Jun 22 2011

Art Stalkers: Gallery trawling in Bangkok

Published by at 6:08 am under Art & culture

Artist Elizabeth Briel is set to host Art Stalkers this Saturday June 25, a walk through some of Bangkok’s best art galleries and spaces. We spoke to her about what she hopes to achieve with the walks, which she plans on holding on the last Saturday of the month — wherever she may be.

Yeah, but where is the art?

Yeah, but where is the art?

Travelfish.org: Is this the first “Art Stalkers” event?
Elizabeth: Yes! I’m keeping it to a straightforward itinerary for this first one: easy access to public transport to keep it to 3 hours. We’re meeting at a central location: the BACC in Siam, and finishing off on Sukhumvit, near where many of the guests live.

Travelfish.org: How many do you plan and how regular do you expect them to be?
Elizabeth: I plan to do them on the last Saturday of every month, wherever I am. For June to August, that’s Bangkok. From September to December I’ll be an Artist-in-Residence at the USM Penang, so will do Art Stalking in Penang and Kuala Lumpur on the last Saturday of those months.



Travelfish.org: How did the idea for the walks come about?
Elizabeth: Like most artists, I make regular trips to galleries to take the pulse of the art being made in studios and schools around me. While making art is often solitary, looking at it with company offers new perspectives and questions. But I’ve found art openings aren’t the best time to really get a look at the art: they can be crowded, and getting past the beautiful people and their drinks to the artwork can be a challenge.

One day I ran across this group of creatives in New York run by artist CJ Nye and I thought: “Why don’t I do that here in Asia? Art’s a social thing, and it’d be more fun to do the rounds of galleries with company.”

Travelfish.org: There are a stack of galleries in Bangkok; what will your focus be?
Elizabeth: Good question. There is far too much to cover in a single afternoon, and Bangkok’s public transport, while better than ever, doesn’t offer convenient access to some of the spots for cutting-edge art, like Toot Yung gallery. Even the HOF gallery near my home/studio is a hike for most visitors.

Modern Thai art ...

Modern Thai art ...

Still, most of the flagship art can be seen at venues near the MRT/BTS lines. I’ll usually take an entire day to do my ’rounds’ but can’t expect that of others. So for this first trip we’re sticking to tried-and-true transport to galleries with easy access, at a reasonable pace.

Travelfish.org: Will you be seeking out galleries for looking/buying? And what kind of art will you be hunting down?
Elizabeth: A mixture of commercial galleries and art spaces. Some visitors may find art they’d like to purchase, and everyone is likely to be surprised by the art Bangkok has to offer.

My priorities are the shows I find most compelling every month: artists who are creating at an ambitious scale and with unexpected media, or who are breaking cultural or artworld taboos. I’ve put together a flexible itinerary from the listings in Bangkok’s Art Map, an incredible resource for art in the city.

Travelfish.org: Do you have any favourite galleries you’d recommend people who are in Bangkok for just a short visit go see?
Elizabeth: For looking at art, the BACC is a great place to dip into if you’re already shopping in Siam. I’m a big fan of the casual atmosphere, it’s a fun spot to people watch: you see students hanging out and studying; curious Bangkok-based creatives strolling up the Guggenheim-esque spiral stairway; and some good shows and cultural events too.

... and art in a more traditional vein

... and art in a more traditional vein

The Jim Thompson Art Centre nearby sponsors some innovative projects in Thailand, and his house is worth a look while you’re at it.

Kathmandu Gallery is run by photographer Manit Sriwanichpoom and his wife, the fearless Ing K. Their renovated shophouse is an atmospheric respite from Silom Road, and their photo shows often have a refreshing political or social edge.

WTF Cafe promotes some fantastic Thai art in their upstairs gallery, and I recommend trying one of their knockout cocktails while you’re there.
There are also many good commercial galleries in Bangkok. Here are a few of my favorites:

Galerie N has a good selection of Thai artists, from emerging to established. La Lanta features Thai and international artists, and frequently Chinese artists like Lu Jun, whose innovative ‘digital ink paintings’ will cap off the walk this weekend. And Thavibu Gallery shows some daring art by Thai and other Southeast Asian artists, like Le Quang Ha, whose lacquer and oil paintings are a stunning experience in his studio.

Here’s a link to Saturday’s event on Facebook and Art Stalkers walks are currently a category on my website. I’ll post and archive all info about them there.

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