Bangkok isn’t known for its art exhibits, but hidden gems scattered throughout Bangkok do have art to offer. Several galleries and museums across the city allow opportunities for art lovers to experience the historical, the contemporary, and the unique.
Museum of Contemporary Art
Bangkok’s Museum of Contemporary Art, or MOCA, is located outside of the city. About a twenty minute drive from Nonthaburi, the museum can be found in a white cube-shaped building with a dazzling flower-like design of windows across it. The grounds are enclosed by carefully pruned hedges, and a mirror-like pond complete with a white sculpture resembling a bouquet of closed tulips. MOCA is perhaps the largest and best source of modern art in Bangkok, because of its size and variety. In addition to contemporary art, it includes exhibitions of local and historical art, with displays of artists from different generations.
The museum exhibits traditional Thai art along with the work of international artists, spread across several levels that are pleasant to walk through. When I visited the museum, I had virtually every exhibit to myself; I was accompanied only by the guards standing at the entrances of each who made me feel very welcome. The walls were full of paintings of all styles, and sculptures in varying materials were scattered here and there. The space was so impeccably clean that the floor reflected every piece of art like water. You can lose yourself at Bangkok’s Museum of Contemporary Art, walking slowly through the tranquil exhibits or sitting at a bench to gaze at an artwork of particular interest. When your feet are tired, you can venture to the museum’s café for a cup of tea and a pastry to enjoy while overlooking the well-kept grounds.
Nova Contemporary is accessible off the Ratchadamri BTS stop, but because it seems to be located behind a parking lot and beneath a series of apartments, it’s a little tricky to find. However, this tiny gallery is not to be dismissed. Stepping through the elegant door and into the cool, softly lit space is a wonderful experience – as is being greeted by the woman at the front desk, who may briefly explain the exhibits to you, hand you a programme, and offer you free reign of the gallery.
The space consists of just two small levels, but the displays are worth examining for a long period of time. At the time of my visit, several walls were decorated with large, abstract pieces of modern art which added splashes of neon to the cloud-grey walls. The lower level featured a display of zippered umbrellas that gallerygoers were allowed to zip and unzip as they pleased. A television in the same room showed how the umbrellas were used in a performance art piece by artist Moe Satt of Myanmar. Upstairs, a simple display of portraits entitled Heads in the Head, by Parinot Kunakornwong, offered further explosions of colour. I was drawn to these paintings for some time, examining the details and differences of each.
Because of its small size, Nova Contemporary is not the type of gallery you put aside a day to visit; but it is a lovely place to wander into when you lack some contemporary art in your life and long for the serene silence of a room full of paintings.
Art in Paradise
This unique, interactive art museum is a great option for those with children. Art in Paradise, located in Esplanade Bangkok shopping centre, is full of fascinating 3D art exhibits for people to interact with and enjoy with friends. This museum is more suited to a fun outing with friends and family than a quiet place to look at art, but there are plenty of interesting things to see.
Here, you may pose for photos with entertaining art pieces that are actually quite ingenious, when you consider how their hyper-realistic designs can make them appear three-dimensional. There are countless different exhibits here; you can walk across a precarious cliff painted on the floor, sit in a Venetian gondola, climb the vines of a jungle, crawl across a room turned upside down, and pretend to escape from the biting teeth of a great white shark – to name a few. Art in Paradise has something for everyone, and is worth a visit for people of all ages.
Bangkok Art and Culture Center
You can access the Bangkok Art and Culture Center from a large overpass that connects to shopping centres like MBK and Siam Square One. Standing on the breezy overpass to watch colourful taxis and tuk-tuks fly by underneath is quite enjoyable, but the centre’s accessible location is just one of its positive attributes. The atmosphere inside is pleasant, as the open layout allows for natural light to pour in through large windows. Multiple levels are visible from wherever you stand, with wraparound balconies offering tastes of the exhibits on the floors above. The first few levels of the centre are lined with shops and stands selling everything from handmade tote bags to violins to spray paint. The shops contain arts and crafts supplies, books, jewellery, and more.
There are also a few cafés at which weary museum-goers can relax. Meanwhile, artists sit on chairs here and there, selling their artworks and painting portraits on request. The lowest level is home to exhibits and an art library that contains a variety of books, and tables where people can sit and work, should they feel inspired. When I visited, the floor was filled with a design exhibition that displayed fascinating dresses, textile artworks, and even a set table – including a kettle, nuts, and oranges – made entirely of fabric.
On the upper levels you’ll find the more standard art exhibits, which range in time period and style. The rounded architecture of the centre allows for a comfortable experience walking through the exhibits, as the layout leads you in a natural loop. After a relaxing time admiring the artworks, it is equally as lovely to emerge from the dim lighting of the exhibitions and enter the sunny atrium of the Bangkok Art and Culture Center, perhaps in time to enjoy a refreshing cup of iced coffee.