The Grand Palace, Bangkok, Thailand
Bangkok, or Krung Thep as it’s locally known, has a vibrant creative scene that can easily pass a visitor by. Though a national flair for product and interior design is evident in the commercial domain, galleries are not given much importance in Thai culture and generally have to be sought out. The following list of venues is by no means exhaustive, but offers a starting point for lovers of contemporary art.
To get around, motorbike taxis are usually the best option, though the rides can be hairy and you should always check the fare before you climb on. Taxis are ubiquitous and cheap (insist on the meter), but the city’s perpetual congestion means you can’t get anywhere in a hurry. There’s an air-conditioned metro (MRT) and sky train (BTS) which are useful for the shopping and business areas.
Accommodation options to suit all budgets abound in Bangkok. Avoid the backpacker ghetto of Khao San, and seedy Nana; stay a little out of town for a less touristy experience.
The best time to visit is December to February, a.k.a. the “cold” season, when it’s possible to walk 100 meters without needing to sit down for a soda. February also sees the annual Bangkok Galleries Night, on which free tuk-tuks ferry visitors between venues large and small, all of which organize special events for the evening.
The big daddy of Bangkok art institutions, seven-story BACC (939 Rama 1 Rd, Wangmai Pathumwan) is unmissable from National Stadium BTS station. There’s no permanent collection, but temporary exhibitions of well-known Thai and international artists are staged on the top floor. There are also performance spaces, a library, education center, and art supply stores.
Image courtesy of BACC
Since the 1990s, BUG (4 Khwaeng Phra Khanong, Khet Khlong Toei, Krung Thep Maha Nakhon) has held exhibitions by emerging artists that tend towards the experimental. Conceptual work and installations are common. Check out their regularly- updated Facebook page to see what’s on before making the journey to Khlong Toei, which is off the usual tourist track.
Image courtesy of BUG
Jim Thompson was an American silk merchant who mysteriously disappeared in Malaysia’s Cameron Highlands. His charming Bangkok home is open to visitors, and has an adjacent gallery (6 Soi Kasemsan 2, Rama 1 Rd, Wangmai, Pathumwan) hosting contemporary work. Artists tend to come from, or have links to, the ASEAN region.
Image courtesy of Jim Thompson Art Center
Ratchadamnoen Klang Road is always worth a visit for its early twentieth-century architecture; this building is an outlier, having only been completed in 2003. With its royal connection, the gallery (101 Ratchadamnoen Klang Rd) is unlikely ever to host more challenging work; a very particular version of Thainess is represented here which, admittedly, can be fascinating in itself.
Image courtesy of The Queen’s Gallery
RCAC84 (101 Ratchadamnoen Klang Rd, Khwaeng Wat Bowon Niwet, Khet Phra Nakhon, Krung Thep Maha Nakhon) is on Ratchadamnoen Klang Road, halfway down and next to Democracy Monument. The artists on display are always Thai but other than that, what you’ll see on any given visit is hard to gauge – there can be two or three decent exhibitions, or nothing at all.
Image courtesy of SGB Building Materials
MOCA (Chatuchak) is on the road to Don Mueang airport, it’s a trek by taxi or bus (or BTS when the extension finally opens), but if you’re into riffs on Thai cultural and religious themes the journey is worth it.
Image courtesy of MOCA
Though people don’t usually come to TCDC (The Grand Postal Building, 1160 Charoenkrung Rd, Bang Rak) for the exhibitions – the bigger draws here are the library and “maker space” – interesting displays can still be found, especially around Bangkok Design Week which, like Galleries Night, takes place in February. Located in an immense former post office from 1940, TCDC also draws its share of architecture buffs.
Image courtesy of TCDC
House of Lucie (1 Ekkamai 8 Alley, Khwaeng Phra Khanong Nuea, Khet Watthana, Krung Thep Maha Nakhon) was established in 2016 by Hossein Farmani as a contemporary photography space to showcase the extraordinary work of the Lucie awards honorees, as well as to carry on his passion for discovering and sharing photographic talent.
Image courtesy of Lucie Foundation
ARTIST+RUN / CARTEL Artspace / Gallery VER / Tentacles
These venues (2198/10-11, Naradhiwat Rajanagarindra Rd, Soi 22 Chong Nonsi, Yan Nawa) occupy a courtyard just off a major highway with very little else around, so check what’s on before you set off. If you happen to be in town for Galleries Night in February, this is a good place to aim for.
Image courtesy of Tentacles Gallery
Bangkok Citycity Gallery (13/3 Sathorn 1, South Sathorn Rd, Thung Mahamek, 10120) is a hybrid between a commercial art gallery and a project space for immersive experiences in contemporary art. By supporting visionary artists, the gallery acts as a platform for discussion, bridging people from different backgrounds and opening them up to alternative ways of thinking.
Image courtesy of Bangkok CityCity Gallery
Cho Why (Soi Nana 17, Pom Prap Sattru Phai, Chinatown), though small and keeping even less predictable hours, offers an excellent excuse to visit Bangkok’s Chinatown. Located on gentrified Soi Nana 17, the venue is as likely to host a film screening or community event as an exhibition, but you’re sure to find an interesting crowd.
Image courtesy of © Cho Why
H Gallery (201 Sathorn Soi 12), established in 2002, is housed in a late 19th century Anglo-Thai mansion. The gallery has two floors and regularly exhibits mid and late career Thai and South-East Asian contemporary artists. Artists who have exhibited here include: Jakkai Siributr, Zhang Enli, Somboon Hormtientong, Mit Jai Inn, and Sopheap Pich.
Image courtesy of The Artling
Getting to this pleasant complex involves taking a boat across the river to Bangkok’s old town, but The Jam Factory (41/1-5 Khlong San) rewards visitors with eateries, shops, plenty of outside space and, of course, a gallery. A number of artists and architectural firms also have their studios here.
Image courtesy of Luxecityguides
This lower floor of a former shop-house is somewhat chaotic, stuffed floor to ceiling with unlabeled photographs. Temporary exhibitions are held on the upper floor of Kathmandu Photo Gallery (87 Pan Road, Silom), which is tiny, but when you’re done you can pop into the nearby Hindu temple or grab a channa masala.
Image courtesy of Kathmandu Photo Gallery
NOVA Contemporary (Ground Floor Baan Somthavil, Soi Mahadlek- Luang 3, Rajdamri Rd, Lumpini Pathumwan) only opened its doors in 2016, but is fast gaining a reputation as a breakthrough space for young artists. Owner Sutima Sucharitakul returned to her homeland after ten years in the UK and USA, including a spell at the Met in New York, and hopes ultimately to bring the work of contemporary Thai artists to a global audience.
Image courtesy of NOVA Contemporary
Approaching its fifteenth birthday, commercial gallery 100 Tonson (100 Soi Tonson, Ploenchit Rd, Lumphini, Pathum Wan) has hosted works by local superstar Rikrit Tirivanija as well as international artists from Yayoi Kusama to Damien Hirst. It was the first Southeast Asian space to be represented at Art Basel.
Image courtesy of 100 Tonson Gallery
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