Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Best Thai Art Galleries in Bangkok - Silom Road

Shy Maiden (after Botero) - Thai painter Jirapat

Shy Maiden (after Botero) by Jirapat T

Nine commercial art galleries close to Silom Road and the Chao Phraya River are covered in the first chapter of a two-part walking tour.

Updated! September 20, 2014

Tourists who want to see and buy work by the best living Thai artists don’t have an easy time of it. The new, private Museum of Contemporary Art finally has provided a showcase for some of the greats of Thai modern art. The more central Bangkok Art and Culture Centre sometimes has good shows, but no permanent collection.  In brief, it's harder to see and buy the work of younger generations.

Moreover, the best commercial galleries are scattered far and wide and historically have been short-lived. Thai painters, sculptors, photographers and video-makers are partly to blame because few want to commit to a long-term exclusive relationship with a single dealer.  (Don't assume any of the top middle-aged artists mentioned in this series are tied to any one gallery.) Once they have a reputation and some acclaim, many artists prefer to sell directly to collectors at home and abroad.

The situation is improving, however, with a handful of Bangkok galleries now more than a decade old. This walking tour in the Silom Road area is a stress-free way to see nine galleries in a few hours. The second part of the tour covers three galleries near Sathorn Road, an art book library and a restaurant. The three ARDEL galleries are covered in the final entry. 

At any of the galleries mentioned in these posts, look for the free colorful monthly Bangkok Art Map. Perhaps you can figure out how to download it in pdf form from the BAM Facebook page but I can't.

Silom Galleria's Six Galleries

Myanmar Burmese artist Aung Myint

Drawing by Aung Myint

On the southeastern, riverside end of Silom Road, Silom Galleria looks like another soaring concrete office building. Built during the boom years of the 1990s, it was intended to be a central showcase for Thailand’s gem and jewelry industries. Some gem dealers and offices are still located here along with the Asian Institute of Gemological Sciences. 

But much of the chilly, echoing space is vacant. Rental rates must be attractive because art galleries are taking over. There are now six galleries in the building. Galleries move or fold too: old-timers will be sad to hear that Gallery Soulflower, Silom Galleria Art Space and the Teo+Namfah galleries have closed. Gossip Gallery supposedly moved way out to 
Rama 9 Soi 51 but its old website is being squatted on, so seems doubtful.

The quality of galleries here varies greatly. So do the artists exhibited and represented in the better ones. But since nearly all the galleries are located in the basement--with one each on the third and fourth floors,  it’s easy to take a peek in most of them. For those with little time, best bets are Tang, Thavibu and probably the newer A+789. All these galleries have their own websites; do a Web search of their names. 

Most offices in this building are open Monday through Saturday, 11 am to 7 pm, so gallery hours pretty much follow that schedule with the occasional addition of Sunday. Exceptions are noted below. The street address of Silom Galleria is 919/1 Silom Road. The building is  close to the intersection with Charoen Krung Road: I have put a link to a photo of the building at the end of the Galleria section of this post. Ignore the Google map.The Galleria is easy walking distance from the Surasak Skytrain station on Sathorn Road as well as from such riverside hotels as the Oriental and Shangri-la as well as the Pullman Bangkok and Holiday Inn Silom. 

Silom Galleria Galleries, Basement Level:

A+789 Art Society

A+789 is one of Galleria's newer arrivals but it is operated by some of the people that used to run the HOF Gallery, so the works should be interesting. HOF used to be located way out on Ratchadapisek. HOF stands for "Highly Optimistic and Friendly Modern Art." The building was a large, multi-floor space that also offered art classes and studios. HOF was founded about a decade a go by a group of youngish artists who used to sell their work at Chatuchak Weekend Markets.

One of the first shows in this new locale was work by Suwit (Rahoum) Maprajuab. More recently, four young artists presented "figurative paintings and sculpture looking at survival in contemporary society."   A+789 is affiliated with Artery next door.

Note, however, that the HOF artists in June 2014 also opened a much bigger gallery on the east end of Sukhumvit Road near the Phra Khanong Skytrain station. Now the main HOF headquarters, it's located in the W District mall between Sukhumvit Soi 69 and Soi 71. Directions and other specifics are on the website, which otherwise is still a work in progress.
Unit B10
Phone: (66) 089-915-9150, 089-926-2196 
Closed on Sunday.

Quietly Solid - Pinaree Sanpitak

Pinaree Sanpitak - Quietly Solid

Artery Gallery

This arts management company stages occasional exhibitions.

Unit B09

Phone: (66) 02-630-3006, 084-466-7110
Closed on Sunday.

Number 1 Gallery

This large basement space exhibits emerging and established artists, often with a spiritual themes. Number 1 artists are both Thai and foreign. One recent show featured building drawings from a project US artist Charles LaBelle has been working on for 14 years.

Unit B15, B26-27

Phone: (66) 02-630-3381,  083-445-8333
Open Sunday 11am-6 pm

Tang Contemporary Art

More than a decade old, this gallery shows primarily mainland Chinese artists, although some well-known Thai artists had shows here in the early days. The Beijing and Hong Kong branches are newer but based on the website, seem to be more active than Bangkok's nowadays. 

A recent show featured established Thai artists Chusak Srikwan, Prasert Yodkeaw, Preeyachanok Ketsuwan, Tawan Wattuya, and Yuree Kensaku.

Ask the staff if there are works not displayed. The website lists the artists it represents. Included are famous Thais Kamin LertchaiprasertPreeyachanok KetsuwanRirkrit Tiravanija, Sakar-in Krue-on and Navin Rawanchaikul.

Phone: (66) 02-630-1114,  01-751-8148
Open on Sunday until 7 pm. Closed on Wednesday

The following two Silom Galleria Art Galleries are on the fourth floor.

Thavibu Gallery

Having opened more than a dozen years ago, Thavibu is one of the oldest private galleries in Bangkok. The name refers to the Thai, Vietnamese and Burmese artists that it focuses on. It represents, not exclusively, a large number of artists, so ask to see slides as well as what’s in the storeroom.

Qualilty varies: from good stuff all the way down to the conventional hotel room art. Vietnamese and Burmese artists (like Aung Myint) used to be a better bet here, but more and more internationally-known Thai artists have been showing work here. They have included Pinaree Sanpitak,Therdkiat Wangwatcharakul, Jirapat Tatsanasomboon, Navin Rawanchaikul and Jakkai Siributr.

Unit 433, 4F

Phone: (66) 266-5464
Hours: Monday-Saturday, 11 am7 pm.
Closed Sunday. 

C.V.N. Art & Gems

Although its space in the Galleria is fairly new, C.V.N. has been in business for decades. It's part gem merchant, part gallery, part private dealer but bills itself as having "the exclusive collection of Thai art." Although of fine quality, a lot of the works are rather conventional hotel art on themes both Western (e.g., landscapes) and Thai (mythology and Buddhism). However, there is a great variety and supposedly the proprietors are also dealers for senior masters like Thawan Duchanee.

Phone: 081-307-5979 
Hours: Monday-Saturday,11 am7 pm
Closed Sunday. 
Email: cvnart@hotmail.com

Silom Galleria Location

Pay not attention to the Google map for the Galleria. Previously, it placed the building on a street parallel and farther west of Silom Road. Next it was at the wrong end of Silom near Soi Saladaeng; now it's midway down Surawong Road. Fortunately, Silom Road as a principal commercial road is easy to find and to pronounce ("see-lom"). The building is large and here's a map and photo of the Silom entrance.  Though Gallery Soulflower has closed, its website lives on with a helpful map. The Galleria building is walking distance from the Surasak Skytrain station. From Surasak station, walk along either Silom Soi 19 or Surasak Road; Galleria is between the two, with its main entrance on Silom Road.

Silom Galleria address: 919/1 Silom Road (corner of Silom Soi 19)
Nearest Skytrain station: Surasak, Exit 3
Phone: 02-630-0944
Hours: Most Galleria shops and offices are open Monday-Saturday, 10 am-7 pm; as indicated above, a few galleries are open on Sunday.
Nearest hotels: Holiday Inn Silom, Lebua, Oriental, Shangri-la, Pullman Bangkok (formerly Sofitel Silom)

Charoen Krung Galleries - Serindia, Modern, Artha and Soy Sauce

From Silom Galleria, it's a pleasant stroll up Silom to a photography gallery and two galleries that exhibit well-established painters. That tour starts here

But there are three more galleries and an art space up this end of Silom, less than a kilometer away and worth checking out, especially if you're staying close by at the Sheraton or Oriental hotels. Silom intersects with Charoen Krung Road near the Galleria. That's the location I have linked to at the bottom of the page; the Sirocco on that map is a restaurant in the Lebua Hotel. Running parallel to the river, Charoen Krung is the city's oldest road and was the first paved road in Bangkok. From the Galleria, walk on the left side of Charoen Krung, past the soi leading to the Oriental; the next lane is Soi Charoen Krung 36, where the well-marked OP (or O.P.) Garden Building is located (Here's a map anyway; ignore the Google one). Inside this shopping center is the long-lived Serindia Gallery and the new Modern Gallery.

Serindia Art Books 

Serindia is primarily an art book publisher and art bookstore, specializing in beautiful books of the Himalaya region.

Most of its art and photographic shows have been related to India, China, Tibet, Nepal or Mongolia. The artists usually are not Thais, though a recent show featured the abstract photographs of Piyatat Hemmatat. Earlier shows featured watercolor paintings of orchids and other plants of the Himalayas.

Serindia address: OP Garden 4, Unit 3101, 
                          6 Soi Charoen Krung 36 
Phone: 02-238-6410
Hours: Tuesday-Sunday, 11 am - 6 pm
Email: serindiagallery@gmail.com
Website: www.serindiagallery.com
Nearest Skytrain station: Saphan Taksin or Surasak
Nearest hotels: Oriental, Royal Orchid Sheraton, Pullman, Saphaipae Hostel

Modern Gallery for Old Masters

Many an Thai art gallery opened with the intention of featuring shows by both prominent artists and up-and-coming ones. However, Modern Gallery's plan to show works by the late Angkarn Kalayanapong and and Thawan Duchanee means very prominent. Very well-known Chalermchai Kositpipat is in the middle-age range. Emerging artists on the roster include Lolay, Cherdwood Sakolaya and Thanakorn. A recent show featured figurative paintings by French artist Henri Lamy. 

The proprietor, art collector Ritt Slipsophon, probably knows what he's doing, even if the gallery still doesn't have a proper website. The Facebook page is pretty skimpy too.

Modern address: OP Garden, Unit #1A-1103  
                           6 Soi Charoen Krung 36 
Phone: 02-238-6449
Hours: MondaySaturday, 11 am7 pm
Facebook page
Nearest Skytrain station: Saphan Taksin 
Nearest hotels: Oriental, Royal Orchid Sheraton, Pullman, Hotel Swan

Artha - Burmese, Thai and Vietnamese Figurative Art

Opening in spring 2014, Artha Gallery is the newest gallery on this tour. I hesitated to list it here because I haven't visited it yet. Nonetheless, it's very close to OP Garden and, from what I can see on the website, I think it might interest art lovers. The gallery's raison d'etre is to exhibit work by emerging artists from Myanmar, Thailand and Vietnam. From the examples that can be seen on the website, that pretty much means figurative painting: nothing too adventurous, but certainly the kind of art that visitors and expats are most likely buy.

Get back on Charoen Krung Soi 36 and walk a few meters toward the river. Given the address, it's on the left-hand side of the road, the opposite side from OP Garden. The directions say the gallery is "behind the French Embassy", so I think it's just after the embassy.

Artha address: 5–11 Soi Charoen Krung 36 
Phone: 090-310-0257, 02-630-9489
Hours: Tuesday-Sunday, 11 am6 pm; Sunday 1 pm6 pm
Email: pascal@arthagallery.fr
Website: www.arthagallery.fr
Nearest Skytrain station: Saphan Taksin 
Nearest hotels: Swan, Trocadero, Oriental, Royal Orchid Sheraton 

Soi Sauce Factory Gallery

Describing Soi Sauce Factory as a gallery doesn't seem quite accurate, especially compared to a gallery as traditional and familiar as Modern. Anyway, get back on Charoen Krung (or Charoenkrung) Road and keep walking toward the Sheraton Hotel and Chinatown. In fact, follow the signs for the Sheraton; the hotel is on its own road very close to the river that loops around and becomes Charoenkrung Soi 24 around the River City Complex, which is full of shops selling antiques and expensive collectibles. I know: that sounds difficult; make sure you have the Soy Sauce phone number. If you're in the area anyway, it's worth taking a look.

The three-story Soy Sauce Factory is an event and installation space, the kind of place suited for electronic music dance events or the recent "Afro-Hipster Party". Don't go expecting you might buy a painting or portable sculpture. It's a great spacious place for photo shoots, parties and other events. 

It recently held an recent exhibition of work by new design graduates of Chulalongkorn University and by "a collective" of Taiwanese, Japanese and Thai artists. You can get a better idea from the Facebook page than the website. 

Soi Sauce address:  Charoen Krung Soi 24 
Nearest Skytrain station: Saphan Taksin 
Phone: 092-115-8696, 081-301-2669
Hours: Tuesday-Saturday, Noon-11 pm
Website: www.soysaucefactory.com
Nearest hotels: Oriental, Royal Orchid Sheraton, Millennium Hilton, Saphaipae Hostel

Copyright Susan CunninghamContact SoutheastAsiaTraveler @ gmail.com

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