Prepare for a monster of a street art festival
Make no mistake, Thai street art is coming of age. For a while now the artists usually found spraying rot-stained walls at derelict locations around town have been coming in off the street. Sell-out gallery exhibitions and commissions from Thailand’s pop culture co-opting mainstream – from magazines to music promoters – are some of the most obvious signs. But BUKRUK, a dedicated street art festival rampaging its way into town this month, looks set to be the biggest yet.
According to organizers, 11 of Thailand’s most cutting-edge street artists will work alongside 15 of their European counterparts. In the European corner will be big names such as Germany’s Low Bros, Portugal’s Kruella D’Enfer, the UK’s Ben Eine and France’s Nicholas Barrome. And in the Thai one, stands a smaller and less internationally acclaimed, but no less talented, collective that includes Alex Face, MAMAFAKA and P7, among others. A critic looking to pick holes in the line-up could say that many of the Thai artists are actually graphic designers or illustrators by trade, not die-hard street artists with a subversive message, a la Banksy, but, fingers crossed, what they lack in activist spirit they’ll make up for with artistry.
The spraying will commence pretty much as soon as they’ve arrived, February 14 or 15, and not in some sterile indoor space, but out on the street. Somehow the organisers have finagled permission from the authorities to create a graffiti wall path that will run north from the Pathumwan intersection beside the Bangkok Art & Culture Centre towards a plot of vacant land, then dogleg down Khlong Saen Saep canal. Whether you’re on the walkway or on a canal taxi boat, organizers say you’ll be able to see paintings by the artists all the way down to Rama IV Road, where the opening party will be. Kicking off noon Saturday Feb 16 on a scrap of land near the Rama 1 Road junction, this, by all accounts, will be a big one. Local party organizers Duck & Noodle have been enlisted to curate the line-up of bands and DJs, and there will be hip-hop battles, market stalls and free runners showing off their skills. Most eyes, though, are sure to on the artists, who will be demonstrating their talents with the aerosol can or brush live.
A week later, Saturday Feb 23, the indoor part of the festival commences: a 400m2 pop-up concept store up on the fourth floor of the Bangkok Art and Culture Centre, or BACC. Scheduled to run for three weeks, this will not only bring street art into the gallery, but also the street as well. “It will be a swarm of noise, insects, recycled materials and people,” says Camille Lacadee of design studio [eIf/bʌt/c], “and the layout will mimic the nature of the city’s soi, with each aisle specializing in a different sort of product.” Everything from the paintings to the sculptures, prints, illustrations and prints will apparently be for sale, so there should be plenty of opportunities to bag yourself a slice of affordable street art.
Who’s responsible for BUKRUK? Props for the project must go to the three local organisers: Toot Yung Gallery’s Myrtille Tibayrenc, BKK Arthouse Gallery’s Bow Wazinondh and Bangkok-based graphic designer and illustrator Nicolas Dali. According to them, the original plan was to do a small exhibition of European street artists, but the idea quickly grew into the unstoppable (and lurid orange) monster looming before us. Far from taking all the credit, though, they are keen to point out that none of it would have happened were it not for some open-minded financial backers, namely EUNIC Thailand, a network of six cultural institutes belonging to European Union member states that was recently launched in Bangkok.
“One of our aims it to combine our efforts together to make as many European cultural events as we can in Thailand,” says current head Jeremy Opritesco, who is also the head of the cultural section of the French Embassy. “When the organizers came to us six months ago we were very enthusiastic about the quality of the artists they selected and quickly realized the symbolic value of all these European young artists coming and making art with their Thai counterparts. For us it was the perfect event to get behind.” So there you have it, suits championing street art – you won’t find a clearer sign of the medium’s monster appeal than that.
23 Feb to 17 Mar
4th Floor, Bangkok Arts & Culture Centre (BACC)
939 Rama I Rd, Pathumwan (note: the outdoor leg kicks off Feb 16 with an open-air party on a vacat plot of land on Rama 6 Road, near the Rama 1 intersection) | bukruk.com