b. 1971, Chiang Mai, Thailand
Navin Rawanchaikul was born in Chiang Mai, Thailand, in 1971. As a child of parents of the Indian diaspora who migrated to Thailand during Partition, his ancestry lies in the Hindi-Punjabi communities of present-day Pakistan. After receiving his BFA from Chiang Mai University in 1993, Rawanchaikul founded the Chiang Mai–based Navin Production Co., Ltd., in 1994. Much of Rawanchaikul’s own work is produced under the name of this company, which also functions as an artists’ collective. Working in various mediums including sculpture, painting, performance, photography, and film, Rawanchaikul began his practice with community-driven projects aimed at integrating art into everyday contexts.
In Navin Gallery Bangkok (1995–98), Rawanchaikul questions modern methods of art making and exhibiting by converting an ordinary taxi into a mobile gallery featuring rotating exhibitions. The project was later executed in a number of international cities, including Sydney, London, Bonn, and New York, successfully attracting new audiences with the help of its unconventional format. Rawanchaikul’s practice often relies on collaboration, as in the tongue-in-cheek Navin Party (2006), which involved a touring multimedia exhibition featuring a Bollywood-style music video, a billboard advertisement, and a series of propaganda posters, all aimed at connecting people with the first name Navin. The multipart work comments on what the artist frames as the transitory nature of the modern world—revealed through the global occurrence of the Sanskrit-based name—as well as referencing the way in which artists can find their ethnic origins exploited for commercial gain. By involving the participation of real or imagined communities, Rawanchaikul’s practice transcends site-specificity to negotiate between local communities and globalization.
In 2010, Rawanchaikul was awarded the national Silapathorn citation from the Thai Ministry of Culture in the field of visual arts. His work has been featured in solo exhibitions at Contemporary Art Gallery, Vancouver (1997); MoMA P.S.1 in collaboration with Public Art Fund, New York (2001); Palais de Tokyo, Paris (2002); Tang Contemporary Art, Bangkok (2007); Tang Contemporary Art, Hong Kong (2008); Ullens Center For Contemporary Art, Beijing (2009); and Valentine Willie Fine Art, Singapore (2011). He represented Thailand at the 54th Venice Biennale (2011). Rawanchaikul has participated in numerous group exhibitions including Transitions/Tensions: Contemporary Art in Asia, Asia Society, New York (1996); Cities on the Move, in collaboration with Rirkrit Tiravanija, seven international venues (1997–99); ZeitWenden, Kunst Museum, Bonn (1999); Berlin Biennial (2001); Shanghai Biennial, Shanghai Art Museum (2002); Sao Paulo Biennial, Brazil (2004); Liverpool Biennial (2004); Prospect 1, New Orleans (2008); Altermodern, Tate Triennial, London (2009); Negotiating Home, History and Nation: Two Decades of Contemporary Art from Southeast Asia, 1991–2010, Singapore Art Museum (2011); and Entanglement: The Ambivalence of Identity, Institute of International Visual Arts, London (2011). Rawanchaikul lives and works in Chiang Mai and Fukuoka, Japan.