With stock markets remaining a worrying place to invest all your money, ‘investments of passion’ are on the rise. These alternative types of investment include collecting art – a hobby that provides you with far more than just valuable assets. If you’re in Bangkok and looking to start or build your own collection, be sure to read our useful guide here first.
By Isabella Kallo.
Bangkok’s art scene has been burgeoning of late, and although it still has a long way to go, new galleries are opening all the time. Each month, at least a dozen new exhibitions open, showcasing a variety of artworks by both new emerging local talents and established artists, be they Thai or international. As with all emerging art markets, the early days are often the most exciting; you can watch the progress happen and meet the artists in person. It’s essentially the calm before the storm.
Of course, investing in emerging markets can also be more risky, particularly in the art sector, but as a result of this, it offers an unrivalled potential. For most investors this is the most appealing aspect, along with the privilege of being there from the beginning, and contributing to its success. Regardless of where one is buying art or what one is buying however, there are a series of rules that can be applied to the process to avoid disappointment down the line.
The most important rule is to buy artwork you love. You must love it, not because of what people are saying about it, but because your mouth drops in awe when you see it. This doesn’t necessarily apply to all, but nonetheless it is important to let artworks ‘speak’ to you, to really look at the work in question and feel passionate about it.
This applies just as much when work is being bought purely from an investment point of view, partly in case it fails in this regard, so you are at least left with something beautiful to hang on your wall. In addition the art world would be made redundant if those fuelling it were only interested in the potential financial benefits, as so often the most successful stories of art investment are the result of ardent gut instincts.
Luckily there are more pragmatic and tangible tips worth following for securing successful art purchases. For example, once you have found an artwork you like, find out all you can about the artist. See as much of his other works as possible and be sure the piece you are buying represents the best of his work, or a particular phase of it. In addition, make sure you know the artwork’s provenance.
One of the excitements of buying art in Bangkok is that many galleries will be selling works coming directly from artists’ studios, making you their first owners. However, if they have been owned by others before you, or been part of important exhibitions for example, this can be telling of the work’s quality and make a difference to its value.
Beginning to sound feasible but don’t know where to begin? If you’re new to the Bangkok art scene, one of the best places to start is the Bangkok Art and Culture Center. Although not a commercial gallery, it hosts a variety of fantastic exhibitions with a focus on contemporary Thai culture, making it the perfect first stop for anyone needing an initiation to the Thai art scene. Other non-commercial galleries include Bangkok’s National Art Museum, which provides an interesting opportunity to see a large selection of Thai art dating from the 17th Century onwards and showing its developments.
Finally the Museum of Contemporary Art, which opened in March 2012, has an expansive collection of modern and contemporary art that shows the beginnings of a transition from very traditional and cultural themes to more controversial and universal issues.
Perhaps the best way however, is to go straight into the galleries themselves. Majority of Bangkok’s galleries promote local Thai artists, whether they be emerging talents or established names, and so provide probably the best crash course on Thai art there is. Don’t be afraid to ask gallery owners lots of questions and if possible, even try to meet the artists for a deeper understanding of what you’re buying. Enjoy a day of gallery hopping, which is also a great way of seeing the city because they are spread all over town, and what is sure, is that you’ll struggle to leave empty handed.
100 Tonson Gallery: Keen to capture the rapid development of Thai art, the gallery’s bimonthly shows are innovative and forward-thinking.
H Gallery: A mixture of regional and international artists are exhibited in this gallery, which includes an experimental project space. An extensive inventory of works by previously exhibited artists is worth asking about.
Koi Art Gallery: Aiming to give a fresh perspective on contemporary art, this is a good gallery for seeing challenging art by both emerging and established artists.
Thavibu: One of the longest established private galleries in Bangkok, Thavibu has a great variety of works, making it a good place to get acquainted with different artists and styles.
Sombatpermpoon Gallery: Named after its owner, this dedicated collector of Thai art, first opened a gallery in 1979. Now there are over 10,000 works by Thai artists, exhibited in a six-storey gallery.
Galerie N: Seeking to promote talent and contemporary Thai art, Galerie N is an exciting place to visit and its artists range from the newly discovered to the long established.
La Lanta: Functioning as a bridge between acclaimed international artists and emerging local artists as a means to increase dialogue and audiences, the art on show is always interesting.
University Galleries: University galleries are a great place to see raw contemporary art in the making. The Bangkok University Art Gallery (BUG), the Silpakorn University Gallery and the Chulalongkorn Art Centre are all worth exploring.
Ardel Gallery of Modern Art: Set up by artist Thavorn Ko-udomvit, this is one of three galleries, all showing contemporary Thai art, by artists ranging from those well-known to those still at university.
Kathmandu Photo Gallery: Run by well-known Thai photograph Manit Sriwanichporn, this is a highly recommended stop for those interested in photography.
Artery Gallery: Focuses mainly on emerging Thai art, but occasionally welcomes better known artists too.