The Bangkok Art Map (BAM) celebrates its 10th anniversary this month—a fabulous decade spent covering this city’s vibrant art scene
As the late, great Marshall McLuhan once said, “Art is anything you can get away with”. Here in Bangkok the gallery and museum scene lives up to that credo whole-heartedly. Thailand’s taste for eye-popping visuals is evident everywhere you look—from the fanciest Buddhist temples to the vibrant graffiti street art that livens up many a derelict building.
The city’s local art scene has grown impressively over the past decade and the Bangkok Art Map (BAM)—our sister publication here at Bangkok 101—has been there every step of the way. We’ve watched as galleries in the ritzier parts of town began more and more to showcase some fairly “out there” artists, while several fancy hotels started giving over floor space to numerous creative endeavours, such as boutique galleries and art shops. Another notable development has been watching the dozens and dozens of unused and underused buildings in Chinatown prove fertile breeding ground for gallery owners and artists alike who take a more bohemian approach to things. In these tiny quarters the crumbling plaster walls and splintered wooden staircases just add to the overall aesthetic, which makes venues like Cho Why, and Soy Sauce Factory such hip hangouts for Bangkok’s art crowd. And in the past few years “Chinatown” has literally become the byword for those seeking out the city’s artistic beating heart.
Alongside these groovy galleries Bangkok is also blessed with a multitude of museums, ranging from the serene and stately, such as the Rattanakosin Exhibition Hall, to the brazenly bizarre (the Songkran Niyomsane Forensic Medical Museum comes to mind). Meanwhile, institutions such as the Bangkok Art and Culture Centre (BACC), and the Museum of Contemporary Art (MOCA) bridge the gap between museum and gallery, offering large scale spaces for exhibiting a kaleidoscope of art and artistic styles—often showcasing renowned international artists alongside equally respected Thai artists. Add to this the occasional outdoor art fair, and numerous art and music weekend festivals—such as Wonderfruit, which was staged back in February—and you have no shortage of visual stimuli to choose from.
Of course, the artistic mileu in Bangkok, and across Thailand, isn’t restricted to just paintings and sculptures in galleries and museums. Buddhist temples far and wide are bursting at the seams with a breathtaking array of beautifully crafted adornments—from exquisitely carved doorways, windows, and façades, to intricately detailed wall murals. If you’ve never taken a close look at the magnificent wall murals found at the Grand Palace, then you’re missing out on one of the city’s most impressive art displays.
Other art forms are also regarded highly in this country, especially music and dance. Add to that the vibrant colours and patterns found in traditional textiles—including Thailand’s renowned silk industry—and the homespun beauty of traditional handicrafts—the pottery makers of Koh Kret are not to be missed—and you have a kingdom that is a welcoming place for art and artists. All you have to do is open your eyes and look around you. And don’t forget to pick up a copy of BAM to get a head start each month on all the not-to-be-missed art events going on around town.