Asia’s biggest queer art exhibition opens in Bangkok

Untitled by Ren Hang, 2011

A gallery in Bangkok, Thailand, has just unveiled what is believed to be the biggest exhibition of LGBTQ art in Asia. The show, entitled ‘SPECTROSYNTHESIS II – Exposure of Tolerance: LGBTQ in Southeast Asia’ will run until March 2020.

Dress Rehearsal, by Christopher Cheung, 2017
Dress Rehearsal, by Christopher Cheung, 2017

It follows a smaller exhibition, SPECTROSYNTHESIS I, which took place in 2017 at the Museum of Contemporary Art, Taipei in Taiwan. Both exhibitions have been coordinated by the Sunpride Foundation, which was formed in 2014 to showcase “the rich, creative history of the LGBTQ community.”

Boys Boys Boys installation by Dinh Q. Lê, 2019
Boys Boys Boys installation by Dinh Q. Lê, 2019

Related: Gay bars in Bangkok 

The show is at the Bangkok Art and Culture Centre. It features work from more than 60 artists, including photography, painting, installations and performance-based work.

All of the artists herald from Southeast Asia, India or China. 

Bond by Cindy Aquino, 2013
Bond by Cindy Aquino, 2013

Artists featured include Ming Wong, Balbir Krishan, David Medalla, Arin Rungjang (who represented Thailand in the 55th Venice Biennale), and Anne Samat, among others.

A Stitch in Time, by David Medalla, 2019
A Stitch in Time, by David Medalla, 2019

Also included is photographic work by the late Ren Hang, who took his own life in 2017 at the age of 29. Hang’s work includes intimate portraits of friends. 

“What makes this show so powerful and critical is the fact that most artists are personally involved or can identify with the issue,” says lead curator Chatvichai Promadhattavedi.

Video installation, Passion, by Jun-Jieh Wang, 2017
Video installation, Passion, by Jun-Jieh Wang, 2017

“More crucially, the dialogue is about the freedom that art offers: the expression of the individual struggles for gender recognition and normalization; the battles fought for human rights; and winning respect amongst peers.”

LGBTQ rights face a patchwork of legislation across Asia. Gay sex was only decriminalized in India – the second most populated country in the world – last year.

Kik & Tui, by Piyarat Piyapongwiwat, 2012
Kik & Tui, by Piyarat Piyapongwiwat, 2012

In a sign that the region is becoming more accepting, Taiwan became the first country in Asia to introduce same-sex marriage earlier this year, and civil unions are widely expected to arrive in Thailand at some point soon. 

Portrait, by Piriya Krairiksh, 1964

Patrick Sun, founder of the Hong Kong-based Sunpride Foundation, told Thomson Reuters, “Art is less confrontational – it’s perhaps more palatable to the general public who may not go to a Pride march or support marriage equality.

The New Pre-Raphaelites #5, by Sunil Gupta, 2007

“This is why it is in a public gallery because we want the general public to come and see the art, think about it, talk about it, and perhaps change their minds.”

More detail on the Bangkok Art and Culture Centre at bacc.or.th