As this is my first proper blog, please excuse my naïve bluntness – I just write what I see, understand and feel. I think that’s how it works.
Anyway, before I dive into Bangkok’s FIRST ever hotel art fair at the Madzudi Hotel, let me introduce myself. I am an art lover and currently working in an art gallery in Bangkok as well as independently with artists. I started loving art through history, and was always fascinated with the past; how we see it in the present and how art can both archive our present and foreshadow the future. Hence, I’ve dived deep into the arts world as an Arts Manager. What the hell does an Art Manager do, though? Well I try to promote art and artists in various creative ways while managing the business and people side of things. Not as easy as some tend to think.
I also wanted to start an art blog to keep track of what’s going on in the art scene, and what this world looks like from an insider’s point of view. Many people think art spaces, museums and galleries are intimidating, but they’re not (well maybe some are – mostly the snobby ‘too cool for you’ ones) and I’d like to break that label on us.
That being said, the “Maduzi Art Fair” was quite easy to take in. And by easy, I don’t in any way mean it was boring, thoughtless or easy to forget. Far from it. It was at a newly opened hotel, easy to get to, super close to my place, and lovely to be at. The opening preview party on Feb 15th had a BUZZING crowd. There were artists, art professionals, dealers, buyers, art lovers, some recognizable faces which you know to smile at and run, and of course free booze lovers. Speaking of which, great beer. Love Carlsberg.
There were many similarities and differences in the Thai galleries that were exhibiting. Firstly, many galleries tried to showcase as much works as possible in one small, standard sized hotel bedrooms. Thus, some gallery rooms ended up looking too squished and little tacky. There were paintings all over the bed, walls, TV, bathrooms, even the headboard. I don’t blame them but it took away the main point of showcasing a piece of art. As soon as you walk inside, you can feel everything is for sale. And not even in a good way. Gallery reps were just waiting for you to ask “How much?” I don’t know how the sales were, but I definitely asked the dreaded question, so to check out the pricing system. Surprisingly, some works which I thought were bound to be sky high, seemed reasonable such as works by popular artists (that I’ve heard of), whereas others which I’ve never heard of (possibly since I’m still new to the Bangkok art scene) were really sky high. Just know that 50,000 BAHT is the mark of reasonable price range (depending on the medium, size and artist name).
Some galleries however, were curated pretty well in spite of the limited space. There were two rooms curated by Thai celebrity curators: Dr Disaphol Chansiri (a renowned private collector) and Mr Atichai-Mrs Wanaporn Poshyanonda (big shot editor of some big shot magazine). Personally, I didn’t see that much of curation going on – just felt a crammed-in vibe. I preferred the room at H Gallery, where there was no overload of works hanging at every corner you stepped, but kept at precise corners for you to understand the works’ value. The works in the gallery reminded of American artist Jasper Johns FLAGS, although the flag colors showcased here were of the Thai flag. Although I didn’t find the works that interesting, kudos for the well-designed curation.
The most amusing similarity between galleries was that each room which showcased nude or erotic paintings/sculptures, were appropriately exhibited in the bathrooms. There was a moment I was examining Vasan Sitthiket’s nude drawings of males and females touching themselves very very intimately. There I stood scanning the drawings, with 5 other much much older men around me doing the same (looking at works that is.. not you know, anything else). Where else is it ok for a girl and five older men, all strangers, to stand in a hotel bathroom staring at close-up nude drawings of masturbating figures than in an art environment? (Ok wait, don’t answer that) I considered the situation for another minute then left for the next room. Quickly.
The most different room I came across was the one at Lunarverb by Thai artist “Mai-T” who apparently was a hot guitarist now turned artist. The room was funky and atmosphere felt tangible. The music was electric and the paintings were glowing in the dark. There was this one awesome painting of glowing mushrooms that make you want to fly to Bali or similar places. Even with other works crowding around me, that one caught my eye.
Other galleries with commendable works include Serindia Gallery, White Space, and Chiang Mai Young Artists. There were a variety of works from your typical acrylic or oil on canvas to graphic design ink on papers, as well as silk screens and sculptures. Not many photographic works though, pity.
Serindia Gallery apparently also runs pop-up book shops about art, at its venue called “Taschen Art & Collector’s Editions.” I’ve never seen it before but hope to check it out soon.
Overall, the fair’s first attempt at creating a space for Bangkok galleries to exhibit to the mass was not bad, and I hope they continue it further for some more years to help grow the Thai art scene further. Looking forward to more art-filled events such as these in Bangkok!
P.S Apologies for the images, I blame the camera on my iPhone.