Bangkok: Art That Shouldn’t Have Been

By Gloria Bhargava

It is frankly a miracle that the art scene in Bangkok exists at all. Politics has always played a tricky role in the art world here, while Thai society as a whole has been less than welcoming to not only emerging but also established artists. However, knowing a bit more about the atmosphere of this developing world lends a perspective on why art and artists are not more celebrated here.

Thailand is one of the fastest growing countries in the world, having come a long way from rice paddy fields to skyscrapers in just under 30 years. That’s a great accomplishment by any standard, both commercially and economically. However, the society is ill equipped to handle this change: Mom-and-Pop store owners have become millionaires within two generations and now own retail chains and bus drivers and chauffeurs now export automobile parts. Everyone is getting richer. Nevertheless, because the focus is on making money, art is seen as trivial and unimportant. Many parents encourage their children to have degrees in medicine, engineering, or business administration, while having a degree in art is usually frowned upon. However, in recent years, “hipsters” and art lovers of the Millennial generation have started paying more attention to art by hosting more exhibitions and showing art in their restaurants and businesses.

I recently attended an exhibition called “L’Amour” at a charming little gallery called “Art Space,” located in the heart of the Bangkok art scene. The exhibition boasted works from 34 artists, both renowned and emerging, with each artist’s unique interpretation of love based on emotions, memories, ideals, or imagination. Rows of gilded, embroidered, and painted works adorned the walls, meshing Western and Thai techniques into works that are one-of-a-kind. To say that the exhibition was a feast for the eyes is an injustice, for it was more than that.

I noticed that not only were the works on display gorgeous, but the scene also served as a melting pot for art collectors and emerging and established talents to come together and share their views on society in regards to art. We all agreed that the art scene has come a long way compared to twenty years ago, but there’s still so much room to grow. The gallery owner, a graduate of University of Texas, was extremely cordial and especially proud of the turn out. Although, she, too, agreed that the Bangkok art scene needs a push from not just patrons, but also from governmental agencies and various other institutions.

As a mixed media artist who grew up in Bangkok, I was especially pleased to see such a wonderful collection of eclectic works shown at the gallery, and I am proud to be in the center of the artistic revolution that is happening in this city and in this country.

The Bangkok National Museum, one of the few major places to see Thai art; Source: Wikipedia