Sep 14 2011

Museum of Thai Modern Art in Bangkok Set for November Launch

by Brian Mertens

Bangkok will soon be home to Thailand’s largest privately funded museum. Photo by Olga Oslina.

Thailand’s largest privately funded museum is set to open in Bangkok in November, with the launch of the Thai Contemporary Art Museum. Housed in a 21,000-square meter, four-story facility, built at a cost of 600 million Thai baht (USD 20 million), the project will showcase the collection of modern and neo-traditional Thai art collected by Boonchai Bencharongkul, a telecommunications tycoon turned philanthropist. Among the featured artists are Fua Haripitak, Thawan Duchanee and Chalermchai Kositpipat. In addition, the museum will display Boonchai’s collections of coins, stamps, and artworks by makers of Thai tradition. 

Despite its “contemporary” moniker, the museum focuses on works from the eras before Thai artists began to embrace contemporary practice in the late 1990s—Thai modernism from the 1940s to the 1970s, and neo-traditionalism, characteristic of local art practices during the 1980s and early 1990s, which blends modernist influences with traditional iconography. Rotating exhibitions, however, might feature contemporary work by young Thai artists, according to Boonyapha Bencharongkul, daughter of Boonchai who is involved in the project.

Situated on Viphavadhi Rangsit Road, not far from the old Don Muang Airport, the museum will have temporary exhibition spaces on the ground floor and second floor, while permanent displays will occupy galleries on the second and third floors. The third floor installation will feature works by Thawan Duchanee, housed in two oval-shaped rooms designed by the artist. The fourth floor has a conference room. Other facilities include an auditorium seating up to 200 people, a gift shop and café.

The museum has an annual operating budget of THB 40 million (USD 1.3 million), significantly above that of most if not all publicly funded art institutions in Thailand. Beyond exhibitions, the museum will present poetry readings, drama, concerts and other events. Boonyapha told AAP that the organizers envision hosting Southeast Asian regional art exhibitions and conferences as well as national ones. As of mid- September, a director had not yet been named.