Six Galleries Defining Bangkok’s Arts Explosion
BANGKOK’S ART SCENE IS BOOMING. THESE SPACES DEFINE A DYNAMIC HONEYPOT.
In Berlin, it was the eighties; in New York, the sixties.
And in Bangkok, it’s right now. The Thai capital’s art scene is experiencing a golden era where creative energy is at an all-time high.
Over the last four years, countless studios, design rooms, galleries and arts spaces have emerged, particularly in Chinatown, where rents are cheap, and gentrification is nascent among disused homes and shops.
The scene is bolstered by action-packed events, where exhibitions turn into all-nighters thanks to a a trendy crowd of Thais and Bangkok expats. Here are the spots you need to know:
The Jam Factory
Pass by a giant Bodhi tree through a revolving glass door, and you’ll find Jam, a recently converted factory encased in steel frames. A coworking space and creative studio, you might even see award-winning architect Duangrit Bunnag, the building’s designer, at work through the glass of his firm’s office. Bunnag’s inspiration from Bangkok’s natural chaos is visible here with a bookstore cafe, a gallery, a furniture studio and restaurant. Regular music performances and exhibitions make this a great place to people watch all day long.
Why (else) you should go: Jam Factory is located next to the Chao Phraya River, or what Bangkokians call the River of Kings. Getting here makes for a scenic ferry ride.
Cho Why eclipses traditional art spaces with its eclectic offerings, including flea markets, film screenings, craft beer tastings and even rooftop paella nights. Founded by a self-proclaimed “chaotic collective” of artists and designers, Cho Why keeps their aged shop-house bare and minimalistic so that short-term projects can swoop in and make the space their own. That’s why it’s one of the most exciting examples of Bangkok’s artistic zeitgeist.
“We follow an 'open-for-construction' philosophy,” says project manager David Fernandez. “Cho Why is an unpretentious container available to host and share some compelling stories. [We share] creative projects which we think will be interesting to the audience, whatever that is.”
Why (else) you should go: Cho Why is on Soi Nana, a nightlife strip in old Chinatown shophouses that’s only existed for a couple years.
WTF Café & Gallery
WTF is the brainchild of art curator Somrak Sila and her colorful array of friends, including photojournalist Christopher Wise, who use the space to create a nexus for arts, culture and human connection. The stout ground floor is a catalyst for mingling by design, while two upper floors display art exhibitions. WTF’s packed event calendar also includes poetry, storytelling, live music and even recently live sculpting. Changing Spanish tapas specials and a full cocktail menu of classics and creative libations is sure to keep the conversation flowing.
Why (else) you should go: It’s easy to access, just a few steps away from BTS Station Thong Lor, and is near more trendy bars and speakeasies in the Thong Lor neighborhood.
The Museum of Contemporary Art Bangkok (MOCA) is the passion project of Thai billionaire Boonchai Bencharongkul and is Thailand’s largest privately funded museum. Opened in 2012, it features the telecom tycoon’s private collection of over 800 pieces of contemporary Thai art. The building is a staggering 20,000 square-meter space spread out over six storeys, with floor-to-ceiling openwork carvings that allow natural light to bathe hallways and sculptures.
Why (else) you should go: Sleek and modern, MOCA is a departure from gritty artists’ bars in Chinatown and holds regular visiting hours.
Started in 2012 by Thomas Menard, a French entrepreneur and property developer, and Unchalee “Lee” Anantawat, a Thai university arts professor, Speedy Grandma is the gallery that ignited the outbreak of contemporary art spaces in Bangkok (and LURE’s partner in creating Young Bloods: Bangkok).
Based in the Talat Noi neighborhood bordering Chinatown, Speedy Grandma is a concrete refuge housing the works of eclectic young artists. Parties power through the night, with DJ beats, performance art and crowds of friendly cool kids.
Speedy Grandma is only open for events, which are always listed on the gallery’s Facebook page.
Why (else) you should go: “When you enter, you’ll see a big group of people that already know each other, but if you’re new we will talk to you,” says co-founder Lee Anantawat.
Opened by a couple of writer friends, Jam Café is a DIY venue that's always humming. Recent shows include a zine release, a temple builder's personal art presentation and an exhibition of queer paintings. Arrive early for a coffee, peruse the collection, listen to the musical samplings de jour and play flaneur as day becomes night and patrons swap the coffee in their cups for something a bit stronger.
Why (else) you should go: Jam is a centerpiece of Bangkok’s thriving drum and bass scene. “In city where there are huge events on, Jam is a godsend,” says founder of the longstanding D ‘n’ B crew Dubway Sessions. “It’s really one of the only places that give up and coming crews a chance to throw down.” Head down there and experience what next-gen DJs have to offer.