Bangkok Art Biennale 2018 is an event that will for the first time transform metropolitan Bangkok into a world-class art destination. People coming from every corner of the globe to see the incredible art on display creates a need for world-class accommodations, so we’ve put together some suggestions. These are places with standout designs that will not only put you in the mood for each BAB visit, but facilitate convenient and comfortable travel for you and your friends to and from all the many venues.
/// Thailand /// Story: Taliw /// Photography: Wara Suttiwan
Beside the Chao Phraya in the Khlong San neighborhood stands the remarkable Amdaeng Hotel, eye-catching for its vermilion color and charming architecture.
The hotel’s name came from the name “Amdaeng Li,” the name on a deed for the property from the time of Siam’s King Rama V. “Amdaeng” is a lofty honorific for ‘lady,” for a concept that extends to the hotel’s design as well as its name: a beautiful, glamorous lady.
The Amdaeng Hotel has 10 rooms, with the style of each designed to reinforce the sense that this is, as they say, “the most romantic hotel in Bangkok.” It includes the NYE Café Restaurant, where we can partake of delicious cuisine and drink in the delightful Chao Phraya riverside ambience. The café interior is darker and relies less on the color red than inside the hotel proper. Here there’s also a roof deck where we can sit back, relax, and enjoy the evening atmosphere.
The Amdaeng Hotel is convenient to BAB exhibition sites from the nearby Lhong 1919 pier, which offers ferry service to the Si Phraya Pier on the opposite side. From there visitors can hop on the Chao Phraya Express Boat and speed off to see world-class art works of their choice.
Chann Bangkok Noi
The name “Chann” comes from the Thai word for the porch deck of a traditional house, and wood is the hotel’s primary construction material, harking back to the houses of an earlier Thailand and filling the hotel with a contemporary version of that easy Thai charm to match its motto: “Simply at Ease.”
The lower floor of the two-storey Chann Bangkok Noi reflects an essential element of the traditional Thai home: the tai thun lower space which is home to a variety of activities and opens onto the Chao Phraya riverside atmosphere. The floor above is designed as four separate houses with an interconnecting porch deck.
But what will capture your heart here is the sense of peace along the riverside, the river seen through the natural light shining freely into open areas and the green of garden plants, bringing the feeling of being out in the countryside. The guest rooms retain that relaxed atmosphere, with high gabled roofs that make them feel open and airy, reminiscent of the simple charms of old Thailand.
It’s easy to get from Chann Bangkok Noi to the BAB Chao Phraya “Riverside Zone”: the Tha Rot Fai Pier, one of the main stops for the Chao Phraya Express Boat, is right next door. The hotel also has its own private pier where you can hire a longtail boat to take you wherever you want for as long as you want.
Siam Plug In Boutique Hostel
“Plug in here and get acquainted with Thainess” is this hostel’s defining concept. Its aim is to bring “Thainess” to foreigners and for Thais to experience their identity in a contemporary format, as it is set in an old commercial building in the Charoen Nakhon area that was renovated in a Thai/Industrial Loft style, featuring walls of bare cement and brick for a perfect blend of Thai flavor and modern stylishness.
The half-reception, half-café area is between one wall of show brick and another of wood, and features vintage furniture, for a combined sense of being in a house and sitting relaxed on a porch. Further in is a concrete wall decorated with gilded patterns and a staircase of bare concrete leading up to the second floor.
The rooms at Siam Plug In follow that Thai/industrial style, with a brighter décor suggesting an atmosphere of comfort. Rooms are named after Chao Phraya piers, a cute touch. Here the walls are a gallery of photographs to tease the touristic imagination. And whoever would like to sit and chill in the Thonburi evening can relax at the Sky Lounge, whose uneven brick walls were inspired by ancient temple and palace ruins.
From Siam Plug In it’s easy to get not only to BAB exhibitions in the Chao Phraya Riverside Zone, but also to all the ones in the Urban Zone. The hostel is near the Thonburi SkyTrain station, so for riverside sites, get off at Taksin Station and transfer to the Chao Phraya Express Boat. For urban art displays, simply continue on the SkyTrain to your chosen destination.
J No. 14
The 50-year-old J building was renovated as a chic hotel with an “industrial/vintage” atmosphere, exposing the building frame to convey a fashionable sense of rawness. The hotel owner put his own hand to the design, which gently masks a classic European style –suggested by tasteful collectible items found everywhere – that give J No. 14 a remarkable and unique identity.
While the industrial vintage design and décor is based in the roughness of its building materials, the hotel feels light and airy. A skylight brings in natural light to brighten the ornamental plants placed throughout the hotel. The many guest rooms retain the style and are furnished with vintage pieces, many of them true antiques. This hotel has an irresistible charm, and we can’t help but give it high marks.
From J No. 14 it’s not far to the Pepsi Pier, where you can take a boat across river to Saphan Taksin, a perfect starting point for visits along the art festival’s Chao Phraya Riverside Zone.
Glur Bangkok Hostel
Though Glur is not large, it has important advantages. Travel is convenient and comfortable because of proximity to the Saphan Taksin pier and SkyTrain station. The warm familial atmosphere here is a major plus. A stay here feels like sleeping over at a friend’s home. After all, “Glur,” means “friend” in Thai!
The front side of the hostel is a travelers’ café open for service 24 hours, which noticeable for its atmosphere reinforced by intense navy blues. Upstairs are rooms of many sizes, but Glur is primarily designed for the “backpacker” traveler.
Guest rooms primarily stress functionality, and décor is simple. The dorm-style common sleeping spaces are great for coming with a group of friends and keeping it economical. However, more privacy is also available here, from 2-person to family-size rooms.
As already mentioned, Glur Bangkok has significant advantages in location, at Saphan Taksin with both the Skytrain station and the pier where the Chao Phraya Express Boat stops just 150 meters from the hotel. This makes for very easy travel to either Urban or Riverside BAB festival zones.
These are just a few selections we came up with for you art lovers to think about when making plans for visiting Bangkok Art Biennale 2018, which is – don’t forget! – between 19 October 2018 and 3 February 2019, at 20 different metropolitan Bangkok landmarks.
The streets of Bangkok will be full of locals and tourists as the clock approaches midnight on December 31. Don’t let a solitary lifestyle keep you at home or in a hotel room. Join forces with other people and wish them every success as you bid farewell to the departing year and usher in a new one with hopes. There are plenty of reasons to go outside, enjoy yourself, and love every minute of it. This time the countdown to New Year 2019 is taking place at three locations in Bangkok. Take your pick!
01 | Asiatique Thailand Countdown to 2019
The Chang Music Connection invites you to attend the Asiatique Thailand Countdown to 2019 that’s concurrent with the celebration of Asiatique the Riverfront, dubbed “The Tomorrow Port”. Easily accessible from Charoen Krung Road, the event promises a feast of music featuring a number of famous people, among them, The Parkinson, Burin, Joey Boy, Twopee, Win Sqweez Animal, Singto Numchok, Phum Viphurit, the rock band Cocktai, Gene Kasidit, and DJ Roxy June.
The entrance to happy times is open from 5 p.m. on New Year’s Eve. No admission fees, no age limits. If for some reason you can’t join in the fun, watch the Countdown to 2019 live on Amarin TV HD34. To get you in the mood, the broadcast starts at 23.15 hours.
The Asiatique Thailand Countdown event is easily accessible by car. If you come in from Thanon Tok, there is Carpark No. 1 on your left. In case you come in from Thanon Chan, Carpark No. 2 is on your left.
Or, if you take the BTS light rail, get off at Taksin Bridge Station and catch the bus. No. 1, 15, 75, 504, and 547 will take you right in front of your destination.
If you prefer getting around by boat, take the express boat service from Sathorn Landing Pier to your destination. Free service is available coming out of Asiatique the Riverfront from 16.00 to 01.00 hours. Plus, an alternative fare-paying service from 16.00 to 24.00 hours. The fair is 30 baht.
The eyes of the world turn once again to IconSiam on the Thon Buri side of the Chao Phraya River. Come New Year’s Eve, the city’s biggest new attraction is hosting the Amazing Thailand Countdown to 2019 that promises to be a night that all present will long remember.
Located on Charoen Nakhon Road, IconSiam has become a hive of activity under the theme “River of Prosperity” that takes place daily in the lead-up the main event on December 31.
You are invited to join in the celebration as the clock strikes twelve and the impressive development project is aglow with dazzling lights and energy. The grand event is a collaboration between the Tourism Authority of Thailand and IconSiam in partnership with state and private sectors as well as communities along the Chao Phraya.
Evening highlights include a Khon theatrical production. It features an episode on “Prince Rama Returning Home in Triumph”, which celebrates the art being inscribed on UNESCO’s Intangible Cultural Heritage List this year.
Join forces with the enthusiastic audience as the night sky is aglow under firework displays that run 1,400 meters along the south bend of the Chao Phraya. It will be the first time in Thailand that the fireworks are seen in full view from as far as two kilometers away. Plus, the music’s hottest male and female singers, among them, Gaem-Vichunee, Gun-Napat, Han-Isariya, and Gaemsom-Thanatat. Evening programs start at 17.00 hours on New Year’s Eve. To watch the final countdown, follow the IconSiam Page on Facebook Live, which starts broadcasting at 23.00 hours.
The countdown event is conveniently accessible by car. You can park at IconSiam, or various carparks near the project, including the Tha Din Daeng carpark on Soi 20, and the Communications Authority of Thailand (CAT) carpark. Or come in by bus. No 3, 6, a/c bus 6, 84, a/c bus 84, 89, 111, 149, 167, and 177 will take you right in front of the mall. If you come by the BTS light rail, get off at Thon Buri Station and take the Shuttle Bus. It runs until 2 a.m. Or, get off at Taksin Bridge Station and take the IconSiam Shuttle Boat that also runs until 2 a.m.
In the city center, the performance and outdoor venue Parc Paragon is home to a landmark event titled “OneSiam the Festival of Lights 2019”. It features sound and light shows that have drawn many enthusiastic photographers to Siam Paragon and the area’s main attractions, namely the Siam Center and Siam Discovery. The son et lumiere shows will culminate in the main event, the OneSiam Countdown Celebration 2019. They include world street light shows performed by participants from the Netherlands, Italy, and Belgium and run from December 24 to December 31.
The celebration isn’t complete without music. If you are a fan of popular singer Jay Jetrin, Tu Popthorn, and Burin Boonvisuth, don’t miss out on this one. The show that starts at 16.30 hours on New Year’s Eve is easily accessible via the BTS light rail. Get off at Siam Station and you’ve arrived at your destination. Or follow it on Facebook Live. Go to the Siam Paragon page.
Pok (Attaporn Kobkongsanti), his wife Romanee, and their young son Phumi have just moved into their new house, which took six years to design and build. Now it shows a perfect picture, lofty white walls rising above its inspired design and meticulous construction.
“As an architect myself, I imagined a courtyard here. Having worked with Boonlert, I felt our styles were really in sync, and after a few iterations we settled on our fourth design, which is what you see here!” Pok, who is the owner not only of the house, but also TROP Landscape Architects, is referring to Boonlert Hemvijitraphan of “Boon Design,” his co-designer.
Boonlert adds, “The relationship between the house and nature is always at the core of our design work. The owner’s imagination is what makes this one unique. We began with a set of high walls with the separate spaces between them assigned to different uses. We call this concept ‘series of wall.’”
To the architects, “series of wall” is expressed with four very tall walls set in parallel that establish the frame of this 3-storey house. The walls are set between 2.5 and 5 meters apart, protruding out beyond the main body of the house, with varied height and length according to functionality of the spaces between. Floor 1 holds living room, dining area, and kitchen. Husband and wife have a workroom on the 2nd floor, and bedrooms are on the 3rd.
Closing off areas between walls before assigning them functions as rooms gave the look of, as the architects put it, “putting people in the in-between spaces.” Areas of use are rectangular, enclosed lengthwise between the walls. The front and rear of the house are all floor-to-ceiling clear glass, for a free, airy feeling everywhere, the natural world outside shining through into the home. The walls are thick, blocking the sun’s heat from the north and south. The glass sides bring in the sun’s natural light as it moves from east to west, keeping the house bright and cheerful all day.
The walls also facilitate inner courtyards that are part and parcel of the livable space and bring the outside garden in, using the owner’s unique talents and experience to incorporate landscape architecture into the building itself.
“This wasn’t easy,” said Pok. “We wanted it all, here, there, everywhere, but when you do it you always worry it might be too much! We went back and forth, and in end we chose the most orderly form.” The personalities of the in-house gardens differ according to position. At the east entrance we see a mixture of kitchen vegetable and decorative garden they call the “moon garden,” since a moonrise is especially gorgeous from there. Special attention was paid to its beauty, as it is the first garden we see when getting out of the car and the last before leaving.
Next we encounter a triangular courtyard, inserted in the living room! This is an architectural artifice to bring light into a darker area. It opens the living room right out on the swimming pool and at the same time welcomes us into the room, creating an intriguing space facing both inward and outward.
In the kitchen there’s yet another large courtyard. This one helps draw light and clean air into the various rooms from the topmost down to the ground floor, and connects with a forest garden behind the house to the west. Between house and fence is a copse of trees that filters the afternoon sun, a space used just to relax, or perhaps for a party. The L-shaped swimming pool is landscaped in with a neat wooden porch that fits perfectly with the tall trees Pok has freely planted all about. This garden also connects to the living room through a large clear glass door, creating even more unity between indoors and outdoors.
The house glass reflects the darker forested area in a wavy green. Our landscape architect compares it to an abstract painting by nature itself, saying it took away any need for hanging pictures on the walls, which are bare, like a white canvas, waiting for nature as the single artist to brush it with light.
Secluded behind what appear to be walls of white paper, the “PA House” is IDIN Architects’ innovative integration of contemporary tropical architecture with a unique solution to its site-specific environment.
Architect Jeravej Hongsakul, architect, explained that the first design challenge of this 400-square-meter house was its owner’s interest in privacy for his growing family:
“In our first site survey we noted the wide variety of sizes and styles of the surrounding homes, a 4-storey house here, a Louis-style there. How to fit a new house into this context and make it livable?”
The architects observed, took pictures, noted directions, viewpoints, levels, and distances between houses, and analyzed the collected data to feed into their design plan, and came up with a concept that used these surroundings not as a limitation, but, surprisingly, as a help.
“Each one of these other houses actually functions as an assistant architect, telling us where and at what levels to place the walls and planes that build connections on all sides, leading us to create open spaces within. I sometimes feel like the conductor of an orchestra, arranging voices and the mix to bring this home to life as a beautiful piece.”
The concept of a “viewpoint” may seem abstract, but the relationships formed by viewpoints to and from surrounding buildings has turned out to be a primary factor in the straightforward design of this home. Each wall was placed to help deal with problems that might arise from its geographic situation, and also adapt open space inside the walls to enhance utility and the livability of the house, as its “conductor” architect performed his work.
Coming in on the south entrance road, we encounter two planes meeting in a tall, wide “L” appearing to float out from the second floor of the house. This construction benefits the house much as a raised hand can block sun from burning our face. The ground floor is cool and shady, but still has a great view of the wide, open garden directly outside, while the upper wall both blocks the view from other houses and insulates against heat. Along this section of the lower floor a wall also is set two meters out from the house to create space for growing plants, and glass walls reach up another 6 meters for a look out through the shade, where we watch the sunlight trace down the inner wall, creating new dimensions and an open, airy feeling.
Comfort of use is the basis for the distribution of functionality within the house. On the ground floor a living room and dining area open out on a wide garden view, and one portion is set aside for a guest bedroom. On the second floor we find a master bedroom and one more room for a family member expected to come in the future. All this is coordinated with external design to support the family’s lifestyle in the most perfect way. As the architect adds,
“The primary design is all about controlling sunlight and creating balance between outside and the outer and inner courtyards. The home is open and airy in every direction. The horizontal “wall” above looks almost like a hat on the house, and functions both to block harsh light from the sun and create a wide open view at eye level.
“The concept is what we call ‘Passive Design’: design where the natural systems facilitate living. It also came out in a style both we and the owner are happy with. It’s a happy mix of many things.”
Like Thai houses of former eras, this garden house has a high open area called a tai thun on the ground floor, an economical construction that suits Thailand’s climate and terrain and encourages family culture.
Three years ago Pongsakorn Tumpruksa, of Arsom Silp Community and Environmental Architects Co., Ltd., decided to live the waterside life and build a family home on 340 square meters at water’s edge in Bang Khun Thian, where two other streams converge with Bang Mot Canal.
The roadside entrance is in back, so the house fronts on the canal, Thai-style.
The tall tai thun includes a carport and an area blocked off as a workshop. An open staircase leads up to the porch, and in the center is a large contiguous open space combining living and dining areas, with the kitchen on one side and bedrooms on the other. Pongsakorn explained the three design principles he kept in mind:
A centuries-old principle of Central Thai traditional architecture is suitability for the environment, balancing sun, wind, and rain to keep things cool and comfortable. Here the old knowledge is blended with modern construction materials. The high tai thun avoids flooding and termite damage. Good air circulation is ensured with a high roof with long eaves; windows and a gap below the roof help release hot air. There is a deck where either clothes or fish can be dried, a heat-resistant mesh on the wooden roof, and there is an open porch below the eaves where you can sit, catch the breeze, and relax from the heat. Also the gardens around the house give shade and maintain moisture, cooling the area.
The architecture promotes family culture. Previously the family lived in a townhouse, chatted at the dinner table, and were always in close, warm contact. To continue that feeling, living and dining areas and kitchen were designed as a single continuous space.
Economical construction. The house was built with a limited budget: overbuilding would have been problematic. Thai traditional knowledge shows how to do this: leave room for gradual expansion, building onto the house as needed, as was done in Thailand’s earlier days.
Pongsakorn tells us, “Building a home for my loved ones was like building happiness. What I’m most proud of is doing it as the architect son of my father, who worked for the government as an architectural technician. Dad left us last year, but he got to live with us in this house.”
“Happiness for me is growing plants and living in a shady, cool home,” says Pongsakorn’s mother with a smile. “I’m truly glad that Father had the chance to live here with us.”
Among the 75-plus artists exhibiting at the Bangkok Art Biennale 2018, there are some distinguished names who have collaborated with world renowned fashion houses. Others have managed to put themselves on the map by creating products that are their signatures.
Over the years, so many collaborations have taken place to the extent that they are blurring the lines between haute couture and visual art. It comes as no surprise that here and now the sky is the limit. When beautiful works of art have left the confines of gallery life and landed in the atelier of a fashion house, the results can be far-reaching. In this presentation, we at Living ASEAN use the symbol x to designate a collaboration.
01 | Christian Dior x Lee Bul
54-year-old South Korean artist Lee Bul is widely known for her works in many artistic disciplines, among them sculpture and installation art. Driven by a passion for modern art and design, she lets her talent shine in everything she does. The artist regularly collaborates with the European luxury goods company Christian Dior. Some of the highlights of her contributions include Dior Lady Art #2, which came out in the fall of 2017. Interpreting design and manufacturing techniques in a different way, Lee Bul affixes pieces of plexiglass mirrors to the original Lady Dior handbag to imitate the appearance of a single sheet of broken glass. The new couture technique evokes memories of Lee Bul’s “Cella”, her display for the Miss Dior Exhibition at the Grand Palais Paris in 2013. Our editor for art and culture Singhanart Nakpongphun was there to see it and came away very impressed. As he put it, “Cella inspired a sense of peace in an unusual way. Same objects are reflected multiple times in multiple directions. I stood there motionless for quite some time.”
In this video clip, Lee Bul gives an interview about how she works. Every morning, the Seoul-born artist keeps a detailed log of her activities. It keeps track of the process of developing until she puts the finishing touches to her work of art.
Those interested in Lee Bul’s way of conveying ideas through art shouldn’t miss Diluvium, her architectural installation for the Bangkok Art Biennale 2018. The striking exhibit crafted of multiple metal frames wrapped in silver foil tapes is currently on view at the East Asiatic Building that’s well known for its old world charm.
02 | Louis Vuitton x Yayoi Kusama
Mention polka dots, and the name Yayoi Kusama springs to mind. The Japanese legend was among the first artists to have collaborated with the French fashion house and luxury brand Louis Vuitton. She began working with the atelier of Louis Vuitton in 2012, the most visible result of which being the Louis Vuitton – Yayoi Kusama collection. At the time, bold yet playful polka dots artwork, also known as “Dots Infinity”, began appearing on Louis Vuitton’s Vernis handbags. It wasn’t long before other bestselling models followed suit, most notably Speedy and Neverfull monogram canvas series, not to mention shoes, wallets, scarves … you name it. Yayoi Kusama is also known for her work in store decoration and brand awareness ideas.
Flashback: Here’s a video clip from the fashion blog stylerumer recorded on the day Yayoi Kusama attended a product launch at Louis Vuitton on Fifth Avenue, New York back in 2012.
Handbags, shoes, and clothing aside, it’s time to appreciate the beauty of installation works by the “Queen of polka dots”. Her entries into the Bangkok Art Biennale 2018, which include the Red Pumpkin with black polka dots, and the Silver Pumpkin with multiple color dots, are currently on view at Central World and Siam Paragon shopping malls.
03 | Prada x Elmgreen & Dragset
The artist duo, Michael Elmgreen of Denmark and Ingar Dragset of Norway, are widely known for creating “Prada Marfa”, an installation featuring a small Prada store somewhere in the middle of a desert in Taxas. Despite it being located just 42 kilometers from the nearest airport, exotic travels take a good three hours to reach it. The crux of the matter is a strong message about capitalism and how it affects the way people think. The visual art piece is created with Prada support.
For the Bangkok Art Biennale 2018, Elmgreen and Dragset present “Zero”, an 8-meter-tall sculptural installation made to look like the circumference of a swimming pool set at right angles. The thought provoking artwork is on show in front of the East Asiatic Building on the Chao Phraya River for the duration of the festival.
04 | Marina Abramovic
A pioneer in contemporary art, Marina Abramovic is widely known for “The Artist Is Present”, an endurance performance that changes the way art sends a message to the active audience. Her first live performance exhibition debuted at the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) New York in 2010. During the silent show, museum visitors took turns sitting across the table from Marina staring into her eyes for hours. The live performances took 736 hours and 30 minutes from start to finish. It was the focal point of a series of art exhibits designed to call attention to social issues.
Her iconic works gave the Italian fashion house Gucci an inspiration to host similar events as a means of promoting an exhibition at the Yuz Museum in Shanghai that runs until December 16, 2018. The luxury fashion brand presents its versions of “The Artist Is Present” curated by Maurizio Cattlean. In so doing, Gucci has installed gigantic art walls in the biggest cities across the world featuring the portrait of Marina Abramovic that was taken at the MoMA live performance in New York in 2010.
Besides the big names mentioned above, there are some homegrown artists who have become involved in the fashion world. Jitsing Somboon, formerly creative director at the Thai clothing brand “Playhound, is exhibiting his work titled “Paths of Faith” as part of the Bangkok Art Biennale 2018. The artist uses live performance art as a means of telling stories about Thai life and religion. The focal point of his work is a collection of white overcoats with “Faith” in either Thai, English, or Chinese stenciled on their back. The exhibition is on view at the entrance to the Temple of the Reclining Buddha, Wat Phra Chetupon at Tha Tian. The overcoats are given for people to wear on top of other clothing as they enter an area dedicated to religious purposes in the temple interior.
The show would be incomplete without a couple of cool T-shirts. The up-and-coming artist Komkrit Tepthian also debuts a print T-shirt collection as part of his entry into the Bangkok Art Biennale 2018. The white short-sleeved casual top features simple drawings of his Giant Twins installation art stenciled on its front. The image tells stories of long-established friendship in a humorous way. Here’s the link to the artist’s fan page if you want one: Komkrit Tepthian : Artist
Whether you’re interested in the arts, fashion, or design, there are plenty of inspiring shows awaiting your visit. The Bangkok Art Biennale 2018 is going on now until next February 3. Featuring more than 200 masterpieces by international and homegrown artists, the inaugural art festival is being held at 20 different locations throughout the capital city. This time you don’t have to travel far to appreciate the beauty and the power of art. It’s the opportunity you can’t afford to miss. Art lovers. mark your calendar!
People tend to think of the Chao Phraya as a nice place to take a boat ride to visit an old temple or flea market that’s kept its fascinating architecture. On this trip we’ll add to that, taking you to see new lifestyles and great art, as well as stopovers guaranteed to fill your Bangkok holiday with enjoyment.
/// THAILAND /// Story: favforward.com /// Photography: Tanakitt Khum-on, favforward.com, Rithirong Chanthongsuk, Methee Samantong, Singhanart Nakpongphun, Soopakorn Srisakul, Media Hub, Courtesy of the Artist
We begin in a district with a long and storied history: Wang Lang. More than an old market known for its famed rare and mouth-watering treats, it offers great shopping bargains, especially in new and used clothing of every style. Wang Lang once was the palace of His Royal Highness Prince Thong-In, Deputy Vice King of Siam during the reign of Rama I, but now it’s the site of Siriraj Hospital. A common sight in this neighborhood is of teenagers searching for good-quality second-hand clothes in favorite styles, and throngs of people come for the interesting vintage goods available everywhere here.
Bank of Thailand Learning Center (BOT Learning Center)
This large learning center once originated the nation’s first printed bank notes. Now it is a place of opportunity and inspiration, a place for learning and individual research that facilitates exchange of ideas and opinions, driving creation of knowledge and love of learning and sharing in an integrated learning center with state-of-the-art learning media and a multitude of learning activities. You’ll find a museum of national heritage that hosts exhibitions in various fields, such as rare money that can transport you into the past just with a look. You’ll hear stories about the evolution of money through various periods of civilization, and about what the money of the future may be like. This is also a Bangkok Biennale 2018 Art Fair site, where works by two artist groups can be seen: “Memory House” by Alex Face and Souled Out Studios (SOS), and “Dragon Boat” by Huang Yong Ping.
Wat Arun Ratchawararam Ratchanon Mahawihan
Wat Arun’s massive stupa can be seen as an artistic work of the highest beauty. It is adorned with a covering of tiles and pieces of rare ancient and gorgeously patterned Benjarong crockery imported from China. The temple has undergone continuous restoration from the reign of Rama 5 until the present. This is another Bangkok Biennale 2018 Art Fair site, featuring works such as “Across the Universe” by Sanitas Pradittasnee and “Giant Twins” by Komkrit Tepthian.
After visiting Wang Lang, you can take a ferry across to Tha Maharaj, a super-chic “community mall” right on the river for capital city denizens. Come evening, you’ll drink in the beautiful view all the more, enjoying shopping and the many famous restaurants and fabulous street food.
Tha Tian is easy to get around. A neighborhood unique for its two-storey bright colonial-style yellow buildings from the Phra Nakhon riverside’s early days. Tha Tian can be a district to pass through on the way to somewhere else, but itself is full of classic charm of an old community that has survived, and temples such as Wat Pho that have been part of Phra Nakhon since ancient times. Scattered all about are attractive cafés, outstanding restaurants, and sight-seeing walks where you can view art works. The nearby Pak Khlong neighborhood and flower market sound an irresistibly seductive call for us to fall in love with this district.
Wat Phra Chedi Phonwimonmangkhlaram Ratchawong Maha Wihan,or Wat Pho
His Majesty King Phra Phutthayotfa Chulalok, first king of the Chakri Dynasty, presided over the founding of Wat Pho in the city of Bang Kok, and this premier monastery was his designated temple. As in the Ayutthaya period, the temple is next to the Grand Palace, and under the altar is a statue of the Buddha. The principal Buddha image in the hall contains ashes of the Buddha, and contributing to the temple’s worldwide fame also are the green and red “Wat Pho Giants” set at arched entryways to the Phra Mondop scripture hall, their form like the giants depicted in that classic of Thai literature, the Ramakien. The Bangkok Biennale 2018 Art Fair also has a presence here, showing works of Jitsing Somboon and Pannaphan Yodmanee.
Wat Prayurawongsawat Worawihan
This temple was built during the reign of the third Rattanakosin monarch, King Phra Nangklao Chaoyuhua, who gave it the name Wat Prayuruwongsawat, but the people knew it as “Wat Rua Lek” (Iron Fence), since some sections of its wall and arched gates were made of iron. For sophisticated preservation work requiring deep technological understanding, at the 2013 Asia-Pacific Awards for Cultural Heritage Conservation the temple chedi received the Award of Excellence, first prize out of 47 entries from 16 countries worldwide. This project brought to surrounding communities a greater awareness of the value of cultural heritage conservation. Works of Bangkok Biennale 2018 artists Krit Ngamsom and Nino Sarabutra are on display here, as well.
If you have time, wander around Museum Siam, our first “learning museum,” unique for innovations that encourage learning, with displays telling stories through accessible modern technology that arouses interest in visitors. Techniques are used to tell stories by raising questions, inviting visitors to use imagination. Certain spots are intentionally designed for maximum benefit, suggested in creative, enjoyable formats involving various activities that move the narratives forward. Items and devices used within the museum are to be touched so as to convey meanings and create perfect connections.
This venerable haunt of Chinese people and civilization has long been here. Yaowarat is especially colorful at night, with topflight food to be found everywhere. There are a number of noteworthy points along Yaowarat Road, such as Odeon Circle, Charoen Krung Road, Ratchawong Road and Chakkrawat Road. Not-to-be-missed eating spots are Kuey Chap Nai Ek, Khua Kai Than Tao, and Kuey Chap Uan Phochana (in front of the Chinatown Cinema). Hidden away nearby are Khanompang Sai Thalak, Sweet Time, for incredibly delicious desserts, and Pa Jin Hoi Khlaeng Luak, which specializes in shellfish prepared in absolutely delicious ways, and is one of the oldest restaurants in Yaowarat.
Renowned for decorative architecture, Lhong 1919 is a popular new tourist spot, well worth visiting and taking a slew of pictures of. Here once was a location called “Huai Jung Lohng,” Chinese for “steamer pier,” and now is also known by the name “Wang Li godowns.” Its history and architecture go back 167 years and really make one aware of its architectural value. Recently a major restoration was done on the pier, which had deteriorated over a long period, and now it is a tourist destination with a remarkable heritage that tells of its history through art and architecture.
The Jam Factory
The Jam Factory is a warehouse space along the Chao Phraya River revamped as a hub for super-hip lifestyles. Besides beautification of a funky old godown, the environment was made especially charming by preserving its large trees for a shady atmosphere extending to a riverside restaurant, a chic furniture shop, and a bookstore where serious bookworms can come stuff their heads with knowledge found in rare books from Thailand and abroad.
Warehouse 30 is a creative space with a distinctive industrial style, renovated from an old factory. This newly born community is located in Soi Charoen Krung 30. It’s a place to hang out. There’s a restaurant. There are shops offering hip home furnishings. There are many spots to take beautiful pictures, even a cinema! All this, and then the “co-working space,” too! People can shop, munch, chill, or have fun with various activities, either during the week or on weekends.
East Asiatic Building
The East Asiatic, a fine example of Renaissance revival architecture, is located on the banks of the Chao Phraya River next to the Mandarin Oriental Hotel. Not only is it gorgeous, it gives us a look back to more than 100 years ago as a rare historical treasure showing the prosperity of the Danish community in Siam at that time. Right now it is also home to Bangkok Biennale 2018 Art Fair works by Lee Bul, Sara Faviau, and Elmgreen & Dragset.
The beauty of its carefully maintained architecture has long contributed to recognition of the Mandarin Oriental as one of the greatest hotels in the world, and it is generally agreed that since opening in 1870, Bangkok’s first hotel has also been one of its most important landmarks. Though the hotel has undergone many renovations, even today it retains its classic nature. It is also a perfect venue for Bangkok Art Biennale 2018’s showing of such works as “Lost Dogs,” by Aurèle Ricard.
If you have time in your scenic boat ride along the Chao Phraya, you can stop in to see heretofore unknown artistic works tell fascinating stories about culture and society, sparking ideas which we can use to improve our own lives.
An international festival of contemporary art, Bangkok Art Biennale 2018 is held between October 19, 2018 and February 3, 2019 at 20 important Bangkok locations.
Ask anyone in the street a simple question about Thai-ness. “What’s the first thing that comes to your mind?” And you may get something like traffic jams for an answer. It will come as no surprise. Everywhere you look, the streets are wedged solid with the traffic gridlock especially during rush hours.
From a different point of view, you may get something positive for an answer, something like beautiful temples, the marvels of ancient architecture, or the land of colorful taxis. But Thai-ness isn’t about people’s perceptions of anyone or anything in particular. It’s a million memories that constitute a distinctive national identity. Good or bad, the underlying attributes of Thai-ness are hidden in all things we do. They range from little things like the flower garlands used in the worship of the Buddha and dolls in full traditional dance regalia, to spectacular scenery including temples and palaces, national monuments and colorful nightlife. All things considered, the perceptions of the quality of being Thai can differ greatly from one person to the next, and it’s open to interpretation. That’s where art comes into play as a medium of expression that in a subtle way explains, reframes, and conveys an understanding of what it means to be Thai.
The contemporary art festival “Bangkok Art Biennale 2018” is doing exactly that. 75 artists from Thailand and abroad are exhibiting more than 200 works at some 20 venues throughout the capital city from now until 4 February 2019. For many homegrown artists, it’s a golden opportunity to express their ideas, passions, and commitments through various creative arts, ranging from installations and live performances to paintings and sculptures. It’s inevitable that their perceptions of the underlying attributes of Thai-ness is hidden in the works of art they put on display. And it’s entirely up to you to interpret them. We at LivingASEAN.com are proud to bring you some of the masterpieces created your compatriots.
Something about Thai-ness in home goods, décor and accessories
We have grown accustomed to seeing glass-faced armoires crafted of teakwood as part of our childhood experience. Equally familiar are pieces of architecture and a few ceramic vases that look very Thai to us. Over time, these home goods and décor items have changed hands as they get passed on from generation to generation or sold on the local marketplace. Now they can be found at temples. The flowers vases are widely used in the worship of the Buddha and merit making ceremonies across the country. Artist Torlarp Larpjaroensook, an Ayutthaya native, now lives in Chiang Mai. He’s no stranger to traditional art and craft, and he knows exactly what to do with them. His latest masterpiece is the representation of a spacecraft that he creates using old armoires, home goods and accessories that he found lying around unused at the home of a relative. He calls his objet trouvé installation “Spiritual Spaceship”. We call it the power of imagination.
The installation that measures 485 x 815 x 349 centimeters consists of found objects, among them an old armoire, a few vases, iron and copper implements, a spade, computer screens, electric lamps and fragments of various items. Together, they constitute a spacecraft model that he calls “Spiritual Spaceship 2018”. The artist is passionate about spatial relationships and interactions between works of art and exhibition viewers. His works illustrate how even unexciting materials can be modified and eventually come to be appreciated as art. Especially in “Spiritual Spaceship 2018”, there’s something about being Thai in the obsolete items that the artist uses as a medium of expression. In a nutshell, it’s a marriage between old objects and ultramodern architectural design. Who would have thought the final outcome would be a spacecraft with Thai-ness elements on it?
One of the magnets for art lovers, Basket Tower is an installation by Choi Jeong Hwa, a big name in South Korea’s contemporary art scene. The soaring sculpture is made of hundreds of brightly colored baskets in various shapes and sizes that Choi single-handedly picked from the marketplace. A versatile artist with many rewards to his name, Choi has authoritative knowledge in effective use of space. His past works include sculptures, installations, fashion and graphic designs. Choi gets most of his inspirations from undistinguished, even recycled materials that he finds in daily living and turns them into amazing works of art. Interestingly, there’s something in the colorful Basket Tower that bespeaks Thai-ness. The brilliant color combinations appear to be sending a message about life being fun, which coincides the quality of being Thai. The sculpture that stands as tall as a five-story building is on display at the Bangkok Art and Culture Center.
Something about Thai-ness in Cultural History
A force to be reckoned with in Thailand’s mixed media art scene, Pannapan Yodmanee was among a few Thai artists to ever win the 11th Benesse Prize that was part of the Singapore Biennale 2016. For her, the fun part of it was the opportunity to compete with fellow artists from 19 countries from across Asia. Apart from the award money, she had the privilege of exhibiting her works at the Benesse Art Site in Naoshima, dubbed Japan’s island of art.
Pannapan’s entry into the Bangkok Art Biennale 2018 is a transportable installation titled “Sediments of Migration”. The sculptural exhibition consists of six miniature mountains, hermit figures in yoga poses, and a collection of ballast stones used in stabilizing the cargo ships of ancient times. Inspired by mural paintings found throughout the temple ground of Wat Phra Chetupon, it tells stories of the long established trade and cultural relations between the people of old Siam and their Chinese counterparts.
The artist said in an interview, “Through this installation, I want to communicate to the audience cultural harmony and the assimilation that exists between two peoples from entirely different backgrounds. It turns out to be quite a challenge because the miniature mountain landscapes must be kept intact, while media of expression are added to the scene to produce a pleasing visual effect.” Pannapan was able to do exactly that. Some exhibition viewers have said it wasn’t easy to tell the difference between old and new parts that made up the installation art.
Likewise, it’s the dream of the up-and-coming artist Komkrit Tepthian to feature a page of Thai history and religion in the early Ratanakosin Period. His entry into the Bangkok Art Biennale 2018 is a sculptural installation consisting of two three-meter-tall Giant Twins. It features the likeness of a sculptural Chinese warrior and a giant gatekeeper from classical mythology.
On a related topic, Chinese avant-garde artist Huang Yong Ping presents Dragon Boat, a 16-meter-long sculptural installation depicting a journey by the people who migrated from China to settle in Thailand in the past century. Huang is founder of the Xiamen Dada art movement.
Something about Thai-ness and the Environment
Patipat Chaiwitesh is a new generation artist with a unique way of expressing ideas about events and their impacts on society. He has created works in a number of genres from sculpture to installation to textile art. For the Bangkok Art Biennale 2018, his installation with a futuristic name, “2562++”, has excited the curiosity of many viewers. That’s exactly the intention. The artist sees his work both as a laboratory and means to promote an awareness of the effects of change in the natural surroundings. The message is being conveyed in the artistic representations of fish, birds, and crustaceans that appear to have undergone transformation as the result of environmental degradation by humans. The artist’s work is on display at the East Asiatic Building.
On a related topic, British artist Andrew Stahl presents “Pyramid Shape Sculpture 2018”, a two-meter-tall installation crafted of fragments of toys and found objects that he plucked from the Chao Phraya River. His work raises concern over water quality and the health of rivers in Thailand. Professor Stahl is chair of the Painting Department at the UCL Slade School of Fine Arts. His pyramid-shaped sculpture stands covered in multiple layers of warm-color paint spread over the surfaces that he uses to draw attention to hot issues concerning water pollution problems. Stahl has used his painting skill to chronicle a journey through time and unfamiliar places, where culture and language differ greatly from his own. He specifically made reference to the physical environment of Bangkok from an artist’s perspective and the enormous energy that made it a vibrant destination. Stahl said in an interview: “A journey on the Chao Phraya evokes memories of the time when the first Europeans discovered old Siam and came into the company of the people whose life depended on this river. Professor Stahl’s work is on view at the East Asiatic Building.
The exhibitions listed above are part of a wider art festival that’s going on right now and will run until 3 February 2019. The Bangkok Art Biennale is a major confluence of more than 200 beautiful works by 75 leading artists from 34 countries across the globe. The exhibits are on show at 20 different locations scattered throughout the capital city.
“Wat” as we know it refers to a place worthy of worship, one that’s occupied by a community of monks living under the vows of Buddhism. Having been in existence from time immemorial, the site that’s thought of as sacred has performed many crucial roles in society, ranging from schoolhouse and herbal apothecary to kitchen and community center. And the list goes on. Take a good look at it, and you’ll find the holy dwelling place also plays a role as museum, where objects and places of religious reverence are preserved and prominently displayed for people to appreciate. It gives the followers of Buddhism a sense of the path to peace and freedom of the mind using, among other things, beautiful works of art as a s medium of communication.
Three famous temples take part in hosting the Bangkok Art Biennale 2018, which is happening now until next February 3. The inaugural festival isn’t centered around just one venue. Rather, it’s putting more than 200 works of art on display at 20 different venues throughout the capital. Among them are Wat Phra Chetupon (Wat Po), Wat Arun (Temple of Dawn), and Wat Prayurawongsawas Woraviharn. The three riverside sanctuaries constitute a hub of religious studies and temple art. For over two centuries, the followers of Buddhism have gathered here to discuss the importance of religion to Thai life and express their beliefs through the various forms of art. For BAB 2018, their artistic exhibitions include:
#Faithway (Paths of Faith) Venue: Temple of the Reclining Buddha, Wat Phra Chetupon (Wat Po) Artist: Jitsing Somboon
“Paths of Faith” is a fashion art exhibition by Jitsing Somboon, formerly chief designer at the Thai clothing brand “Playhound”. The artist, who is passionate about deeply interactive forms of art, said in an interview: “It got me wondering. Usually people take off their shoes and carry them in their hands as they enter the interior of the temple. This makes it troublesome as they prostrate on the floor with the shoes still in their hands. It’s conflicting with what they’re trying to achieve. In the end, it gives me an idea to create a collection of white micro polyester overcoats with shoe pockets on either side. The shoe pouches are sewn onto the overcoat just above the knees.” Above, the artist demonstrates how the worrisome problem is solved.
The garment with “Faith” in either Thai, English, or Chinese stenciled on its back is given for people to wear as they participate in solemn ceremonies inside the Temple of the Reclining Buddha. It’s an important part of a live installation that’s accompanied by the sounds of coins hitting the inside wall of a donation bowl. The fashion art event is held every day for the duration of the Bangkok Art Biennale 2018.
Venue: In front of Khao Mo, Wat Arun or the Temple of Dawn
Artist: Komkrit Tepthian
“Giant Twins” refer to a sculptural installation featuring two buddies from different backgrounds. They come together with a common sense of purpose. One is a sculpture made in the likeness of warrior stone sculptures that were used as ballasts on ancient cargo ships from China, the other a Thai style mythical giant gatekeeper whose duty is to protect against all things evils. The twin sculptures crafted of fiberglass stand 3.20 meters tall. The artist purposely puts a beaming smile on their faces as a gesture of welcome to art lovers. As Komkrit puts it, “I want it to be a piece of storytelling that reflects upon the happy and cordial relations between Thai and Chinese people.”
The artist said: “I want the sculptural installation to communicate the importance of trade and cultural ties between the peoples of Thailand and China. The message is being conveyed in the form of artwork featuring giant twins – one being the likeness of a Chinese warrior stone sculpture, the other bearing some resemblance of the iconic Giant of Wat Arun in full regalia. The work gets its inspiration from an inseparable relationship between twin brothers Eng and Chang (1811-1874), whose names have become synonymous with conjoined twins, a.k.a. Siamese twins.
Giant Twins by Komkrit Tepthian, Bangkok Art Biennale 2018 | Photo courtesy of Media Hub
Besides the Giant Twins, the same venue also plays host to a sculptural Garuda, an eagle-like being that Hindu god Vishnu rides as his mount. Made of interlocking plastic bricks from China, it’s an attraction not to be missed among like-minded friends. For the Bangkok Art Biennale 2018, Komkrit has created a collection of figurines similar to popular Japanese miniature toys. You are invited to try your hand at one of Gashapon-style capsule machines. There will be plenty of surprises for those looking for their favorite animal-mounted heroes, including some of the rarest mythological symbols.
What Will We Leave Behind? Venue: Circular Walkway, Main Stupa, Wat Prayurawongsawas Woraviharn
Artist: Nino Sarabutra
An exhibition by Nino Sarabutra has its origin in a question that he raises about life and the purpose of existence. By calling it “What Will We Leave Behind?” the artist sets out to explore spiritual growth and service to humanity. The installation gives a hint that in the end all we are is dust in the wind, and a reminder to do a great service to mankind before we are gone. Nino’s site specific installation consists of 125,000 miniature human skulls made of porcelain. Like a question that requires no answer, the little ceramic sculptures are scattered along the circular walkway of the Main Stupa at Wat Prayurawongsawas. His beliefs and ideals are encapsulated in an E-sarn motto that says: “Death hangs around every step of the way.” He said, “As we wake up each day to find one another, it’s good to know we’re still living. I am fortunate to have the opportunity to set up an exhibition on the walkway around the Main Stupa. There are niches containing cremation ashes nearby. Never have I worked on a site close to death like I do now. This is an installation that reminds us all to do what we want to do, because we never know when our lives will end.”
As Nino puts it, death is a fact of life that no human beings can escape. It’s a question of when, not if. So we need to ask ourselves we are gone, “What will we leave behind?”
Wat Phra Chetupon, Wat Arun, and Wat Prayurawongsawas all have miniature mountain sites known as “Khao Mo”. Each of them is playing host to a site specific installation by Thai artists. Let’s pay them a visit.
Sediments of Migration
Venue: Khao Mo of Wat Phra Chetupon (Wat Po) Artist: Pannapan Yodmanee
“Sediments of Migration” is a transportable sculptural installation consisting of six miniature mountains, hermit figures in yoga poses, and ballast stones that were used to stabilize the cargo ships of ancient times. It’s inspired by mural paintings found throughout the temple ground of Wat Phra Chetupon.
Venue: Khao Mo, Wat Arun (Temple of Dawn) Artist: Sanitas Pradittasnee
Sanitas Pradittasnee creates this site specific installation after having been inspired by the miniature mountains that she finds scattered around the temple ground of Wat Arun (Temple of Dawn). Her work comes in handy as an invitation to search the mind to understand the inner self, so as to become aware of the goings-on in the world outside. The installation consists of acrylic panels in a brighter shade of red that changes hue as time passes, a subtle reminder that nothing is certain in life.
Turtle Religion is a mixed media installation that seeks to communicate, in a cheerful and happy way, that there’s more to life than just living. Through this exhibition, the artist sends a message that life is about being useful and honorable. The idea is manifested in the way sculptured turtles carry the iconic shrines in Buddhism on their back.
Besides the shows listed above, there are plenty of interesting events on the theme of religion and temple art. The following artists are exhibiting their works in the Riverside Zone of the Bangkok Art Biennale 2018:
The East Asiatic Building is a gem of Renaissance Revival architecture, a popular reprise of 14th through 17th century European design, and still new to us even though it’s been more than a hundred years since Italian architect Annibale Rigotti graced the Thai nation with this work. It is the former office building of a world leader in international trade, the East Asiatic Company (Thailand), founded by Captain H. N. Andersen, a Danish seaman. Andersen found work in Siam as a young man and rose to be captain of the Royal Navy during the reign of H.M. Chulalongkorn before becoming manager of the incomparably luxurious and world-renowned Oriental Hotel and going on to commission the East Asiatic Building.
The East Asiatic Building represents one of Thailand’s most significant historical periods in international trade. In 1984 it received the Architectural Conservation Award from the Association of Siamese Architects under Royal Patronage, and the Fine Arts Department has registered it as a historic site. As its last face-lifting repair was done back in 2001, this building is not normally open to public use, although it is occasionally rented out for banquets or advertising photo shoots. The Bangkok Art Biennale 2018 Festival (BAB 2018) marks the first time the general public will be able to go inside and fully appreciate the beauty of the East Asiatic Building – one of twenty sites where BAB 2018 festivities will be held between October 19, 2018 and February 3, 2019. The festival here offers not only an education in the hidden charms of old-style architecture, but a view of aesthetic wonders in masterworks created by world-class artists who are gathering here to create an experience you won’t be able to find anywhere else.
The overall impression of the building’s interior is of an imprecise beauty, a kind of charm no new building can offer. Despite the renovation of arched doorways following along the lightweight walls, 2nd floor openings show a framework of long wooden beams resting on main pillars, secured with knots and screws. You can see cracks, incrustations, and lichen stain discolorations of wall surfaces alongside piled-up and disintegrated remnants of compressed wood panels once used as space separators in the long-abandoned office building. The artists all expressed the opinion that this environment was perfect: no improvements or alterations needed. They want to display their work at this site just as it is.
This imprecise beauty brings to mind the Japanese “wabi-sabi” acceptance of transience and imperfection. Wrinkles and blemishes born of change and temporal deterioration show a beauty reflective of Zen Buddhist wisdom and reinforces our sense that the older the architecture, the more value it has. It is also all the more appropriate as a setting for art that values such flawed beauty, and exciting that all the Bangkok Art Biennale artists, whatever their methods of presentation or communication, are in harmony with the rich historical context of this building.
The lineup of both Thai and foreign artists displaying works at the East Asiatic Building – and the Festival this time also has showings at the OS Building – includes Lee Bul, a female Korean artist acknowledged as cutting-edge in performance art, sculpture, and installation art. Then there are Elmgreen & Dragset, a Danish and Norwegian contemporary artistic duo, who, though neither has completed a course of study in art, produced the widely acclaimed installation art piece “Van Gogh’s Ear.” Another presenter is “Tay,” Patiphat Chaiyawithate, a young artist of the new generation who pays close attention to the changes taking place around us, integrating them into many types of work: sculpture, installation art, and woven fabrics. His show includes lab rooms of the future and sculptures of animals foraging in a river basin. Another featured female artist with startlingly eye-catching work is Praew Kawita Vatanajyankur, who uses her own body as a primary subject in video art, much of which will be premiered in this fantastic building.