Our Asian Summer Art and Travel Guide

Feature image: MAIIAM Museum of Contemporary Art, Chiang Mai, Thailand. Photo from nationmultimedia.com

The long, hot summer in Asia is finally at its peak — and together with it, the itch to hop on a plane to escape somewhere in the region for a few days, no doubt. If you can’t quite make it to an idyllic beach or deserted island paradise, though, there’s lots to discover art-wise in Asia’s top cities. Check out ART LOFT’s summer art guide for 2016!

Perhaps the most anticipated new museum in Asia this year, the MAIIAM Museum of Contemporary Art opened to great fanfare earlier this month in the northern Thai city of Chiang Mai with “The Serenity of Madness,” a solo show dedicated to the cult filmmaker Apichatpong Weerasethakul. Curated by Gridthiya Gaweewong, director at the Jim Thompson Art Center, the exhibition is a sort of homecoming for Weerasethakul, who was raised in northern Thailand. Here, you’ll get a glimpse of his deft critiques of sexuality, spirituality, and class in contemporary Thai society.


Perpetually overshadowed by Bangkok, Chiang Mai has a quietly vibrant art scene of its own, where artists and other creatives can find generous studio, office, and living spaces at a fraction of what it might cost elsewhere. If you’re visiting, make sure to drop into Lyla Gallery, whose founder Lyla Phimanrat shows some of Thailand’s leading artists, such as Mit Jai Inn, Arin Rungjang, and Araya Rasdjarmrearnsook.

If you’re passing through Tokyo this summer, make sure to drop by the Tokyo Station Gallery to check out “12 Rooms 12 Artists: Works from the UBS Art Collection” (through September 4), which showcases some 80 works from one of the world’s most extensive corporate art collections, including pieces by cult photographer Nobuyoshi Araki, avant-garde filmmaker and video artist Isaac Julien, British painter Lucien Freud, and American artists Ed Ruscha.


Afterwards, pop into Mizuma Art Gallery for Japanese enfant terrible Makoto Aida’s latest outing, “Let us dream of evanescence, and linger in the beautiful foolishness of things” (through August 20). Aida’s self-avowed “first, and perhaps the last attempt at a ‘painting exhibition-esque exhibition’” features some 30 paintings that mine his unique vein of biting social commentary and black humor.

If in Hong Kong, don’t miss Austrian prankster collective Gelitin’s mini retrospective “Gelatin Gelitin Gelintin” (through August 20), highlights of which include a series of wacky plasticine-on-wood paintings, wearable goofy horse puppets, and “falling sculptures” that invite visitors to push a lever to topple the works on purpose.


Photo credits: Parrotin.com

For a more cerebral take on recent art history, head over to Para Site for “That Has Been, And May Be Again” (through August 21), a survey show that looks at the experimental avant-garde movements of the Chinese art scene during the 1990s by the likes of Jiang Zhi, Leung Chi Wo, Yan Lei, Yin Xiuzhen, and Liu Chuang.

In Singapore, STPI is currently hosting “Zao Wou-Ki: No Boundaries” (through August 27), which focuses on the lesser-known printmaking practice of the French-Chinese modern master who is primarily known for ink and watercolor paintings that fuse Western and Asian traditions and techniques.



Looking slightly ahead to August, Singapore’s flagship contemporary art fair, Art Stage Singapore, holds its first ever Jakarta edition from August 5-7. For founder Lorenzo Rudolf, the fair’s expansion to Indonesia, home to the largest art scene and market in Southeast Asia, was a logical one. Leading artists of the Indonesian art scene, such as Agus Suwage, Heri Dono, Entang Wiharso, and I Nyoman Masriadi will be shown alongside a select handful of international ones, such as French sculptor Jean-Michel Othoniel and English painter Antony Micallef.


Photo credits: ionawhittaker.com

Photo credits: ionawhittaker.com

That same weekend, M Woods, one of Beijing’s newest privately owned art museums located in the 798 Art District, opens a blockbuster Andy Warhol exhibition on August 6, focusing on his experimental film and photography installations. From Warhol’s intimate, minimalist “Screen Test” films featuring celebrities like Bob Dylan and Lou Reed to his early interactive installation of floating pillow-like shapes, this extensive showcase is a rare opportunity to discover the more experimental aspects of his practice, foreshadowing in many ways the self-consciousness of today’s social media and “selfie” culture.


About Darryl Wee

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Darryl Wee is head of visual arts for Asia at BLOUIN ARTINFO. He has previously written about contemporary art for Artforum, Art Asia Pacific, LEAP, Bijutsu Techo, the Japan Times, and the Wall Street Journal, and translated catalogues and essays on Gutai, Makoto Aida, Tadasu Takamine, Koki Tanaka and many other Japanese artists.

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