There’s no disputing Thailand’s skill when it come to traditional art forms. The Krom Chang Sip Mu – Department of the Ten Crafts – established in King Rama V’s time ensured that Thailand’s most valued crafts were preserved through the generations. Fast-forward to today and the legacies of woodcarving, lacquering, papermaking, carpentry and more can be seen on every curved temple eave and teak cabinet and, in the case of vegetable carving, even on your dinner plate.
But what of contemporary art? The modern art movement has been steadily gaining momentum over the last couple of decades, with an increasing amount of credible Bangkok art hubs opening of late. Supplementing the major artist exhibitions at the BACC (Bangkok Art and Culture Centre), there are plenty of independent, underground galleries where you can check out some serious upcoming talent. Our top five gallery picks are not only places you can enjoy looking at contemporary works, but actively engage with the local arts scene and chat with artist, often with a drink in hand.
Speedy Grandma/ Soy Sauce Factory
You have to keep an ear to the ground (or an eye on Facebook) to get the latest on this pair of galleries as they don’t advertise their events. Tucked away in hidden alleys in the Bangkok’s old town, they very much represent the local scene though they regularly host exhibitions from regional artists. Soy Sauce Factory, the more spacious of the two galleries, also hosts film nights, live music events and art installations.
Toot Yung Gallery
This gallery, café and artist residence has all the ingredients for a profound cultural exchange. It’s also great for a beer in a cozy courtyard, catching up with the artists or just mingling with local artsy folk. Resident artists’ work, rotating exhibitions, DJ nights, movie screenings, theatre performances, French crepes – Toot Yung is a crowd-pleaser for obvious reasons.
Hof Art Space
This veteran gallery recently moved to a sleek new space in ‘W District’, a multi-use complex that mixes up markets, residential zones, green areas and art. Supporting local and international talent, there’s an artist residence onsite and plenty of exhibition space, beautifully lit and easily accessible – both in the physical and cultural sense. Workshops, activities, a central café lawn, art retail and several large-scale works foster art appreciation in a thoroughly modern fashion.
Recently opened in Chinatown near Hua Lamphong Station, Cho Why is as much about showcasing art as it is about throwing a party in the name of it. A rooftop party might entail craft beer, paella and a vintage book stall, while exhibitions cover the full spectrum of contemporary art. This area of Chinatown is experiencing an upsurge in ‘coolness’ this year, which makes Cho Why an even more attractive venue.
If you’re a serious collector, a gallery like Thavibu, or even Serindia, is a must on your Bangkok trip. Showcasing carefully curated paintings from respected Thai, Vietnamese and Myanmar artists, this gallery guarantees authenticity of all art works. They also host exhibitions that range from Myanmar Street Art to politician paintings to Vietnamese lacquerware. One for the cerebral aesthete.
If you’d like to delve into local Bangkok culture, just contact one of our expert Travel Specialists and organize a bespoke tour of the city’s richest cultural enclaves.