A Guide to Thailand’s Growing Contemporary Art Scene
When you think of Bangkok, their dynamic night life, stunning temples, and life-changing local cuisine may be the first things that come to mind. But beyond these usual tourist spots, another reason to visit the Thailand capital is its growing contemporary art scene.
In recent years, we’ve seen more and more galleries cropping up around the city, while numerous local exhibitions have been making their way to the global stage. Fuelled by artists both young and old, their modern art is breathing new life into traditional Thai culture.
If you’re looking to understand Thailand through the lens of their contemporary art scene, we’ve got a few suggestions below.
MAIIAM Contemporary Art Museum
When it first opened in 2016, the award-winning MAIIAM Contemporary Art Museum immediately pushed contemporary art into the mainstream. Co-founded by art collectors Eric Booth, Patsri Bunnag, and Jean-Michel Beurdeley, this museum showcases over 600 creations from different generations of local contemporary artists. Here, you’ll find a good mix of everything—from the works of Montien Boonma (who is considered the father of Thai contemporary art), to the Bollywood-inspired pieces of Indian-Thai artist Navin Rawanchaikul. If you’re looking for a solid introduction to the local art scene, the MAIIAM is the ideal place to start.
Bangkok CityCity Gallery
Bangkok CityCity Gallery provides plenty of art events, from social advocacy shows to art book festivals. Currently, the most notable event on their roster is the “Souled Out Studios” exhibition. The collection criticises the current political climate, including the social standing of fishermen communities in Southwest Thailand. However, this exhibit is but a small part of the history that has been weaved into these seafaring communities. The practice of fish gambling, for example, represents a forgotten piece of Thai culture, in contrast to the rise of exciting Muay Thai matches and top free online casinos within the country. While Muay Thai and betting are certainly integral parts of Thai culture, it’s good to explore the lesser known aspects too. After all, seeing locals betting over fish is a common scene in rural Thailand, and it’s interesting to learn about it through modern art.
Bangkok Art and Culture Centre
Nestled in a busy location—right across Siam Square and MBK—is the Bangkok Art and Culture Centre. While they don’t have a permanent collection of artworks, they do host frequent exhibitions, one of which is the current “I Am You” by the renowned Vasan Sitthiket. Known to be one of the country’s most politically engaged artists, “I Am You” showcases more than 100 of his finest pieces—all containing themes of poverty, corruption, and other societal issues. Certainly one of the best things about Thai contemporary art is that it is unafraid to shed light on the country’s problems, so it’s well worth the immersion.
Chulalongkorn Art Centre
Considered to be one of the most innovative university art galleries in the entire Thailand, the Chulalongkorn Art Centre inside Chulalongkorn University is popular for housing experimental exhibitions you wouldn’t find anywhere else. For instance, it often attracts the likes of scientists and historians, who then collaborate with its artists for shows. Because of its open-mindedness in exploring new ideas, the Chulalongkorn Art Centre is regarded as a cultural playground for artists and art enthusiasts alike.
Though the scene might be relatively new, there’s no better time than now to witness this rapidly growing community. The good news is that these destinations are more than accessible, so don’t miss out when you visit Thailand.