A young entrepreneur combining and conceptualising bookstores and publishing with art and design into a cultural enterprise.
Shane Suvikapakornkul is a man with vision and mission. Through possibilities and opportunities, he has succeeded in merging books, art and design on antiquities into the cultural milieu of the modern millennia with Serindia Publications and Gallery, Hardcover Bookstores and Good Design Store.
He recalls, “After graduating in Directing Marketing from Northwestern University, I met Jeffrey Moy, a Chinese-American antique dealer, who became my boss. He was a protégé of Avery Brundage, a wealthy Midwestern industrialist and a former President of International Olympic Committee (IOC) who collected Asian antiques among the likes of the Rockefellers.With Jeffrey’s help, Brundage culled from his huge collection and donated the best to the Asian Art Museum of San Francisco.”
“Jeffrey just bought Paragon Book Gallery, ‘The Oriental Bookstore of America,’ from New York. It was established by a Jewish immigrant couple from Shanghai who eventually sold it to students from SOAS (School of Oriental and African Studies, London) when they retired. He got its name and mailing list but didn’t have the know-how. Through fate, I met him and started to work in 1992.”
Shane explains, “At first Paragon Book wasa mail-order book company. So I designed the database, typed in explanations of the books for catalogues, sourced, received the orders, packed and sent them. At work, I saw thousands of books as they came through. Later we had a store on lower Michigan Avenue.”
Very fortunate, he met the crème de la crème of the Chinese art and antiques world at the beginning of his career. He said, “On the first day, the Director of the Beijing Palace Museum came and we visited the Art Institute of Chicago, the Field Museum and others in the Midwest. The curators showed us Chinese antique collections of bronze, jade and porcelain from inside out. I was exposed to these masterpieces and learned about their quality and grades. In the mid-90s the second wave of the Asian artboom took place and I attended the Asian Art Fair in the Armory and auction houses in New York. So I gained good background knowledge from this.”
On the Serindia Publications, Shane recounts, “I met Anthony Aris in 2003, Michael Aris’s (late husband of Aung San Suu Kyi) elder twin brother, a scholar of Tibetan studies and former publisher of Serindia, at Frankfurt Book Fair. He wanted to spend more time with his grandchildren so he sold me the company. I thought that after my first job, I understand the market, the clientele, and its process. I could build my own business too. So I was involved in publishing, distributing and retailing as well.”
In 2006 Shane returned to Thailand and started Serindia Publications which originally sold books online. Books on Asian antiques, art and design are considered specialised and difficult to sell. However, he found a prime location for his next venture, an art gallery. He muses, “I visited an old house where Dr. Boonsong Lekagul, the late Thailand’s wildlife conservationist, practiced in the O.P. Garden project. I reserved the space immediately without knowing the rental fee. I like its neighbourhood context with different religious sites and decided to make the gallery eponymous to the publisher’s name.”
Serindia Gallery was opened in 2009 and has shown a variety of art, design and book exhibitions with high quality and academic references. Shane enlightens, “What I want to emphasise is quality and education. These exhibits are tools for connoisseurship. One can learn how to look, train one’s eyes, absorb the content, and evaluate without being taught directly.”
In 2012 Shane took limited-edition artbooks from Taschen and opened a pop-up at the Central World and the first Hardcover Bookstore in Bangkok Art and Cultural Centre (BACC). Its branch in Central Embassy had the Serindia Gallery Annex for satellite art exhibitions and the Good Design Store for cool products a few doors away. In 2017 it has flourished and was asked to join Open House by Central Embassy, Bangkok’s largest space for books and art lifestyle, with Central Group’s vision and collaboration. With views and natural light, the space was designed by the award-winning Klein Dytham architecture which created Daikanyama Tsutaya Booksor T-Site in Tokyo. Shane describes, “I want to celebrate the paper and print culture that runs deeply in Asia and Europe. People still buy and read books. Here they like books on history because of nostalgia and the rediscovery of vintage and retro styles. We co-operate with publishers and create launches to cultivate sophisticated market and good readership.”
As one of Creative District Bangkok directors, Shane concludes, “I have combined all the businesses and turn them into a cultural enterprise. As an entrepreneur, everything I do is connected to the overall concept from publishing, distributing and retailing books to art gallery and design products store. Retails are time-consuming but the most satisfying job is publishing because I like to conceptualise and visualise it from materials, sizes, text, presentation, and details. What’s in print is permanent. So I have to make it the best I can. This enhances me intellectually. As a cultural enterprise, all the mechanics have to support the whole concept with its artistic and literary forms.”