How a Landmark Show by LGBTQ Artists in Thailand Is Sowing the Seeds of Tolerance Across the Region
The exhibition includes works by Danh Vō, Ren Hang, and Dinh Q. Lê, among others.
The Bangkok Art and Culture Center in Thailand has opened a historic exhibition of LGBTQ-themed art. On view through March 2020, the show is the largest-ever survey of regional contemporary art that engages with the history of the LGBTQ community in Southeast Asia.
Curated by a team led by Chatvichai Promadhattavedi, the exhibition emphasizes shifting social frameworks and challenges to established norms, while promoting tolerance and conversations that are sometimes taboo in the region. It presents works by more than 50 artists from Thailand, India, and China, many of whom identify as LGBTQ.
“For the wider region, our neighbors in Southeast Asia will see that Bangkok is doing a major art exhibition on the LGBT theme, signifying its acceptance,” Promadhattavedi tells Artnet News. “Hopefully, our neighbors might then consider it safe for them to venture into it, too.”
Thailand is considered to have a higher level of tolerance for the LGBTQ community than many other Asian countries. Yet while Bangkok is recognized as a generally gay-friendly city, exclusionary practices and discrimination are not uncommon.
The curator hopes that governments will recognize that the tourism, banking, and finance industries could be boosted by the projection of a “reasonable and tolerant” international image. Since the exhibition opened on November 23, it has received nearly 6,000 visitors, including those coming from schools.
The exhibition, titled “Spectrosynthesis II—Exposure of Tolerance: LGBTQ in Southeast Asia,” is making its second stop on a tour that began at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Taipei in 2017. It is sponsored by the Sunpride Foundation, an organization dedicated to promoting the creative history of the LGBTQ community.
“I look forward to seeing how the exhibition will encourage greater discussion and foster a more equitable world for the LGBTQ community and their allies,” the foundation’s executive director, Patrick Sun, said in a statement.
The show includes new commissions from artists such as Balbir Krishan, David Medalla, Arin Rungjang, Anne Samat, and Chov Theanly, which are on view alongside works by Danh Vō, Ren Hang, and Dinh Q. Lê.
One of the works on view, by the Thai artist Jakkai Siributr, features three large-scale textile works patterned with geometric motifs that play on the pink triangles used by the Nazi party to identify and shame “homosexuals.” The symbols in Siributr’s Quilt Project (2019) have since been reclaimed by the gay community as a symbol of pride.
Meanwhile, Arin Rungjang, who represented Thailand in the 2013 Venice Biennale, is presenting a new video installation inspired by his childhood fascination with a transsexual acquaintance.
See installation views of the exhibition below.
“Spectrosynthesis II—Exposure of Tolerance: LGBTQ in Southeast Asia” is on view at the Bangkok Art and Culture Center in Thailand through March 1, 2020.
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