Thailand’s art scene honours the traditional, embraces the contemporary, and celebrates the creative
The past two decades have seen Thailand’s art scene emerge as one of the most vibrant in Southeast Asia, with talented local artists portraying their unique vision of Thailand and the wider world in paintings, sculptures, kinetic art and videos.
On now is the Bangkok Art Biennale (BAB), a six-month celebration of contemporary art that will see hundreds of art events taking place through to early February 2019, with the participation of private and public institutions. This event is spread across 20 venues in the Thai capital including hotels, shopping malls and temples.
As well as visiting some or all of the BAB venues, both art lovers and those new to the art scene can also check out the numerous other art museums and locations found in Bangkok and around the country. These include:
Bangkok Art and Culture Centre (BACC)
BACC is ideally located between iconic shopping malls the MBK Centre and Siam Discovery. It aims to show people how art has made its way into the daily life in Bangkok. Some visitors go to BACC just to have a coffee or a bite to eat, others to visit the arts library and maybe take in an art performance, and still others to peruse the Centre’s art exhibitions. The exhibitions staged by BACC include those that look at controversial themes; such as, environmental issues like the recent “Travel Ivory Free” exhibition and minorities through photos, sculptures and paintings.
- Bangkok Art and Culture Centre is open Tuesday to Sunday, 10:00 – 21:00 Hrs.
939 Rama I Road, Wang Mai, Pathumwan. Opposite BTS Siam
Bangkok Sculpture Centre
The Bangkok Sculpture Centre was established to promote Thai art, and on show are some 200 Thai sculpture items covering 1,000 years of creation, from the private collection of the Centre’s owner Sermkhun Kunawong. While there are rare Buddha figures going as far back as the 11th century, the strong focus of the collection is on sculptures from the 1930s until today including the modern Thai work of Khien Yimsiri and Chit Rienpracha. Contemporary pieces reflect how Thai artists have been able to incorporate new materials; such as, teakwood, iron, clay or stone into their work, and the mixing of various media. The most impressive sculpture is probably a giant elephant mad efrom wood by artist Kham-ai Dejdoungtae.
- Bangkok Sculpture Centre is open Tuesday to Saturday, 10:00 – 16:00 Hrs. (closed for lunch, 12:00 – 13:00 Hrs.)
4/18-19 Soi Nuanchan 56, Nuanchan Road, Nuanchan, Buengkum
Museum of Contemporary Art (MOCA)
Going by the name, there could be no better place to experience some contemporary Thai art than the Museum of Contemporary Art (MOCA). MOCA has probably the kingdom’s most comprehensive contemporary art collection comprising over 800 pieces belonging to Boonchai Bencharongkul. This includes masterworks by renowned national artists; such as. Pichai Nirand, Chalermchai Kositpipat and Preecha Thaothong, and it makes for an interesting look at 80 years of Thai art.
- Museum of Contemporary Art is open Tuesday to Friday, 10:00 – 17:00 Hrs., and on weekends, 11:00 – 18:00 Hrs.
499 Kamphaeng Phet 6 Road, Ladyao, Chatuchak
The National Gallery
Located in an historical Italian building, which used to serve as the Royal Thai Mint, the National Gallery houses a range of collections from traditional Thai art to the Western-influenced portraiture of the 19th century and modern and contemporary works. Of particular interest are the portraits of Thailand’s Royal Family at the end of the 19th century as well as portraits of Her Majesty Queen Sirikit by the late King Bhumibol Adulyadej. Some halls are dedicated to the development of painting and sculptures between 1920 and 1960, while annex galleries are reserved for temporary exhibitions.
- The National Gallery is open Wednesday to Sunday, 09:00 – 16:00 Hrs.
4 Chao Fa Road, Chana Songkhram, Phra Nakhon
MAIIAM Contemporary Art Museum
This museum is dedicated to the artistic and craft sense of the Northern Thai people. Art has long been a way of life for Lanna locals of the region, which explains why so many of Thailand’s designers and artists originate from the North.
The contemporary architecture of MAIIAM – previously a warehouse – is an invitation to the outside world to come into the world of art. The Museum pays tribute to many artists as well as to Patsri Bunnag, a fashion model and artist who spent part of her life in Paris and married a Frenchman.
The Bunnag-Beurdeley family founded the MAIIAM Museum of Contemporary Art, and thus it exhibits their private collection meticulously built up over the past 30 years. The Museum aims to not only exhibit art through permanent and temporary exhibitions, but also to foster the inspiration of future art collectors.
The permanent collection features over 50 paintings and sculptures on display, while temporary exhibitions look at factual issues in the world. The current exhibition talks about diaspora, immigration and identity in Southeast Asia and runs until early March 2019.
- MAIIAM Contemporary Art Museum is open Wednesday to Monday, 10:00 – 18:00 Hrs.
122 Mu 7 Tonpao, San Kamphaeng
The White Temple
Chiang Rai’s most iconic building, Wat Rong Khun or the White Temple with its shiny silver roofs is a masterpiece of National Artist Chalermchai Kositpipat. Not just a temple, this is also an open art gallery showing Chalermchai’s talent in sculpture and murals. The artist has been inspired by traditional murals in temples, which he then reinterpreted with wit and a denouncing of the greed and violence plaguing today’s world. His art is reminiscent of 1970s’ Pop Art.
- The White Temple is open daily, 08:00 – 18:00 Hrs.
Highway 1 (Phahonyothin Road) (15 km. from Chiang Rai city centre)
Songkhla Art Mill
Songkhla Art Mill. is a recent initiative in the Southern Thailand city of Songkhla and is quite unique in that the region has few spaces dedicated to art. The building itself used to be a warehouse for the State Railway of Thailand, and in its new role serves to show the contemporary art of local artists.
- Songkhla Art Mill is open Thursday to Sunday, 13:00 – 19:00 Hrs.
Kamphaengphet Road, Bo Yang
Traditionally speaking, Thai artists have often been inspired by Buddhism and today’s younger generation of artists is blending this influence with social issues and reflections of the contemporary world. Their work and a sense of Thailand’s growing arts scene can be appreciated at these and many other art galleries, museums and locations Thailand proudly offers.