Thailand’s first biennale will be held in the southern city of Pattaya, better known for parties than contemporary art.
The inaugural Pattaya Biennale, slated for October 2014, will take place two hours from Bangkok in one of Thailand’s infamous party towns. Promising international artists and curators, organisers aim at decentralising the art scene and improving Pattaya’s cultural cache.
Details on the Pattaya Biennale are yet to be released, but Thasnai Sethaseree, the artist leading the project, told ARTINFO that the event will actively engage with the town and the general public.
We’re going to have public art, outdoor art, a main hall like at a normal biennale. And also we’re going to invade department store complexes, markets — the whole city will turn into the festival. Even if they’re not out to see works of art, people will encounter an environment that has changed.
Co-organiser Gridthiya Gaweewong, Founder of non-profit art space Project 304 and Artistic Director of the Jim Thompson Art Center in Bangkok, also pointed out the accessible nature of the Pattaya Biennale, telling ARTINFO that the emphasis was on art scene capacity building and the participation of “non-art people.”
Participants in the Pattaya Biennale 2014
Organisers have announced the participation of Italian curator Pier Luigi Tazzi, who curated the 1988 Venice Biennale, was a two-time co-director of Documenta, and has been involved with the Thai art scene since 1998. Artists thus far named include Thasnai Sethaseree and the Danish art group Superflex.
ARTINFO raises the question of why the seaside town of Pattaya, known around the world for sex tourism, was chosen to host Thailand’s first Biennale rather than a city “that has an art scene to speak of.” The event may be part of a larger rebrand of Pattaya, as well as an attempt to decentralise the Thai art scene. A 2010 article in The New York Times cited the city’s attempts to change its image and invite new tourism to the region.
Pattaya City and the Ministry of Culture are reportedly backing the Biennale, and although Sethaseree states that four cities were considered for the event, Pattaya eventually won for its “richness of culture and resources”, “infrastructure” and “cultural capital.”
Biennales continuing their spread
Asian art watchers have identified an uptick in the number of biennials and triennials taking place across Asia-Pacific in recent years. Nine such events have been established since the year 2000: Yokohama Triennale (2001), Chengdu Biennale (2001), Busan Biennale (2002), Nanjing Triennial (2002), Guangzhou Triennial (2003), Beijing Biennale (2003), Singapore Biennale (2006), Kochi-Muziris Biennale (2012) and Pattaya Biennale (2014).
Curator Melissa Chiu notes the importance of “ambitious local city governments” such as Pattaya’s in contributing to the rise of biennials in Asia-Pacific. Art historian Meiqin Wang, writing on the increased popularity of the biennial and triennials for Asia Art Archive, attributes the growth of the format to two factors: the international recognition garnered by such events; and the concerted efforts made by Asian governments to support the arts, coinciding with increased economic prosperity and global tourism.
The Pattaya Biennale, due to open in October 2014, falls neatly after the opening of the Taipei Biennial and the Gwangju Biennale in September, and prior to the opening of the Kochi-Muziris Biennale in December.
- Venice Biennale 2013: 5 pavilions that reveal Asia’s diversity – May 2013 – from video installation to post-conflict photography, Asian artists show strongly in Venice
- History, memory, nation: Thai artists depict a country of complexity – picture feast – May 2013 – artists present a more complicated view of the “land of smiles”
- Impressive first Kochi-Muziris Biennale, despite delays, vandalism and censorship – round-up – January 2013 – India’s inaugural biennale wins praise even in the face of disaster
- Artist Manit Sriwanichpoom’s pink prophecies for Thailand – interview – November 2011 – denouncing brutality through satire, Sriwanichpoom wants to bring forgiving and forgetting to Thailand
- Writer Steven Pettifor talks about the old and the new in Thai contemporary art – Art Radar interview – August 2010 – feeling Thai art was getting neglected, Pettifor set out to redress the balance
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