Born in France, Jeremy Opritesco was raised in a family of artists but spent 15 years of his professional career as a French diplomat, with postings in Berlin, Tel Aviv, New York, and Bangkok. Nowadays he pursues his twin passions—cuisine and art—and his stage is the beautiful YenakArt Villa gallery.
When did you open YenakArt Villa and why did you choose that space?
YenakArt Villa opened in 2015. My business partners and I were looking for the kind of space not yet existing in Bangkok—a beautiful building, with strong character and a garden, and not just a room to hang artwork. My opinion is that an art gallery needs to offer an “experience”. The building we found offered plenty of open space, and with the large glass façade you don’t have the impression of being in a bunker. In daylight artworks look different, sometimes revealing a different aspect of the talent of the artist. Another important aspect is the five meter high ceiling and the 180 sq.m of surface space. It’s the perfect size… not too big, not too small.
What do you look for when choosing an artist to exhibit in your gallery?
I am always looking for a mix, for a balance. On one hand, the artwork has to be modern, new, edgy, and it has to add something to the history of art. On the other hand, I like the artwork to be aesthetically pleasing, to evoke emotions, and to be inspiring. All of this is, of course, very subjective, but in one sentence I would say I like to exhibit art that I would show in my own home. The second point is the link to Thailand. The priority for me is Thai artists because the gallery is in Thailand, and because one of the main goals of the gallery is to support Thai artists and the Thai art scene. However, exhibiting only Thai artists would be a bit artificial. Art has no boundaries, and I like the idea of mixing cultures and backgrounds. That’s why the gallery is exhibiting international artists as well. But I insist on the artworks having a connection with Thailand: mediums, inspirations, techniques, place of creation, etc. Another important point for me is my personal connection with the artist. An exhibition is not a one-night stand, but a long term relationship between the artist and the gallery. Neither can grow alone. That’s why I especially like to plan a series of exhibitions with the same artist, and in-between to keep a tight contact.
What do you think of Bangkok’s art scene in general?
I think the potential for contemporary art is huge in Bangkok. All the ingredients of the cocktail are on the table: energy, creativity, history and culture, serious collectors, artists and art schools, and lots of tourists. The number of international artists who are making their artist studios here is growing as well, because they find here the perfect conditions for creating. There is also a sizeable audience for art exhibitions. I am always surprised to see more than 100 people at every opening at YenakArt Villa, with very little PR. And there are always new faces. In my opinion the local authorities should invest in contemporary art. It could be a very important asset for Bangkok’s international image.
Where in Bangkok is the best “public art”?
The best public art in my opinion is, without a doubt, at the BACC. This institution is getting better every year. It is offering some very edgy exhibitions, sometimes with very big international names. The Jim Thompson art center is another major contemporary art place in Bangkok. In addition, the new Alliance Française building at Lumphini—which initially was not conceived for art exhibitions—is now organizing regular shows, showcasing mostly young and talented Thai artists. The institution also has a very professional cinema, and is hosting all kinds of concerts and events. They’re even starting to organize Michelin star-powered pop-up dinners. That’s exactly the kind of multi-disciplinary cultural place that a city like Bangkok needs.
What does the future hold?
Apart from upcoming shows, there are several ongoing projects I would like to implement at YenakArt Villa. Firstly, a frame, canvas, and stretcher boutique, with the highest international standards, which I think is missing in Bangkok. Secondly, a small coffee shop where visitors can leaf through art books and spend some time on the spot after visiting the exhibition. Thirdly, the garden will become a sculpture garden, with sculptures from different artists, including light-sculpture which I especially like. Finally, I plan on having occasional pop-up dinners with different chefs and cuisine. All these projects will enlarge the experience of visiting the gallery.