A Guide to Thai Artists at Art Basel Hong Kong

Kamori Osthananda

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Art Basel is considered a must-stop on the global art calendar, attracting art patrons, directors, curators, trustees, and art goers from leading international museums and institutions. As a global art platform, Art Basel is organized three times a year: in Basel, Miami Beach, and Hong Kong.

This year, Art Basel Hong Kong celebrated various cultural programs and initiatives during its Art Week held concurrently with Art Basel, with a strong showing by Thai artists significantly enriching the scene.

A First of the Second Decade

This year’s edition of Art Basel Hong Kong returned to its pre-pandemic scale with more than 242 galleries from 40 countries, from Barbara Kruger’s Untitled (Rug), 1991 presented by Sprüth Magers to Takashi Murakami’s Edo, Yoshiwara, 2024 presented by Gagosian. 

Despite being the 11th edition of its kind, Art Basel Hong Kong Director Angelle Siyang-Le described the fair as “the first edition of the second decade.” The first decade established Hong Kong as Asia’s cultural hub, while the second now seeks to foster cultural exchange and elevate the contemporary art scene of Asia.

Pinaree Sanpitak Kabinett Installation View.
Courtesy of the artist and Ames Yavuz.

Pinaree Sanpitak 
‘The Vessel,’ 2024
Stainless steel. 78.5 x 200.8 x 91.5 cm
Courtesy of the artist and Ames Yavuz.

The fair has brought together one of its biggest “Kabinett sectors” (characterized as “a booth within a booth”) dedicated to the history of modern and contemporary art. This year, it featured Thai artists Pinaree Sanpitak presented by Ames Yavuz and Udomsak Krisanamis presented by ROH Projects and neugerriemschneider. With city-wide participation in the Art Week, Art Basel collaborator M+ also showcased Apichatpong Weerasethakul’s Primitive. 2009.

An art installation by Nawin Nuthong
Nawin Nuthong
Bangkok CityCity Gallery
Courtesy of Art Basel

The non-ticket section of the fair, Film and Conversations — included to increase public exposure to general art education — featured panel discussions by artists, curators, and collectors. Thailand Biennale Chiang Rai 2023 co-artistic directors Gridthiya Gaweewong and Rirkrit Tiravanija joined a panel entitled “How to Build a Biennial Together.”

Thai galleries and artists have a longstanding relationship with Art Basel. The 100 Tonson, for example, was the sole Southeast Asian gallery to exhibit at Art Basel in Switzerland in 2011, which presented Rirkrit Tiravanija’s cooking and demonstration drawing. Last year, NOVA Contemporary presented Kawita Vatanajyankur at its 10th Hong Kong edition.

In this edition of Art Basel Hong Kong, Thailand NOW brings you a guide to Thai artists at the 11th edition, featuring an exclusive interview with Nawin Nuthong on his Art Basel Hong Kong debut presented by Bangkok CityCity Gallery.

Korakrit Arunanondchai

Korakrit Arunanondchai (b. 1986) is known for his exploration of medium specificity in art and the association to spirit-medium, often centering his works around fire, creation, and decreation. His technique involves the bleaching of denim and building upon layers of paint which render such surfaces as a stage for and material to be consumed by fire. Fire is both Arunanondchai’s process and subject, blurring the line between form and content. The burning of paintings were documented in photographs which were then reassembled with fragmented remnants of the paintings. The artist’s works are said to contain the images of their own making. Arunanondchai also utilizes videos and installations in his work. 

“I really wanted to kind of make a platform – the artwork [to] be a platform for a membrane that absorbs everything and outputs all these ideas into a form,” he said in an interview with Palais de Tokyo. The use of video allows the artist to explore themes of death, rebirth, spirits, ghosts, nonhuman forces, and orders. 

“The idea of the medium is that a human and a nonhuman come together to hold something experienced in the present,” he said to Moderna Museet. This can be seen in his exhibitions “From dying to living” (2022), “A Machine Boosting Energy into the Universe” (2021), among others. Korakrit Arunanondchai is presented by Kukje Gallery, Carlos/Ishikawa, and Clearing at Art Basel Hong Kong.

Korakrit Arunanondchai (b. 1986)
Chimera, 2024
Acrylic polymer on metallic foil on bleached denim on inkjet print on canvas
177.8 x 150 cm
Courtesy of the artist and Kukje Gallery 
Photo: Sebastiano Pellion di Persano 
Image provided by Kukje Gallery

Korakrit Arunanondchai
The Whole World in a Drop of Water, 2024
Inkjet print on canvas, acrylic paint, metallic foil, denim
178.5 x 151 x 3.5 cm
70 1/4 x 59 1/2 x 1 3/8 in
(CI-KA-0125)
Image © Korakrit Arunanondchai 2024, Courtesy of the artist; Bangkok CityCity Gallery; Carlos/Ishikawa, London; C L E A R I N G, New York / Brussels; and Kukje Gallery, Seoul. Photo: Damian Griffiths

Rirkrit Tiravanija

Rirkrit Tiravanija (b. 1961) pioneered relational aesthetics movement, facilitating communal environments for life and human connections in the white cube of museums and galleries. Tiravanija “started to make things so that people would have to use them” and not be put alongside other sculptures or relics as told by Bruce Hainley via ArtForum

The threshold of body and world, and the liminal space between the individual and their social environment give rise to relation aesthetics according to curator and art critic Nicolas Bourriaud. The happening of processes is of equal significance to the conceptualization and documentation, notably through the artist’s use of immersive and participatory transcendental experiences. Pad thai, massaman curry, tom ka soup, among other dishes and necessities became the artist’s medium in not only challenging art, artistic spaces, but also usurpation of cultural goods — all the while making his audiences central to his work.

Rirkrit Tiravanija is presented by Pilar Corrias and Kurimanzutto at Art Basel Hong Kong.

An art installation by Rirkrit Tirajavanija
Rirkrit Tirajavanija
untitled 2021 (a perfect kiss) (two), 2021
Stainless steel base (3 x panels), 3D printed plastic (Bonsai Tree), stainless steel cube (plinth)
90 x 90 x 90 cm
35 3/8 x 35 3/8 x 35 3/8 in
Unique work in a series of 4
Courtesy the artist and Pilar Corrias, London

Pinaree Sanpitak

Pinaree Sanpitak (b. 1961) explores birth and life, motherhood, womanhood, selfhood, and potentiality of the body through various media and techniques such as painting, collage, drawing, printmaking, sculpture, installation, and performance. Her motifs encapsulate rituals and vessels that transcend the body at the intersection where forms of burial mounds and female forms are contemplated. The pieces reflect distinct emotions, all the while retaining the universality and organic nature of its form as a vessel of life, experiences, and emotions; and the inheritance of values from one generation to the next.

Last year, she collaborated with Valentino for the first edition of Art SG; her paintings, Milk of Dreams curated by Cecilia Almemani, were previously presented at the Venice Biennale in 2022. Her Kabinett at Art Basel Hong Kong brought together a body of work spanning over 24 years depicting the female body, vessel, and offering bowls

In an attempt to describe her work, Sanpitak said in 1998: “woman – the mystery, woman – the incomplete, woman – the versatile, woman – the passionate, woman – the vessel, woman – the practical, woman – the nonsense.” Pinaree Sanpitak is presented by Ames Yavuz at Art Basel Hong Kong.

Pinaree Sanpitak
‘The Vessel,’ 2024 
Stainless steel. 78.5 x 200.8 x 91.5 cm
Courtesy of the artist and Ames Yavuz

Pinaree Sanpitak
‘Lotus Lady,’ 2024
Paper, needle, glass, metal 
51.5 x 11.5 x 10.5 cm; 11 x 6.5 x 6.5 cm (Sculpture), 30 x 30 cm (Shelf)
Courtesy of the artist and Ames Yavuz

Pinaree Sanpitak
‘A Pot, A Pan, and A Stove,’ 2022-2024
Paper, needle, brass, metal 
Dimensions variable (Sculpture), 60 x 30 cm (Shelf)
Courtesy of the artist and Ames Yavuz

Pinaree Sanpitak
‘Spouts,’ 2022
Paper, needle, terracotta, metal
15 x 18 x 16 cm; 24 x 18 x 13.5 cm (Sculptures), 60 x 30 cm (Shelf)
Courtesy of the artist and Ames Yavuz

Apichatpong Weerasethakul

As a Thai independent film director, screenwriter, and film producer, Apichatpong Weerasethakul attempts to “create a cinema of fact and reconstituted realism.” His practice is defined by the bridging of visual art, moving image, and cinema. Non-narrative structures and states of possibility are often experimented by Weerasethakul. Primitive, 2009, for example, is a science fiction ghost story rooted in Thai folklore. The film destabilizes conventional notions of time while reflecting ancient animistic beliefs, legends, superstitions, and personal history of Northeastern Thailand. Apichatpong Weerasethakul’s Primitive, 2009, is presented by M+; his work at Art Basel Hong Kong is presented by Kiang Malingue.

Udomsak Krisanamis

Specifically conceived for this edition of Art Basel Hong Kong, TECHNO GAME is a site-specific body of work by Udomsak Krisanamis (b. 1966). His works are described as self-referential as they document the labor of their making. Collage and painting are combined in a presentation that reflects the artist’s language refined over three decades in Chiang Mai, Chicago, and New York, producing an amalgamation of chaotic serenity. His dense labyrinths composed of letters and circles which sprawled infinitely across the canvases were presented in parallel with golf and beats from the 1970s. 

Chomwan Weeraworawit, a curator whose contributions enriched the Kabinett presentation, described how “painting for Krisanamis, is life. As is golf, and other ball games, music, family, friends, food, and the pursuit of joy. The complexity eventually becomes so simple as the layers eat into each other, in this convergency, a new energy, a new harmony is found.” Udomsak Krisanamis is presented by ROH Projects and neugerriemschneider at Art Basel Hong Kong.

Photography by Maruto Ardi
Courtesy of The Artist and ROH

Photography by Maruto Ardi
Courtesy of The Artist and ROH

Aracha Cholitgul

Through the translation of personal stories into visual forms, Aracha Cholitgul (b. 1988) challenges means of perception. Her ongoing body of work at Art Basel Hong Kong, titled Moving Images of Stones on the Island, explores the island of Koh Phagan. Presented akin to film stills, Cholitgul’s drawings of stones illustrate nature as they bear witness to the influx of tourism and gentrification of the island in the 21st century. 

The artist said to Stephanie Bailey for Art Basel that she found it traumatizing that other Thai people were slowly forced out of the island as they can no longer afford to live there, especially after the impact of COVID-19. She sees her body of work as a reflection and introduction to the current landscape through lenses of a troubled human being attempting to navigate life on Koh Phagan. Stones are her central protagonists in a cycle of monochromatic drawings; tranquil as they may be, the chaos, ruination, and even altered soundscape of the island register with these seemingly inborn observers. The micro context exposes global ripples of neocolonization, and underlying compromisation to spatial and cultural identity. 

Aracha Cholitgul is presented by NOVA Contemporary at Art Basel Hong Kong.

Gongkan

Known for dreamlike, atmospheric imagery and often Magrittean surrealist elements, Gongkan’s (b. 1989) body of work include black holes, portals, and humanoids. These recurring motifs of teleportation embody hope, self-acceptance, among other transformative emotions as well as social issues such as gender inequality and human rights

Said to be inspired by Salvador Dali through the use of intense colors in order to evoke a feeling of pensive introspection, the artist’s work spans the range of street art, paintings, sculptures, music video and album cover. His recent work Come and grow, 2023 presented at the fair further explores selfhood and self-realization. Gongkan is presented by Tang Contemporary Art at Art Basel Hong Kong.

Nawin Nuthong

Culture is Flux by Nawin Nuthong (b. 1993) explores inherited cultural norms through comical stylizations with references to video games, comics, and films. His body of work contends with the evolving nature of historical knowledge and excavates cultural heritage and embedded narratives as we know it. Nawin Nuthong shares with us his reflections on Culture is Flux and his Art Basel Hong Kong experience. 

“I’m interested in history, with the little ‘h’,” said Nuthong. The artist mentioned Ming Wong’s Friendship First, Competition Second, 2024 presented by Ota Fine Arts and Tan Jing’s Nook of a Hazy Dream, 2023 presented by Mangrove Gallery to be intriguing and in dialogue with his oeuvre.

The atmosphere of Art Basel
Ming Wong
Ota Fine Arts
Courtesy of Art Basel

“I see artists from the same generation grow and it’s very comforting – to understand culture in a bigger picture of relationships and ecosystems,” Nuthong said. He describes Culture is Flux as a naturally occurring project without any precedent intention, as he brings into question how civilization-building games allows one to “renarrate” history. 

“Although one cannot excavate the virtual world, one can excavate with media and visual culture,” Nuthong explained. To Nuthong, the use of different mediums in Culture is Flux is “an attempt to digest information – I treat the canvas as a digestion of information.” The artist found that this attempt spoke to everybody, from art collectors, curators, to children at the fair.

Nawin Nuthong is presented by Bangkok CityCity Gallery at Art Basel Hong Kong.

An artwork called Smiling Map by Nawin Nuthong
Nawin Nuthong
Smiling Map, 2024
Hand-pull screenprint on paper, 8 colors; artist frame
59.5 x 59.5 cm; 64.5 x 64.5 x 4 cm
Edition of 5 plus 2 artist’s proofs
(BKK-NN-ABHK24-202413)
Courtesy of Bangkok CityCity Gallery

Thailand’s thriving contemporary art scene

For some artists like Nawin Nuthong, Art Basel Hong Kong marked their first. While for others like Rirkrit Tiravanija, the fair is a constant stop. In the wake of the Venice Biennale 2024, more Thai artists continue to hail from our corner of the world to exhibit in creative spaces beyond language and cultural boundaries, it is my hope that by covering this year’s Art Basel Hong Kong, the Thai contemporary art scene will continue to be celebrated and supported by all.

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Kamori Osthananda

Kamori is a writer, speaker, and researcher seeking to communicate ideas and stories uncovered through history, culture, and people. She is interested in humanitarianism; through her talks on healthy communities with the UNFPA, writings on Thailand’s disabled youth in the workforce and period poverty, and project on gender equity and climate change, Kamori hopes to continue learning and sharing what can be done to help those disenfranchised in vulnerable communities, while celebrating the culture and heritage of those individuals.

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