Experiencing art in Thailand used to be pretty much limited to Buddhist wall murals seen while temple-touring, portraits of royalty proudly displayed throughout the city and high-brow galleries curated by severe women wearing black.
That was yesterday, dah-ling! The welcoming contemporary art scene is exploding in Bangkok right now, so much so that the art itself has become a huge draw for tourists visiting Thailand. Plenty of galleries and artists have made art much more accessible to locals, travellers and expats who may have felt out of place in yesterday’s elitist world of Bangkok art. Now, the attitude is much more about ‘art for everyone’, which has created a large – and happily inclusive – scene of incredible talent and creativity.
Art Galleries in Bangkok
The spacious Bangkok Art and Culture Centre offers a great introduction to the creative talent of Thailand right next to MBK shopping mall. As well as art, visitors can explore music, theatre, film and design, and take part in cultural and educational events. BACC showcases both traditional and contemporary art inside a serene and friendly space, which offers great insight into the development of art through the years. The exhibitions rotate frequently, so there’s always something new to see.
The extremely minimalist décor at Whitespace Gallery near Lumphini MRT showcases solo exhibitions of talented young contemporary Thai and Burmese artists with little distraction. Photography, paintings and illustrations are hung on stark white walls. On quiet days, visitor footsteps echo on unfinished concrete floors adorned with fantastic sculptures and installations. Art in Whitespace is often inspired by facets of Thai culture and society that are seldom discussed. An exhibition in July 2014 titled “Sawatdee Anxiety” showcased paintings by artists Suwit Maprajaub and Peerawayt Krasaesom that explored human feelings during a time of collective uncertainty and fearfulness about Thailand and the world at large.
People flock to the impressive HOF Art Bangkok on Sukhumwit 69-71, which is a gallery, artist residence, workshop and music venue split over two floors. The first floor is an ‘art zone’ where you can view and buy handmade crafts, and the second floor is dedicated to displaying rotating exhibitions of artwork by famous Thai artists. There’s also the HOF Art Residency, where international artists live and collaborate together, a ceramics studio and Outdoor Art Play area.
The Queen’s Gallery on Ratchadamnoen Klang Road was built in 2003 after Queen Sirikit called for a permanent public exhibition space to showcase art by acclaimed and young Thai artists. As well as exhibiting traditional-style and contemporary art, the gallery hosts competitions to encourage young artists to create. This gallery is easy to miss but absolutely worth a look-see: it’s opposite Fort Mahakan and right near Bangkok Bank.
Charoen Krung is considered to be the heart of Bangkok’s contemporary art scene. Here, you’ll find the quirky Speedy Grandma – a shophouse gallery with a raw, unfinished atmosphere. This gallery not only displays excitingly fresh art, but the owners also seem to have a knack for creating amazingly imaginatively titled events. Speedy Grandma’s 3rd birthday party is on August 29, 2015, and it’s called “Be Curious, Be Open, Speedy Grandma is determined. Oh yeah, birthday party”. See you there?
Music, alcohol, film and art galleries go together like pad kapao, rice, a fried egg and cold beer.
After dark, many of Thailand’s art galleries open late to become sparkling havens of head-nodding, drinking and quiet movie appreciation. In Bangkok The Space art gallery, oddly located above a 7-11 by the Chao Phraya river, hosts international music acts such as Clem Snide and Indian guru Shantanu Bandyopadhyay. The small shophouse JAM is a café, art gallery and bar near BTS Surasak. This cozy, unpretentious venue has a bustling events calendar, mostly filled with movie screenings, live music performances and the occasional discussion panel. The top two floors at WTF Café & Gallery on Sukhumvit soi 51 are dedicated to rotating exhibitions, while the bottom floor café serves cool beers and cocktails. The name actually stands for Wonderful Thai Friendship, which reflects their aim to host the most imaginative local and international art talent, while cultivating the good-times experience of bar culture in Bangkok.
Art in Shopping Malls and Hotels
Thought-provoking contemporary art is being welcomed and celebrated in important facets of Bangkokian life, making it accessible to a much wider audience. If you’re the kind of person who would never travel to visit an art gallery, your interest might be peaked just enough to take a look if you stumble across one while shopping or staying in a hotel. Luxury mall Central Embassy houses the Serindia Gallery ANNEX and Gaysorn is home to G1 Contemporary. Hotels are getting in on the action, too. Cacha Hotel collaborated with seven renowned South East Asian street artists, who created beautiful contemporary art in all of the hotel’s rooms and public areas. Mystic Place integrates artistic expression and comfort to create beautiful arty rooms with distinct, colourful themes. Upmarket hotel Sofitel Sukhumvit recently opened its new S Gallery, which is dedicated to showcasing emerging and established Thai and French artists.
Street Art in Bangkok
As you wander around the city, keep your eyes peeled and you’ll notice incredible street art shouting a colourful message to people passing by.
Sure, not everyone likes graffiti, but Bangkok’s street art is a world away from the tags scrawled by young hooligans you may have grumbled about in your home town. Street art is the most accessible, available art work out there – it’s available to everyone who walks by, for free. Individual works often disappear as buildings are finished, old walls are torn down and surfaces are repainted. The fleeting existence of such creativity often adds to its appeal and the urgency of the artists’ message.
Patcharapol Tangruen, who is better known as Alex Face, creates street art to express frustration about local problems. Danaiphat Lersputtitrakan, aka Bon, explores the social and cultural issues of Thailand’s rapidly changing society. Hotel and restaurant owners have commissioned both of these artists to spray paint their interiors, showing that high quality street art has well and truly been embraced by mainstream culture.
Has all this art in Bangkok left you feeling inspired? Paint your own masterpiece while drinking cocktails!
Paintbar Bangkok offers a unique night out for budding artists. Here you can drink cocktails while learning how to paint, step-by-step. Simply follow your trainer’s instructions to create a masterpiece in just three hours. It’s fun to harness cocktail-induced uninhibited creativity by adding your own personal touches to make the painting unique.
Art in Bangkok is more inclusive than ever, and galleries and events are a great place to meet or take someone special. Where do you enjoy art in Bangkok?