We love to visit art museums all around the world. During our travels we have visited art museums in cities like Lima, Santiago, Medellin, Singapore and Tokyo. Although we have visited Bangkok many times and went to several different historical museums throughout our visits, we have never seen an art exhibition there yet. So we decided it was about time to see one. And just by coincidence we were in the Thai capital during the first Bangkok Art Biennale.
Every other year
The Venice Biennale in 1895 was the first biennial art festival of its kind and it set an example for many other cities. Bangkok might be considered the capital of Southeast Asia but they have just introduced the world to their free festival this year. From October to February 75 artists from across 33 countries exhibit their art scattered throughout the city. The 20 locations provide you with a surprising way to discover the capital, even for seasoned Bangkok visitors like us. Historic sites like temples but also modern buildings are set as the venues for the exhibition, which are often art objects on their own.
East Asiatic building
One of the most memorable venues is just beside the Chao Praya river. This building houses beautiful works from 9 different artists. However, the structure itself makes it even more unique. The East Asiatic building, was built completely in Venetian style around 1900 by a Danish merchant who exported teak back to Europe. It has been 27 years since the building was last open to the public. The building still breathes grandeur despite having fallen into disrepair. This inspired the artists to create suiting works.
What will you leave behind
In the temple of the iron fence (near the temple of dawn), Thai artist Nino Sarabutra has used the graveyard corridor around the Stupa for her unique artwork. 125,000 skull-shaped ceramic pieces cover the floor of the corridor. Visitors are asked to walk on them with their bare feet. Although this sounds quite macabre, the installation focuses on the temporary nature of life. It is a one of a kind experience in which the artist wants to ask you the question; “if today was your last day on earth, what will you leave behind?”
A good place to start
The heart of Bangkok’s Art Biennale is the Bangkok Art and Culture Centre with several floors dedicated to the festival. They display a great mix of art forms like paintings, sculptures, pictures, installations and performances. You can easily spend a day here if you want to see the entire exhibition. The performances are cutting edge, confronting and can be a little shocking.
Although most artworks are fixed for the full Biennale, some are temporary and others are moved between locations. The BAB website provides you with the right location and duration of every work.
If you are by any chance in Bangkok during the Biennale, you should definitely visit some of the venues of this magnificent art festival!