This privately funded museum showcases an extensive collection of Thai sculpture—both past and present
Aside from the arduous expenditure of effort required to get there, a visit to the Bangkok Sculpture Centre (BSC) is a rewarding venture in its own right, and an excellent introduction to Thailand sculpture.
If you do undertake the trip, your patience will certainly be rewarded. In the middle of nowhere, in Northern Bangkok, far out along Lat Phrao Road, stands the headquarters of the CMO Group, a modern glass and steel structure that looks a bit like an airport terminal. Separated by a suspended garden and large green rest area is the Bangkok Creative Playground, a space that is also home to the BSC—probably the most complete sculpture museum in Thailand.
The BSC is a privately funded, non-profit organization, established to promote Thai art. The works are exhibited in exceptionally large spaces, and co-working areas are also woven into the fabric of the museum itself. There’s also an exhibition space here that displays some works taken from the collection at Bangkok Art and Cultural Centre (BACC).
The collection presented belongs to local tycoon and well-known photographer Sermkhun Kunawong. A businessman originally, Mr Kunawong and his daughter have both been collecting art—primarily Thai sculpture—for many decades. Like many wealthy art collectors in the Kingdom, the pair decided to open a museum to share their amazing collection with a larger public. “I wish Thai art gains worldwide recognition”, explains Mr. Kunawong in the introduction brochure.
Visitors to the museum, which first opened in July of 2004, will have the opportunity to cast their gaze over some 200 pieces of art. The exhaustive collection shows an amazing diversity of artists—anonymous and famous alike. The collection covers 1,000 years of creation, with rare sculptures of Buddha figures going as far back as to the Dvaravati period in the 11th century. A special room highlights historical figures of Buddha showing the difference between Lopburi, Sukhothai, Ayutthaya and Rattanakosin styles.
Another area looks at the beginning of modern sculpture, from the 1930s to the 1950s. This period was a time when Thai artists were very much influenced by Western interpretation, particularly under the influence of Italian artist Corrado Ferroci—better known in Thailand under his Thai name Silpa Bhirasri. His influence covered 40 years of Thai arts. It is only with sculptors such as Khien Yimsiri or Chit RIenpracha, in the middle of the 1950s, that Thai sculpture started to express its own identity. Yimsiri is present in the collection with original sculptures such as the very famous “Musical Rhythm” and “Land of Smile”.
However, the Bangkok Sculpture Centre is primarily dedicated to new sculpture, highlighting the generations of artists working from the middle of the 1970s until today. An entire section of the museum is given over to mixed media and conceptual art, which features numerous abstract pieces fashioned out of wood, iron, clay, stone, or by mixing various media. Among the most impressive sculptures is the one by artist Kham-ai Dejdoungtae, who created a giant elephant from wood. The piece eloquently illustrates the link between man, animal, and nature.
In another impressive display, artist Manop Suwanpinta explores the psyche of Thai people with human sculptures comprised of disarticulated bodies, while Chalermchai Kositpipat expresses his fascination for religion, beliefs, and fantasy, through his figures of divine fish and divine turtles. Even one of Alex Face’s three-eyed baby-child statues makes an appearance in the outdoor garden—a nod to some of the Kingdom’s more contemporary 21st century artists.
The overall collection is varied, deftly juxtaposing more traditional Thai art with more challenging, contemporary pieces. Take a stroll along the suspended gardens, with its contemporary sculptures and surrounded by the minimalist architecture of the main building, and you might think that you’ve suddenly been transported to New York City.
INFORMATION: The Bangkok Sculpture Centre is open from Tuesday to Saturday from 10am to 4pm. The centre is located at 4/18-19 Nuan Chan 56 Road (Bueng Kum). The closest MRT station is Lad Phrao, which is still about 20 minutes away from the Sculpture Center so you’ll need a taxi. Call 02 088 3888 for more information.