photo credit: © Marina Abramovic and Ulay, courtesy Marina

Two years after Rhythm 0, Marina Abramovic staged another performance at a show called “Relation in Time”, at Studio G7 in Bologna, Italy. A part of the live exhibition involved Abramovic and then-partner Ulay sitting together back-to-back with their ponytail hair tied together in a 16-hour marathon. They sat silhouetted against a bare wall witnessed by the audience until the final hour. Like Abramovic, Ulay also developed an interest in pushing the human body to the limits.

“Rest Energy”, a 1980 performance art exhibition by Marina Abramovic and Ulay recorded in Amsterdam. Photo courtesy of the Marina Abramović Archives

In 1980, Marina Abramovic and Ulay came up with another performance art show called “Rest Energy”. The show involved severe tests of endurance that pushed the human body to the limits, while exploring human bonds and human behavior at the same time. The 4-minute live exhibition placed Abramovic at the receiving end of an arrow while Ulay held the trigger. The crux of the matter was about the difference between life and death and mutual trust.

Albeit short-lived, collaborations between the two artist partners produced some of the most intriguing works of art that the world has ever known. But everything good finally came to an end. In 1988, “The Lovers: The Great Wall Walk” became their last joint project, in which they went on a long arduous journey from different locations and came to meet at one point on the Great Wall of China where they said goodbye.

Marina Abramovic on a long journey to the Great Wall of China, where she ended the relationship with then-partner Ulay. The work is titled, “The Lovers: the Great Wall Walk” 1988 (Photo credit: Marina Abramovic and Ulay, Courtesy Marina Abramovic and Sean Kelly Gallery New York)

Marina Abramovic became a sensation once again in 2010 with her groundbreaking durational work titled “The Artist Is Present” hosted by the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) in New York City. The artist gave live performances from March to May that year, during which she sat in silence at the table throughout the run of the show for a total of 736 hours. All day Abramovic would not respond to anything that the people did to distract her. Yet, museum visitors were willing to stand in line for hours awaiting their turn to sit solo across from her and look her in the eye. Once they grabbed a seat, the audience members could sit there as long as they wanted.

The Artist is Present (Photo credit: Marina Abramovic´: Photo by Marco Anelli. © 2010 Marco Anelli)

The Bangkok Art Biennale, which is happening now and runs until February 3, 2019, offers the opportunity of experiencing the amazing works of Marina Abramovic right here in Thailand. Her exhibits are on show at two separate events. First, the show titled “Standing Structures” provides a glimpse into the world of silent communication. It’s taking place at One Bangkok, a mega development project located on Rama 4 Road. “Method”, the other show that involved an experiment about being present in time and space, was held from October 8 to November 12, 2018, and presented by a team from the Marina Abramovic Institute (MAI).

Audience members participate in “Standing Structures”, an experimental exhibition at One Bangkok on Rama 4 Road. It’s part of the Bangkok Art Biennale that runs until February 3, 2019
“Method” an experimental exhibition hosted by the Marina Abramovic Institute (MAI) took place from October 8 to Novemer 12, 2018 as part of the Bangkok Art Biennale.
Genius Artist Jean-Michel Basquiat, Extraordinary Talent Mixed with Agony

Genius Artist Jean-Michel Basquiat, Extraordinary Talent Mixed with Agony

 

Jean-Michel Basquiat (1960-1988) is one of 75 artists whose works are exhibited at the Bangkok Art Biennale that runs until February 3, 2019. The American artist of Haitian and Puerto Rican descent went down in history as one of the most brilliant artists on the American art scene.

/// THAILAND ///
Story and video: Singhanart Nakpongphun /// Photography: Rithirong Chanthongsuk, Soopakorn Srisakul, /// Photo credit:  Jean-Michel Basquiat pictured in his studio with ‘Flexible’ /// Image Courtesy of © Lizzie Himmel, 1986. Artwork © The Estate of Jean-Michel Basquiat / 2018. Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York / ADAGP, Paris

Born and raised in Brooklyn, Basquiat had a precocious talent for the arts as a child. His mother gradually established a love of art in her son by enrolling him in a junior course at a neighborhood art museum. The unthinkable happened. The boy soon grew and matured to take the art world by storm. One of his paintings sold in a 2017 auction for a record 110.5 million USD, about 3.5 billion Baht. Our baanlaesuan.com team investigates.

Life was never easy or cozy for the hugely successful painter. At age 7, he was hit by a car while playing in the street. He broke his arm and suffered several internal injuries. To keep him occupied while in recovery, his mother brought him a book on anatomy by Henry Gray with illustrations by Henry Vandyke Carter. Who would have thought it turned out to have such a great influence on his art and for the rest of his life? Later that same year his parents separated, and he and his two sisters were brought up by his father in Brooklyn for a while. They relocated to Puerto Rico and moved back to Brooklyn two years later.

An illustration from the Gray’s Anatomy book published 1918 | Image courtesy of Henry Vandyke Carter – Henry Gray (1918) Anatomy of the Human Body: Gray’s Anatomy, Plate 219

At age 13, his mother was committed to a psychiatric hospital. He ran away from home at 15 only to be arrested sleeping in a city park and brought back to the family. He quit conventional schooling at age 17 to attend an alternative school for children with artistic talents. Even then he dropped out again. This time his father banished him from the household. He lived with a friend in Brooklyn and supported himself by selling T-shirts and handcrafted post cards. There were times when he survived on cheese that the bought for 15 cents a packet.

Albeit far from being legendary at the time, Basquiat rose from humble beginnings to achieve fame after he met Al Diaz in the late 1970’s. Together they formed a graffiti duo known as SAMO, whose epigrams could be seen on walls and the surfaces of public places all over Manhattan’s Lower East Side at the time that punk rock, hip-hop and street art cultures were taking shape. They appropriated drawing, painting and poetry, and mixed text and image with social commentary. Basquiat and Diaz put an end to the SAMO project in 1979.

Basquiat’s paintings gained recognition for supporting class struggle while resisting the Establishment, colonialism and systems of racism in America and beyond. His works appeared in several magazines in 1979 when he caught the attention of the television industry. Soon Basquiat was invited to appear on “TV Party” with Glenn O’Brien, and the rest was history. As his prestige and celebrity grew, he became a star and it appeared he enjoyed spending lavishly on haute couture clothing, among them Armani suits, and expensive accessories.

 

Irony of a Negro Policeman, 1981 | Image courtesy of Private Collection © Estate of Jean-Michel Basquiat. Licensed by Artestar, New York

 

The 1980’s was an eventful period for Basquiat. He had the opportunity of meeting Andy Warhol, a leading pop artist whose works spanned a variety of media. It was said that Warhol was so impressed after having seen some of Basquiat’s works that he wanted to collaborate with him one day. And they did. Basquiat also became a songwriter. He produced a rap single in 1983 and began his touring exhibitions across the US and Europe. At age 21, he was dubbed the youngest artist to have exhibited at the Documenta contemporary art show hosted once every five years by the city of Kassel, Germany.

Untitled, 1982 | Image courtesy of Acquavella Galleries © Estate of Jean-Michel Basquiat. Licensed by Artestar, New York

Basquiat reached the pinnacle of his career in 1985, dubbed the hugely successful artist on the American art scene. He appeared on the cover of The New York Time Magazine under the headline “New Art, New Money: The Marketing of an American Artist”. On the cusp of his fame, Basquiat dated Madonna, queen of pop, but when the short-lived relationship ended, it appeared the breakup was extremely unpleasant. He made the singer-songwriter return the artworks he had given her and destroyed them all. At age 27, Basquiat died of a heroin overdose in his studio. 29 years later at a 2017 Sotheby’s auction, one of his untitled paintings depicting a skull sold for 110.5 million USD, roughly 3.5 billion Baht, setting a new record high of any American artist.

“I don’t think about art when I’m working. I try to think about life.” – Jean Michel Basquiat

 

Jean-Michel Basquiat on the cover of New York Times Magazine, 1985 | Photo courtesy vincefinearts.com

Without a doubt, Brooklyn-born Basquiat was one of the most influential postmodern artists in the world and one of the highest selling American artists until now. Even after his untimely death, his paintings and everything he stood for – rigid dichotomies between rich and poor, black and white, and integration and segregation – lived on. His signature style – words that featured heavily in his drawings and paintings – was appropriated in many collaborations with leading fashion houses as well as clothing and accessory industries, among them Comme des Garcons, Uniglo, and Reebok. Here are some shoes with the name Basquiat embroidered on them. Designed by hip-hop artist Swizz Beatz (Kasseem Dean), Reebok’s Pump Omni Light shoes feature “Basquiat” and a crown symbol embroidered on them. The crown symbolizes majestic powers in traditional African belief systems.

Reebok shoes with Jean-Michel Basquiat embroidered on the side wall
Reebok’s BB4600 HI model features Basquiat and a crown symbol embroidered on the tongue.

An epitaph that says, “A Lot of Bowery Bums Used to Be Executives,” appears on the back tab. (Bowery refers to a street and a district in Lower Manhattan.) The left side says, “Ignorant Easter Suit,” adapted from one of his graffiti spray painted for the “Downtown 81” TV documentary directed by Edo Bertoglio and Glenn O’Brien, whom Basquiat highly admired.

 

A pair of Reebok shoes inspired by Basquiat’s Untitled (1981), a series of 14 drawings

At a Sotheby’s auction in May 2017, one of Basquiat’s Untitled (1982) paintings depicting a skull sold for 110.5 million USD, about 3.5 billion Baht. The successful bidder was Yusaku Maezawa, a Japanese billionaire e-commerce entrepreneur and art collector.

 

A Tweet by Yusaku Maezawa announces that he has bought the painting. The Japanese billionaire entrepreneur calls it “a love at first sight” and hopes to host an exhibition so other people can see it, too.

A product of collaboration between Jean-Michel Basquiat, Andy Warhol, and Italian Francesco Clemente, known as “Amorosi”, is on show at the Bangkok Art Biennale, which runs until next February 3. The mixed media painting, which includes oil sticks, acrylic, and silkscreens on a canvas that’s almost two meters long, is on the Second Floor of BAB BOX @ One Bangkok.

The show is open from 10.00 to 21.00 hours every day except on Tuesday. The venue is easily accessible via the MRT. Get off at Lumpini Station and take Exit 3. It’s a rare opportunity to see the work of such highly celebrated artists. Whilst there, drop into BAB Café for refreshing beverages and a meal or two. Be there.

 

Lee Bul, Strong Artist Identity with Visions of the Future

Lee Bul, Strong Artist Identity with Visions of the Future

Born in 1964, Lee Bul is one of Asia’s most acclaimed artists renowned for her eye-catching contemporary sculptures and art installations. Some of her enthralling futuristic works are on view at the East Asiatic Building as part of the Bangkok Art Biennale that’s going on now and will run until next February 3.

/// THAILAND ///
Story and video: Sara’ /// Photographs: www.leebul.com, www.lehmannmaupin.com, www.amuraworld.com, www.bkkartbiennale.com

Blessed with a strong artist identity, the 54-year-old Korean is passionate about using mixed media to communicate messages to her active audiences. A 1987 product of the Hongik University Department of Sculpture, Bul achieved fame for questioning a system of society in which men held the power and women were largely excluded from it. For more than two decades, she developed artistic interests in geological change and the evolution of the human body that took place over millennia. Her energy and enthusiasm for the arts span almost all the conventional and modern disciplines, ranging from mechanical sculpture to performance art to site specific installations and fashion design.

Lee Bul

Lee Bul came to prominence for her though-provoking works that drew a comparison between two sharply contrasting ideas and the polarization of society. They ranged from individualism as opposed to group mentality, to light and darkness imagery that was used to contrast good and bad, to nature versus machines and facts as opposed to fantasy. She became concerned in social structure and environmental conditions, and grew her knowledge by visiting the locality before getting down to work. She searched for a utopia through her large-scale works of art that made reference to science fictions and technological innovations.

One of the clearest reflections of Lee Bul’s visions was “Willing to Be Vulnerable”, a colossal sculpture resembling a Hindenburg airship that she debuted at the 2016 Sydney Biennale. The futuristic metalized balloon was operated by machinery and required so much space that it had to be displayed in a warehouse.

Resembling a Zeppelin that was popular in the 1930’s, “Willing to Be Vulnerable” is on view at the 2016 Sydney Biennale.

The Seoul-born artist won popular acclaim once again when she participated in the 2013 Miss Dior Exhibition at Paris’ Grand Palais. Since then she has become a familiar face in fashion design collaborations. At the time she was among the ten famous artists, poets, painters and photographers who were invited to re-envision the iconic Lady Dior handbag. It gave her the opportunity of teaming up with the atelier of Christian Dior to reimage the bag originally designed in 1995. Her take on the elegant example of haute couture was a limited-edition handbag featuring a broken mirror effect that became her design signature. The bag was covered in pieces of Plexiglas material put together in a way that resembled a shattered mirror. Together, they reflected her interest in utopias, concepts of beauty and the paradox of human nature.

Dior x Lee Bul, a product of collaboration between the Korean contemporary artist and the atelier of Christian Dior in Paris. It was her take on the reinterpretation of the iconic Lady Dior handbag the debuted in 1995.

Lee Bul has exhibited at art galleries and museums worldwide, among them the Art Sonje Center and the Samsung Museum of Art in Seoul, the New Museum of Contemporary Art in New York, and the National Gallery of Victoria in Melbourne, Australia. Her major exhibition “Mon grand recit: Weep into Stones” 2005, was hosted by London’s Hayward Gallery on its 50th anniversary in 2018. The show was a big success, lighting up the gallery inside and out transforming it into a dream-like landscape filled with what looked like traces of authoritarian devastation from her memory of 1970’s Korea and the effects of modernization on the environment. Her clear and direct visions of change were manifested in colossal architectural installations that have become her distinctive character.

Lee Bul’s “Titan”, 2013 and an “Untitled” sculpture (W3), 2010 on show at Hayward Gallery, London mid-2018

Lee Bul’s “Titan”, 2013 and an “Untitled” sculpture (W3), 2010 on show at Hayward Gallery, London mid-2018
“Crashing”, one of Lee Bul’s installations on display at Hayward Gallery London mid-2018
A collection of obtrusively decorated raw fish titled “Majestic Splendor” (1991-2018) on view at Hayward Gallery, London mid 2018
A young museum-goer enjoys a good time at “Via Negativa II” 2014, one of Lee Bul’s installations at Hayward Gallery, London
Lee Bul’s Cyborg W1,1998, a sculptural installation made of cast silicone, polyurethane filling, and paint pigments

One of Lee Bul’s masterpieces, a monochromatic architectural installation titled “Diluvium”, is on display at the East Asiatic Building as part of the Bangkok Art Biennale. The show runs until next February 3, 2019. The name has a Latin root meaning floods and over time has come to refer to a barren landscape supposed to have been caused by glacial drift. The eye-catching installation is made of silver vinyl sheets randomly connected to a crushed framework of metal beams depicting a trail of destruction. It reflects the artist’s interest in geological change and her vision of cataclysm in the natural world. All things considered, it’s a show that turns the entire exhibition space into a monster. It’s in town now. So, what are you waiting for!

Rubbing Elbows with Celebrity Artists at BAB 2018

Rubbing Elbows with Celebrity Artists at BAB 2018

Like reading works by well-known authors, meeting celebrity guests and hanging out with them can be an enchanting experience. The unthinkable happens. We have the opportunity of an interview with the famous Scandinavian duo whose work, “Zero” 2018, has come to symbolize cordial relations between old Siam and far-away lands in the Nordic Seas. Life is more fun when shared with friends. So, we bring you this pictorial.

/// THAILAND ///
Story and video: Singhanart Nakpongphun /// Photographs: Methee Samantong, Singhanart Nakpongphun 

Michael Elmgreen and his collaborator Ingar Dragset were recently in town to partake in the 20th edition of BAB Talk. Their work, a towering installation crafted of stainless steel, debuted at an exclusive party held in their honor in front of the historic East Asiatic Building. Our Living ASEAN team had great conversations with them and came away very impressed.

Silhouetted against the western skies, “Zero” 2018 resembles the circumference of a swimming pool set vertically by the water’s edge. It stands 8.2 meters tall in front of the Renaissance Revival building that’s among 20 locations participating in the art festival. The first edition of the Bangkok Art Biennale, known as “Beyond Bliss”, began last October 19 and runs until February 3, 2109.

Silhouetted against the western skies, “Zero” 2018 is an architectural installation by the Scandinavian duo Elmgreen and Dragset.
Silhouetted against the western skies, “Zero” 2018 is an architectural installation by the Scandinavian duo Elmgreen and Dragset.
Sporting a “Zero” T-shirt with Elmgreen and Dragset autographs on it, Prof. Dr. Apinan Poshyananda, CEO and artistic director of the Bangkok Art Biennale 2018, gives an opening speech on the riverside platform aglow under spotlights.
Sporting a “Zero” T-shirt with Elmgreen and Dragset autographs on it, Prof. Dr. Apinan Poshyananda, CEO and artistic director of the Bangkok Art Biennale 2018, gives an opening speech on the riverside platform aglow under spotlights.
On the steps of the exhibition platform, Michael Elmgreen (left) and Ingar Dragset take turns sharing the inspiration and experience that culminates in “Zero” at the 20th BAB Talk.
On the steps of the exhibition platform, Michael Elmgreen (left) and Ingar Dragset take turns sharing the inspiration and experience that culminates in “Zero” at the 20th BAB Talk.
Emceed by Thiwaporn Thesthis (left), the artist duo explains the idea behind “Prada Marfa”, their permanent installation located in the Texas countryside.

Elmgreen and Dragset are renowned for sharing a strong passion for minimalism in visual arts, architecture and sculptural installations. Over the past several years, their works have been exhibited at major art scenes worldwide, including the art biennales in Venice, Berlin, and Gwangju. Their 2005 site-specific land art project, known as “Prada Marfa”, was permanently positioned near a small town in Texas. It was accomplished in collaboration with local organizations and had nothing to do with the Prada fashion brand, except for its permission to use the name.

Art is a journey. The Scandinavian duo said that they ventured out into the art world of without a basic knowledge in drawing and painting. Initially, they made art by cutting pictures, paper and fabric from various different materials and sticking them together to create a combination of things, kind of like a collage. Their works, mainly sculptures, continued to thrive on simplicity in both content, color and form.

Elmgreen and Dragset started working jointly in the mid-1990’s. Their commitment to minimalism is manifested in artworks that seek to remove anything deemed unnecessary while conveying thought or feeling through conceptual design. The artist duo achieved fame for their stunning sculptural works that later became known as their “Top Three”. Their masterpieces include:

  1. Prada Marfa (2005)

“Prada Marfa” (2005) is a site-specific land art project permanently positioned in a desert landscape of Texas. The work that accents the playful use of the Italian fashion brand name reflects social behaviors in an era of free-market capitalism during the past century. I Photo courtesy of the Lyda Hill Texas Collection of Photographs in the Carol M. Highsmith’s America Project, Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division.

  1. Powerless Structures (2011)

Powerless Structures Fig. 101 debuted at Trafalgar Square, London in 2011. The public square commemorates the Battle of Trafalgar during which the British fleet defied the odds and emerged victorious in 1805. But Elmgreen and Dragset had a different idea. No disrespect intended. Only this time they wanted a more forward-looking artwork, something that called attention to the fact that the children are our future. Their strong message is conveyed via the sculpture of a boy riding on the back of a rocking horse toy. I Photo courtesy to Garry Knight

  1. Van Gogh Ear (2016)

Van Gogh Ear (2016) is a sculpture depicting a contemporary free-form swimming pool. Standing 9 meters tall, it was erected in an upright position at the center of Manhattan’s Rockefeller Plaza in the heart of New York CBD. The artist duo got their inspiration after having seen swimming pools lying unused at the homes of many well-to-do families in the Big Apple. It pointed out to the fact that wealthy homeowners were suffering in the midst of plenty. It was a stinging satire on life in New York, where people were up to their ears in work and had no time for rest and recreation. As a reminder, the artist duo put a symbolic swimming pool right in the middle of the Central Business District. I Photo courtesy of the artists and the K11 Art Foundation, Galerie Perrotin, Galleria Massimo De Carlo, and Victoria Miro Gallery I Photo: Jason Wyche, Courtesy Public Art Fund, N.Y.

Many artists, local and foreign, participated in the 20th edition of BAB Talk, a conversation with big names in the art world. The meeting took place recently at the historic East Asiatic Building on the east bank of the Chao Phraya River. For our artist friends, it was the opportunity of meeting and rubbing elbows with celebrity guests, and a good time was had by all. Participants included artists, from left, Phaptawan Suwangood, Dao Wasikasiri, Khata Saengkhae, Jitsing Somboon, and Patipat Chaiwithet.

Danish artist Michael Elmgreen and his Norwegian collaborator Ingar Dragset decided to work together when they met in Berlin in 1995. Since then, many creative works of art have earned them a reputation for addressing social and cultural concerns, among them a satirical installation titled “Van Gogh Ear”. The sculpture depicting an empty swimming pool debuted in New York in 2016.

Prior to that, they were highly acclaimed for “Prada Marfa” 2005, a sculptural installation permanently positioned near a small desert town in Texas. The minimalist style artwork was accomplished in collaboration with local cultural organizations. It had nothing to do with the Italian fashion brand Prada, except for a permission to use the name and logo by the founder, Miuccia Prada, who was interested in contemporary art. Prada Marfa has won warm approval as an artwork that has wit and expresses rich and subtle meanings. At the crux of the matter, it raised an interesting question about consumer behaviors in a free-market economy and social change that took place over the past century.

Despite a few problems, Prada Marfa has stood the test of time. Thanks to strong support from local and outside organizations, the sculpture stuck in the middle of a Texas desert has transformed into a tourist attraction providing a venue for musical entertainment and outdoor market selling goods and souvenirs. Commercial activities now take place on site, a development Elmgreen himself never expected.

As for “Zero”, the Scandinavian duo said they could still recall their first visit to Thailand at the invitation of Prof. Dr. Apinan Poshyananda a few years back. They found that, unlike public parks, most swimming pools that existed were inaccessible to the general public. In a way, it became an inspiration for them to create “Zero” as a means to call attention to a lack of facilities for public benefits. Hence, a new masterpiece was born. Its focal point was the swimming pool circumference set vertically to represent the value zero. The arithmetic symbol also signifies a new beginning as envisaged by the artist duo. It’s their hope that one day Bangkok will have enough swimming pools available to its citizens.

Zero also refers to an artist group that adheres to the minimalist school of thought founded in the 1960’s in Dusseldorf, northwestern Germany. The art movement at the time was led by Heinz Mack and Otto Piene, who were passionate about the value zero. To them, it symbolized the peace and quiet that was everyone’s highest goal. Its subtle meanings have had significant influence on the works of Elmgreen and Dragset until today. Hence, their entry into the Bangkok Art Biennale 2018 was aptly named “Zero” to symbolize an ideal world where every moment can bring a fresh start and new beginnings.

Artist Khata Saengkhae is among the homegrown talents participating in the Bangkok Art Biennale 2018. | Photo: Methee Samanthong

Khata Saengkhae, a household name on the Thai art scene, also joined in the conversation with Elmgreen and Dragset that day. Sharing his opinion on “Zero”, he said: “It feels good to see art blend in perfect harmony with the physical environment that exhibits it. The riverside location makes it an ideal venue for the show that seeks to communicate the true meaning of such a great work of art. Meantime, it also raises a few interesting questions. Look across the river, and what do you see? What will become of the land opposite from here? I see buildings mushrooming everywhere. So, where do we go from here?”

“Zero” by Elmgreen and Dragset is just one out of more than 200 works of art on display at 20 locations throughout the city as part of the Bangkok Art Biennale 2018. The Kingdom’s inaugural art festival will end on February 3, 2019. There is still time, but you had better hurry. Not quite sure where to start? Here is a checklist of 30 beautiful works of art that you can’t miss. For more information, go to  Checklist! 30 Works of Art You Can’t Miss at BAB 2018

Before we part company, here are some rare, behind-the-scene shots of the people and collaborations that went into making “Zero” a great work of art. I Photo courtesy of the Bangkok Art Biennale 2018

You may also like 

There’s More to the “City of Art” Than Just Viewing: Join in BAB 2018’s Super-Cool Activities
There’s More to the “City of Art” Than Just Viewing: Join in BAB 2018’s Super-Cool Activities

Manual for Art Viewing 101: the Professional Approach to Art Exhibitions

Manual for Art Viewing 101: the Professional Approach to Art Exhibitions

Pichet Klunchun, New Spiritual Medium, Puts his Stamp on the Festival Bangkok Art Biennale (BAB) 2018

Pichet Klunchun, New Spiritual Medium, Puts his Stamp on the Festival Bangkok Art Biennale (BAB) 2018

The live performance of Bogus Séance Version Bangkok 4.0 (“Four for Nothing”) at ChangChui tingled with electricity with one of the most artistic performances at Bangkok Art Biennale 2018. This was the work of Pichet Klunchun, progressive leader and winner of the Silpathorn Award for Performing Arts in 2006, the Routes ECP Princess Margriet Award for Cultural Diversity in 2008 awarded by the Princess of the Netherlands, and the title Chevalier dans l’Ordre des Arts et des Lettres from the French government.

/// THAILAND ///
Story & Photography: Singhanart Nakpongphun 

Pichet Klunchun prepared himself to be the spiritual medium “Angel 4.0,” to enter the being of everything and everyone, telling their stories to the audience, furious stories, biting social critiques and satire, stinging and irritating, with light, sound and full effects.

The show started with a dance in front of the curtain, calling up selected guests with a song full of fun, and ended with “Khrang Chue Ai Nae,” a song highlighting dramatic social issues. In between, “famous monk” angels with cute nicknames arrived to do some serious body impressions: “Flying Saucer Temple Monk,” “Whistle Monk,” and “Commando Monk” interacted with Somchai Songwattana, founder of the “Flynow” fashion label, ChangChui Professor Dr. Apinan Poshyananda, President and Artistic Director of Bangkok Art Biennale, some audience members who had registered early online, and special guest Michael Elmgreen, a Danish artist and one of the exhibitors at BAB 2018.

Michael Elmgreen helping with Pichet Klunchun’s “monk haircut” during the Sohng 4.0 performance
Michael Elmgreen helping with Pichet Klunchun’s “monk haircut” during the Sohng 4.0 performance
Monk from Wat Flying Saucer comes to do some impressions
Monk from Wat Flying Saucer comes to do some impressions
 One spot where the worshippers’ devotional paraphernalia is unlike at any institution you’ll find anywhere
One spot where the worshippers’ devotional paraphernalia is unlike at any institution you’ll find anywhere

The Thai gamelan group sounded an intro, and the angels started to do their thing! Characters in the show came on the scene to entertain with all sorts of artistic dancing: modern, Indian, Chinese, and the kind of Thai classical dancing you might have seen in traditional khone dramas.

Panther and man
Panther and man
Indian-style dance, at once fierce and gentle
Indian-style dance, at once fierce and gentle
 Young footballers kicking the ball, waiting for help from a SCUBA diver
Young footballers kicking the ball, waiting for help from a SCUBA diver

From this point things surged even higher. Each of the performers danced wilder and wilder, sometimes jumping or screaming, to reach a climax with the composition that has become such a hot issue in society recently, the Prathet Ku Mee “Rap Against Dictatorship.”

After the angels finished performing, Angel 4.0 took some time to give the audience a period of “heavenly prophecy,” where individuals could ask whatever questions they wanted. Naturally the top questions were about the winning lottery number, or requests for a husband, or queries about the election. Angel 4.0 had no end of clever answers that kept everyone in stitches, laughing and happy.

“Father Teacher” Pichet hinted at a number, writing on the palm of an audience member’s hand. (It’s all in the act!)
“Father Teacher” Pichet hinted at a number, writing on the palm of an audience member’s hand. (It’s all in the act!)

Just before the end, “Father Teacher” Pichet Klunchun presided over a modern ceremony to honor teachers, passing out sacred objects from Bogus Séance Version Bangkok 4.0 for worship. Then the performance stage was transformed into a dance floor as angels, performers, and audience all came together in fun to dance, just the way this show had been promoted:

Is your life all jammed up? Want to brighten up and shake things loose? Come dance with us, and thrive in life!” (and have some fun while you’re at it)

Huang Yong Ping, a Voice of Rebellion, Conflict and the Diaspora at BAB 2018

Huang Yong Ping, a Voice of Rebellion, Conflict and the Diaspora at BAB 2018

Born in Xiamen, Fujian Province in 1954, avant-garde artist Huang Yong Ping is arguably one of the most influential Chinese artists to gain international notoriety. In the mid-1980’s he founded an art group called Xiamen Dada, which explored similarities between Dadaism, an artistic and literary movement that began in Switzerland around WW1, and the Zen school of Mahayana Buddhism that originated in China during the Tang dynasty. Huang is one of six must-see international artists exhibited at the inaugural Bangkok Art Biennale, which is running until February 2019.

/// THAILAND ///
Story and video: Singhanart Nakpongphun /// Photographs: Portrait of Huang Yong Ping (top) by courtesy of the artist

The journey of the 64-year-old artist is manifested in his works that engage visitors actively with new kinds of experiences. Like those of co-founders Zha Lixiong, Liu Yiling, Lin Chun and Jiao Yaoming, Huang’s masterpieces are known for being experimental, radical or unorthodox with respect to art, society and culture. Together they combine to form a powerful medium of expression that’s though provoking.

An installation titled “The History of Chinese Painting and A Concise History of Modern Painting Washed in a Washing Machine for Two Minutes” 1987 (reconstructed 1993). Image courtesy of the Walker Art Center, Minneapolis, T. B. Walker Acquisition Fund, 2001. Photo: Kristopher McKay, © Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation, 2017

At age 35, Huang Yong Ping made his world debut during the Magiciens de la Terra exhibition at the Pompidou Center, Paris in 1989. The year was notorious for student-led demonstrations in Beijing’s Tiananmen Square. His participation in the show was a sculptural installation titled “Two-Minute Wash Cycle”, which was made by machine washing two books for two minutes. At a glance, the work of art looked like a modest pile of paper pulp on top of a wooden crate. On close examination, it was the conceptualization of a cultural assimilation, a place where many different people and ideas mix together producing something new.

By machine washing, the two books (“The History of Chinese Painting” by Wang Bomin, and “A Concise History of Modern Painting” by Sir Herbert Read) were reduced to fine pieces blended to portray a single entity. The work was reconstructed in 1993 for a show at the Guggenheim Meuseum, New York. Since then, the Chinese-born, French contemporary artist has exhibited at various art scenes worldwide, including the 48th Venice Biennale in 1999, the Red Brick Art Museum in China, the Ludwig Museum in Germany, and the Grand Palais des Champs-Elysees in Paris.

2017 was an eventful year for Huang Yong Ping. His exhibit “Theater of the World” (1993), along with controversial works by two other artists, were pulled from a major show hosted by the Guggenheim Museum after a public outcry. Theater of the World is a wood and metal enclosure designed to hold insects and the reptiles that feed on them. The work requires that fresh supplies of insects be added regularly as others are eaten. Like a gladiator arena in ancient Roman, the live installation provides grim insights to the negative effects that globalization is having on cultures in China.

A live installation titled “Theater of the World” (1993). Image courtesy of the artist © Huang Yong Ping.

During the inaugural Bangkok Art Biennale, outstanding works by avant-garde artist Huang Yong Ping are on view at:

  1. The Bank of Thailand Learning Center

A large sculptural installation titled “Dragon Boat” is designed to tell stories of the diaspora of Chinese people from their homeland into Southeast Asia in times past. The 4.2-meter-long replica of a rowboat of ancient China is on show at the Bank of Thailand Learning Center until February 3, 2109. The artist likened the dispersion of Chinese people in the past century to his own experience after having migrated to France in the late-1980s.

“Dragon Boat” tells stories of the diaspora of Chinese people into Southeast Asia.
  1. Sala Misakawan at Wat Phra Chetuphon (Wat Pho)

Sala Misakawan, a pavilion inside Wat Phra Chetuphon, also Wat Pho, is known for beautiful Chinese architecture and many mural paintings. It’s home to “Zuo You He Che”, a sculptural installation by Chinese contemporary artist Huang Yong Ping. The exhibition, which runs until February 3, 2019, features a pair of imaginary creatures whose body consists of three parts; the head, leg, and foot. A product of Xiamen Dada-style imagination, one creature has a head shaped like that of a deer, while the other has a growth of hair on the neck. Both of them carry a rolled up scroll in their mouths as if they were sent on a mission to guard a sacred document. Its meaning is up for interpretation. Art is fun. Look for yourself so you don’t have to believe what someone is telling you.

“Zuo You He Che”, an imaginary beast installation by Huang Yong Ping

In the world of art, imagination is everything. There is more to the inaugural Bangkok Art Biennale than Huang Yong Ping, Many leading artists from Thailand and abroad are taking part in the show that began on October 19, 2018 and will run until next February 3. The exhibits are on view at 20 different locations throughout Bangkok.

 

 

How Will This Work: “City of Art” Exhibits in Temples?

How Will This Work: “City of Art” Exhibits in Temples?

Without doubt art has origins in faith and belief: the earliest cave murals and sculptures indicate rituals relating to nearly all aspects of life, and many of these evolved into religions and faiths of various kinds. Art works since have played a great role in the transmission of belief and faith, to the point where, by inference, art works are expected to manifest a sort of religious expression.

Bangkok Art Biennale 2018, or BAB 2018 marks the first time a major world festival of contemporary art has graced Bangkok with its exhibits for an extended period of time. Featuring contemporary works of more than 70 both Thai and international artists, Bangkok is hosting Festival showings at 20 locations from October 19, 2018 to February 3, 2019.

Exhibition sites range from the financial district office buildings to local communities, and, most significantly, to Bangkok’s temples, a cultural heritage for which Thailand is famous throughout the world. It seems fitting, then, to give our friends at Living ASEAN a glimpse of some of BAB 2018’s most creative art that is on exhibit in some of our most beautiful temples. 

Phra Chetuphon Wimolmangkalaram Ratchaworawihan Temple

Here we bring you to your first stop, the exhibits at Phra Chetuphon Wimolmangkalaram Ratchaworawihan Temple, or “Wat Pho.” This was the official temple of the first king of the Chakri Dynasty, H.M. Rama I, and is world-renowned for its beauty and historical value. Most Thais and foreigners alike want to come at least once to experience its beauty.

First, some highlights of Wat Pho, the temple itself …

Temple of the Reclining Buddha / Wat Pho Reclining Buddha


The Temple of the Reclining Buddha was built in the era of Rama I, with its primary image of worship “Phra Phuttharoup Proht Surin Sathu,” known popularly as “the Reclining Buddha.” The sculpture is 46 meters long and 15 meters tall. Each of its feet is 1.5 meters wide and 5 meters long and is decorated in 108 spots with pearls and auspicious images.

The “Four Reign” Chedis

The base of each of The Four Reign Chedis has notched corners, and the chedi is identified with a glazed tile showing the name of one of the first four Siamese kings: “Phra Maha Chedi Si Sanphet Yadayan” (Chedi of Rama I), “Phra Maha Chedi Dilok Dhammakaroknitarn” (Rama II), “Phra Maha Chedi Munibat Borikhan,” (Rama III), and “Phra Maha Chedi Song Phra Srisuriyothai” (Rama IV).

Rishi (Hermit) Statues

Wat Pho, aside from its beauty and historical value, is associated with the remarkable traditional medical arts and wisdom that have been handed down as a national heritage since the Ayutthaya period. The Rishi Statues were placed there in the time of the first Chakri king to demonstrate traditional medical arts with figurines posed in more than 80 different attitudes, though at the moment only 24 of these remain.

Giants of Wat Pho

The Wat Pho Giants are another highlight of this world-famous temple, giant statues personifying characters from the Ramakien epic colored red and green, located at the entrance to the Phra Mondop scripture hall.

The 6 Bangkok Art Biennale 2018 works shown at Wat Pho are as follows:

 

Paths of Faith (Thailand)
Artist: Jising Somboon

Paths of Faith is a collection of white robes with the word “Faith” in Thai, English, and Chinese on the back. These are hung for tourists to wear while visiting the Hall of the Reclining Buddha.

 

Zuo You He Che (China, France)
Artist: Huang Yong Ping

It is well known that most of Huang Yong Ping works involve stories based in Chinese culture, and Zuo You He Che is no exception. It is a sculpture of imaginary animals holding scrolls in their mouths signifying wisdom, faith, and healing, all paths to peace and contentment in Buddhist and Chinese philosophy.

 

Knowledge in your Hands, Eyes and Minds (Thailand)
Artist: Phaptawan Suwannakudt

Knowledge in your Hands, Eyes and Minds is a mixed media (picture, scent, sound) art work located in a monk’s hut at the Wat Pho crocodile pond. It speaks to relationships between various traditional branches of knowledge: medical, design, literary, authorship, herbal massage, astrology, and communication between monks and the dead and dealing with the world after death.

 

Sediments of Migration (Thailand)
Artist: Pannaphan Yodmanee

Sediments of Migration is a free-standing sculpture in one of the rock gardens, where it is paired with the Rishi statuettes healing their bodies in contorted poses. Sediments was inspired by murals within the temple itself, and depicts commercial travel between Siam and China with contrasting views of merit, faith and, ethnicity.

A Shadow of Giving (Thailand)
Artist: Tawatchai Puntusawasdi

A Shadow of Giving is an experimental sculpture inspired by two-dimensional murals in poorhouses. It symbolizes giving, unselfishness, and respect. For the artist, accuracy of scale and mathematical fundamentals are a path to happiness.

Tha Tien (Thailand)
Artist: Sakarin Krue-on

Tha Tien is a silent movie accompanied by music inspired by Somphot Saengdueanchai’s 1973 movie of the same name, whose plot involves a quarrel about nothing important at all between a giant and a warrior. The story takes place at Wat Pho and Wat Arun, and when the two are unable to come to agreement, the ensuing fight causes the Wat Pho pier area to collapse flat as a drumhead. (shown October 16 – 20 and November 22 – 24 2018 at Wat Pho and Wat Arun)

Wat Arun Ratchawararam

Crossing the Chao Phraya from the Tha Tien pier near Wat Pho we quickly arrive at Wat Arun Ratchawararam, more simply known as “Wat Jaeng” or “Wat Arun.” This temple is no less important than Wat Pho, but dates from the Ayutthaya Period. It was named “Wat Makok” before King Taksin gave it the name “Wat Jaeng” when expanding the grounds of the royal palace, bringing it inside – along others there – as a court temple. It underwent continual restoration after that until Rama IV made a major restoration and placed the ashes of Rama II at the Buddha image there, giving it the name “Wat Arun Ratchawararam.”

Important Highlights of Wat Arun are ….

The Central Prang of Wat Arun

The Central Prang of Wat Arun is a prime example of Thai sacred architecture. There is a main prang and four secondary ones, all of mortared brick adorned with seashells, glazed tiles, and beautiful Chinese benjarong designs, replete with representations of mythical figures such as kinaree, giants, angels, and garudas. The Central Prang of Wat Arun was also refurbished in the time of Rama II, when the Wat Arun Central Prang was raised from 16 to 81.85 meters, making it the highest in the world.

Wat Jaeng Giants

The Wat Jaeng Giants are among of Thai Buddhism’s most famous statues, no less than the Wat Pho Giants. The Wat Jaeng giants represent the giants Thotsakan (green) and Sahat Decha (white) from the Thai epic Ramakien, and shine in their glazed tile apparel as they stand guard before the entrance gate to the ordination hall.

The two Bangkok Art Biennale 2018 works exhibited in Wat Arun are:

 

Across the Universe and Beyond (Thailand)
Artist: Sanitas Pradittasnee

Across the Universe and Beyond brings lost and forgotten principles to life again, as the designs of space and light call on visitors to look within themselves when they step into the area. This installation art piece is intended as a reminder in this moment of existence, impermanence, and emptiness, for us reflect on ourselves as simply particles in the vastness of the universe.

Giant Twins (Thailand)
Artist: Komkrit Tepthian

Inspired by the stone statures of ancient Chinese warriors and divinities, as well as people and animals China sent to Siam, the art work Giant Twins is a mixture of China and Siam. It recalls the legendary Siamese Twins Eng and Chang, as these two historical figures are transformed into the shape and form of giant warriors to symbolize Thai-Chinese relations.

Wat Prayurawongsawat

Near Wat Arun and Memorial Bridge is Wat Prayoonwongsawat, the last temple where we’ll bring you to view BAB 2018 art works. This temple was built as a royal monastery in 1828, during the reign of King Rama III, by Somdet Chao Phraya Borom Maha Prayurawongse, or “Dit Bunnag.” He gave it the name Prayurawongsawat, but it became known as Wat Rua Lek, “Temple with the Iron Fence.”

Important highlights of Wat Prayurawongsawat are….

Sacred Heart Buddha Temple

Sacred Heart Buddha Temple exemplifies Thai architectural work. At 16.99 meters wide and 20.19 meters long, its interior is split into 5 sanctuaries. Here cast Buddha images from the Sukhothai period are enshrined: an ancient image named “Naga Buddha,” is paired with “Phra Sri Sakyamuni,” which is also the principal Buddha image of Wat Suthat Thepwararam.

Phra Borommathat Maha Chedi

The Phra Borommathat Maha Chedi is 60.525 meters tall, with a base width of 162 meters and diameter of 50 meters. It was built by Dit Bunnag, completed during the reign of King Rama IV, and contains Buddha relics.

Khao Mo Park

Khao Mo Park, better known as Turtle Mountain, is a small artificial mountain built and surrounded by a pond in front of the temple. A stairway to the top takes you to a gilded, lacquered, brass cast stupa containing important Buddha images. The pond has many turtles of different varieties, hence the name “Khao Tao,” or “Turtle Mountain.”

Bangkok Art Biennale 2018 works shown in Wat Prayurawongsawat are altogether 6, being

Chat…Naa (Thailand)
Artist: Arnont Nongyao

This artist  has experience in the arts of sound and animation, so Chat…Naa (“the next life”) is a mixture of  installation art, experimental animation, and experimental sound performance art, all touching closely on the roles of people, materials, the environment, and society.

 

WHAT WILL YOU LEAVE BEHIND? (Thailand)
Artist: Nino Sarabutra

WHAT WILL YOU LEAVE BEHIND? Is a scattering of more than 125,000 unglazed white ceramic skulls on a walkway surrounding the primary chedi of the temple, transforming it to a space that encourages visitors to think, “If today were the last day of my life, what good would I be leaving in this world?”

Zodiac Houses (Thailand)
Artist: Montien Boonma

Zodiac Houses is a set of sculptures in black gothic style, full of astrological symbolism, that Montien has created as a search for peace, rebirth, and communication with the world after death. It was constructed in the Buddhism instruction hall of the temple so as to face the instructor’s lectern, suggestive of communication with the dead and the world after death.

 

Sweet Boundary: In the Light Tube (Thailand)
Artist: Kamol Phaosavasdi

The installation art piece Sweet Boundary shown at Wat Prayurawongsawat has origins in historical research about the establishment of the temple and nearby areas. The iron fence here features a representation of sword, arrow, and spear. The actual fence was imported from England in the time of King Rama III in exchange for its equivalent weight in sugar. This piece harks back to the prime relationship between Thailand and China at a time when maritime trade could be held as a monopoly in the region; this was before the worldwide market glut in sugar and the arrival of Western nations on the scene.

Monuments of the Memory, the Golden Room (Italy)
Artist: Paolo Canevari

Monuments of the Memory, the Golden Room is a painting in shades of gold, but devoid of internal content, to symbolize sanctity, significance, memory, and prayer as they exist in both Buddhist and Christian religions. It is on display in the Temple’s religious instruction hall.

 

Turtle Religion (Thailand)
Artist: Krit Ngamsom

Turtle Religion is at Khao Mo, set by the pond, itself full of turtles and catfish. Here we find iron turtles carrying various objects on their backs that reflect the unity of religious beliefs and cultures which in the Khlong San area are so thoroughly mixed as to become one substance.

Altogether, including these three abovementioned temples, under the concept of “joyous, energetic art” the Bangkok Art Biennale 2018 International Festival of Contemporary Art has exhibits at 20 landmark location in Bangkok landmarks on display until February 3, 2019.

Before It Came To Be the “Pumpkins” Project by Yayoi Kusuma

Before It Came To Be the “Pumpkins” Project by Yayoi Kusuma

Anyone coming to the City during this period will almost certainly see major art works by many world-class artists. These are set up in shopping malls, along walkways, even in temples, as part of the contemporary international art festival Bangkok Art Biennale 2018.

One of the artists we’ve been keeping close track of is Yayoi Kusama, known for artistic expression through repetition of polka dots on various materials and objects, some of them inspired by “Auntie Yayoi’s” frequent visual reflections on relationships that uses pumpkins as a medium, for example in the piece entitled Inflatable Pumpkins Balloons. This gorgeous exhibition consists of 14 balloons suspended from the ceiling of Central World, hanging chandelier-like above a wide area also adorned with those signature red dots.

When the project was transported from Japan it was still in an unfinished state, but on arrival at Central world it was swarmed by both a Japanese and a Thai work team speeding to complete all the details, not in just the one or two days we were there watching, but over a period of many days. The subtleties of the Japanese, insisting on perfection in every detail, allowed not the smallest imperfection. Those floating balloons weren’t simply inflated and hung up: light wiring had to be strung through an elaborate framework constructed of beams and internal supports. It took all that and more to produce these beautiful airborne pieces we know as Inflatable Pumpkins Balloons.

Why does it have to be Pumpkins?

This seems like a question most people might ask! In an interview on the Louisiana Channel Auntie Yayoi answered, “I love pumpkins because of their funny shapes, sometimes quite like human facial features, and they give me a warm feeling.”

The pumpkin shape has been a staple of her artistic work dating back to the 1950’s: she’s always been attracted to materials whose natural forms had an unevenness to them and also showed repetitive patterns. Adding to her unique view is a neurological condition that has caused her to have double vision since age 10, and has actually contributed to her producing such world-class artistic work.

Another spot everyone can see Yayoi Kusama’s Work is Fashion Gallery 3, on the 1st Floor of Siam Paragon: I Carry On Living With The Pumpkins (Silver Pumpkin and Red Pumpkin) gives us a pair of Auntie Yayoi’s signature pumpkin works. One of the sculptures features silver dots in subtly detailed mosaic patterns reflecting various things hidden in them. Another, in the same area, is a red pumpkin with black polka dots which we’re able to view up close. On its installation date it appeared to involve just a simple setup of 2 ordinary pieces of art, but the actual story is a bit more complex. Due to the size and great weight of the works, plus the fact that there were no easy protuberances to grab onto, bringing them through the doors with both pieces remaining in perfect condition was a huge challenge to pull it off, and in the end it took from nighttime till the break of dawn to do it successfully.

What a strange experience! Art exhibitions aren’t always an easy business, right? Well, so many people have put in so much great work, it would be a pity if not enough folks saw it . . . so what are you waiting for? Get down here!

You may also like…

Manual for Art Viewing 101: the Professional Approach to Art Exhibitions
MANUAL FOR ART VIEWING 101: THE PROFESSIONAL APPROACH TO ART EXHIBITIONS

 

30 Works of Art You Can’t Miss at BAB 2018
30 WORKS OF ART YOU CAN’T MISS AT BAB 2018

X