Salvador: Bangkok Art Biennale, catching more than Kusama

"I Carry On With The Pumpkins" 2016 by Yayoi Kusama (Jinggoy I. Salvador)
"I Carry On With The Pumpkins" 2016 by Yayoi Kusama (Jinggoy I. Salvador)

FEBRUARY 4’s midnight festivity of dancing dragons and fireworks will make a fitting farewell to the first edition of the Bangkok Art Biennale (BAB) and a welcome to the Year of the Pig.

There are a few more days to go before the art festival closes. If you’re heading to Bangkok before the first day of the Chinese Lunar Calendar, then this event is worth your while. But if you miss this run, the subsequent editions will happen in 2020 and 2022.

Bangkok Art Biennale aims to promote the link between Thai culture and creative tourism. The major art event called out to 75 renowned international and Thai artists to interpret the theme “Beyond Bliss”.

More than 200 art pieces are on display at the city’s important landmarks and tourist destinations — temples like Temple of the Reclining Buddha and Temple of Dawn; hotels like Mandarin Oriental and The Peninsula; fashion centers like the Central World, Siam Paragon, EmQuartier; and other venues turned into exhibition spaces. Just like the artist, the audience is challenged as well to come up with their own interpretation of the artworks.

The major public exhibition is a key event established to promote Bangkok as a top global tourist destination of contemporary art to attract tourists and art lovers from around the world.

BAB came as a wonderful surprise. It was by chance that I came across it in the net, browsed through the program and a favorite artist’s name was on the list — Japanese artist Yayoi Kusama. I missed the chance to visit her museum in Shinjuku and the installation at the Ginza Six luxury mall.

I wasted no time. The moment I arrived in Bangkok, I dropped my luggage at the hotel and went to the malls where Kusama’s arts were on display. It was two of the malls I frequent in the city.

Japanese Pop artist Yayoi Kusama is famous for her polka dot graphics. For BAB, the pink polka dot pumpkins, “14 Pumpkins” (2017 inflatable Pumpkins, fabric) are suspended in the atrium of Central World.

At Siam Paragon, two pumpkins are on display, “Pumpkin” (2017, fiberglass reinforced plastic, tile, glue, and steel) and the red “I Carry on Living with the Pumpkins' (2016, fiberglass reinforced plastic and urethane paint).

I was happy. But it got more exciting as I chanced upon other works in the city. At the Siam Discovery, Choi Jeong Hwa’s works were on display. Hwa is one of Korea's leading contemporary artists. Inspired by the everyday and recycled objects, he draws his creative thoughts from visits at the market and junkshops.

For Bangkok Art Biennale, Hwa created “Happy Happy Project” which “concerns the paradoxical world of superficial happiness we live in” is described as “playful as well as menacing.”

Two of Hwa’s installations are at Siam Discovery. The giant inflatable robot, “About Being Irritated” when inflated, sits up like waking up irritated, was very interesting.

Aurele’s artworks were incorporated in one of the chic furniture showrooms beside the hotel I was staying at. The French artist is the creator of “Lost Dog,” which reflects on issues of the human spirit.

Although I only caught the smaller artworks, his giant gold terrier “Lost Dog Ma Long” created for BAB represents a canine that “has lost his way and is in search for a path to happiness in the troubled world caused by species called humans.”

Yes, I was lucky to see more art that I originally planned to. To see everything in the collection would take me days. Perhaps a longer stay in Bangkok on the next installment of BAB. I am looking forward to that. You should, too.

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