For the first time in more than a decade in New York, a group exhibition of Thai art offers a view onto the contemporary art scene of the dynamic Southeast Asian country. Curated by art historian Gregory Galligan, director of the Thai Art Archives in Bangkok, Thresholds: Contemporary Thai Art examines, through six case studies, how Thai artists are dealing with pressing social, political and artistic issues.
Thailand is frequently in the news for, paradoxically, its exceedingly accommodating tourist industry and its turbulent political factionalism, both of which often occlude outsiders’ view of the nation’s sophisticated contemporary artistic culture. Over the last decade, contemporary Thai artists have regularly participated in virtually all of the world’s major biennials, triennials and art fairs, yet few global observers have had the opportunity to directly engage with contemporary Thai artistic developments in any concentrated context—perhaps with the exception of the nation’s leading multi-platform artist Montien Boonma (1953–2000), multi-platform star of relational aesthetics Rirkrit Tiravanija and “slow” cinematographer Apichatpong Weerasethakul (Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives, 2010).
Thresholds aims to address this void by presenting recent key work by six established Thai artists: ANGKRIT AJCHARIYASOPHON—an accomplished mid-career practitioner of Thai non-objective abstraction; NIM KRUASAENG—an emerging, self-taught painter of sublime forms based on everyday objects and quotidian silhouettes of nature; SAKARIN KRUE-ON—one of Thailand’s most globally accomplished artists working in multi-platform formats, not long ago celebrated at Documenta XII (2007) for his critically acclaimed Terraced Rice Fields Project; KAMIN LERTCHAIPRASERT, co-founder with Rirkrit Tiravanija of the artists’ collective The Land (f. 1998), and a practitioner of Buddhist-inflected drawing, painting, sculpture, and participatory site-specific projects; NIPAN ORANNIWESNA—a widely celebrated, if primarily Asia-based multi-platform conceptualist, whose work engages issues of political strife, cultural censorship and social “mapping”; and PHAPTAWAN SUWANNAKUDT—Thailand’s premiere female master of traditional Thai mural painting turned to contemporary dialogues.
Thresholds offers a multi-faceted look at contemporary Thai art, throwing into relief its aesthetic and conceptual complexities, its ever-topical underpinnings and its vital presence in the global contemporary art scene since the early 1990s. At the same time, this show suggests that contemporary Thai artists are now approaching a newly turbulent juncture in their nation’s long and frequently conflicted evolution.
Gregory Galligan, PhD is the director and founder of the Thai Art Archives in Bangkok. He is a widely published independent curator and art historian, formerly based in New York (1985–2009), where he wrote for numerous publications, including ArtAsiaPacific, Art in America, The Art Bulletin, and Arts Magazine. He is currently writing a book on the alternative art movements of Thailand since the mid 1980s.