If your time in Bangkok is limited, but your love for art is great, then head right to the Silom Galleria—that I wrote about last week—and you’re likely to leave satiated. There are more than ten galleries there and you’ll get a great introduction to the Thai contemporary art scene.
If you have more time in the city or are around the multi-level shopping emporium known as Mahboonkrong, or MBK, center, here are a few more Bangkok art spots on my must-see list. (They’re all near the National Stadium Skytrain Station in the Pathumwan area.):
The Bangkok Art and Culture Center (BACC) is a good place to start, as it’s located right next to the National Stadium Skytrain Station. The space is hard-to-miss: big, new, shiny, white and with a rotunda. The building took a decade of discussion and planning before it was finally built two years ago. It couldn’t be more different than the very traditional art spaces you see around the Grand Palace.
On a previous visit there, I caught a terrific show of local works centered around the theme of the famous Thai smile, ‘Traces of Siamese Smile: Art + Faith + Politics + Love.’ And the exhibit went far beyond just images of happy faces—it explored topics such as the mythology of the expression as well. There were works from some of the best-known Thai artists, including Chatchai Puipia. When you go, remember this isn’t a museum, which is actually a good thing. There are no admission fees or guards and there’s a lot of noise. To me, it feels more like a university art festival. There’s art, commerce and excitement throughout.
This visit, I saw a university graduation show from the Rajamangala Institute of Technology, which had art displayed along the center’s circular rotunda walls. Many of the works were realistic paintings of traditional Thai scenes and I was impressed with the skill of the young artists.
There are also several exhibition spaces with shows featuring works by overseas or local artists. In one of these spaces, the well-known Numthong Gallery had set up an interesting installation, recreating the oppression of the elementary school classroom.
In the Bangkok Art and Culture Center are also some spaces that are more like shops, in which you can choose to purchase creative t-shirts, clothes, fabrics, note pads, small paintings and jewelry. These items are much more interesting than what’s available in the more often seen crowded tourist markets. For me, the ‘artistic ice cream’ and cookies were the best.
After visiting the BACC, you might want to head over to the nearby Siam Square. In the back of the Lido Theatre you’ll find two more galleries. Both are very non-commercial ‘labor of love’ kinds of places that show work you might call edgy.
The first, WhiteSpace Gallery, is supported by contributions, some sales, and by the design consultancy on its top floor. It’s a favorite amongst curators and academics. Two shows that I’ve seen there stand out. One was photographer Ohm Pahnpiroj’s nude photos and the other was an exhibit featuring Pornpraseart Yamazaki, who re- created Thai and American money with watercolors—and his own blood.
Right next door to WhiteSpace is Art Gorillas, run by a group of artists and young curators. There, you can usually find shows from artists just one or two years out of school. There’s always something interesting in Art Gorillas, including installations, and the prices of most works are under $1,000.
Like everywhere in Thailand, good food and drink are always close by. There are two coffee bars near these galleries and some good inexpensive restaurants. My favorite is the small shop right next to Art Gorillas. For less than $1.50, you can choose 3 selections from one of the 20 delicious items on display.
After choosing your beautiful and delicious food and drink, take a seat among the local students and workers. To top things off, the friendly staff will likely make you feel right at home.
Images: Eulinky (top), Bangkok Arts and Culture Center by ronancrowley (bottom).