The Inaugural Bangkok Art Biennale Brings Contemporary Art to Ancient Temples—and a Mall. See It Here

Marina Abramović, Lee Bul, and Yayoi Kusama are a few of the artists taking part in "Beyond Bliss," which runs through February.

Komkrit Tepthian, Giant Twins part of the Bangkok Art Biennale 2018, at the Wat Arun temple in Bangkok. Photo: Jewel Samad/AFP/Getty Images.

Contemporary art may not the first thing most people associate with Bangkok, but Thailand’s capital city is hoping the inaugural Bangkok Art Biennale will change all that.

Although the three-month event was announced at the Venice Biennale in 2017, this sprawling affair has a few key differences from the so-called “Art-World Olympics.” Most importantly, admission is free (tickets to the Venice Biennale will run you about $28), and the art is peppered across more than 20 locations around the city, including the landmark East Asiatic Building, the temples of Wat Pho, Wat Arun, and Wat Prayoon, and inside a shopping mall.

Yayoi Kusama’s installation at Bangkok Art Biennale 2018. Photo: Jewel Samad/AFP/Getty Images.

The citywide art extravaganza is composed of more than 200 works made by 75 international artists from 33 countries, and around half of the artists are Thai. The biennial managed to nab art stars like Elmgreen & Dragset, Marina Abramović, and Yayoi Kusama as participants, and it counts the Guggenheim’s Asian Art Curator Alexandra Munroe and artist Rirkrit Tiravanija as advisers.

If the marquee artists help get people through the doors, organizers also hope the event will bolster local artists and the country’s contemporary art scene. In a statement, artistic director Dr. Apinan Poshyananda said the Bangkok biennale’s emphasis on local artists will offer visitors a different perspective on contemporary art: “Looking into the contemporary art in the West, I feel it is so stagnant and jaded. This can only be a response from the plaguing presence of uncertainty, terrorism, Brexit, the economy, and fear. Come to Bangkok and go beyond bliss.”

The Bangkok Art Biennale runs through February 9, 2019. See pictures from the inaugural event below.

Nino Sarabutra’s ‘What Will We Leave Behind,’ part of the Bangkok Art Biennale 2018, at the Wat Prayurawongsawas Waraviharn temple in Bangkok . Photo: Jewel Sawad/AFP/Getty Images.

Aurèle Ricard, Malong (2018). Courtesy of the Bangkok Art Biennale.

Choi Jeong Hwa, Basket Tower (2018) at the Bangkok Art and Culture Center. Courtesy of the Bangkok Art Biennale.

Marina Abramovic, “Method.” Courtesy of the Marina Abramovic Institute, Benaki Museum. Photo: Pano.


Huang Yong Ping, Zuo You He Che (2005–06). Photo courtesy of the Bangkok Art Biennial.

Hooptam Lao-Thai, The Adventure of Sinxay (2018). Courtesy of the Bangkok Art Biennale.

Alex Face & Souled Out Studios, MEMORY HOUSE (2018) detail. At the Bank of Thailand Learning Center. Courtesy of the Bangkok Art Biennale.

Elmgreen & Dragset, Zero (2018) at the East Asiatic Building. Courtesy of the artist and Bangkok Art Biennale.

Pannaphan Yodmanee, Sedimentations of Migration (2018) at various locations. Courtesy of the Bangkok Art Biennale.

Lee Bul, Diluvium (2018) at the East Asiatic Building. Courtesy of the Bangkok Art Biennale.

Stills from Kawita Vatanajyankur, The Spinning Wheel, Untangled, and Dye (2018) at the Peninsula Bangkok. Courtesy of the Bangkok Art Biennale.

Follow Artnet News on Facebook:

Want to stay ahead of the art world? Subscribe to our newsletter to get the breaking news, eye-opening interviews, and incisive critical takes that drive the conversation forward.