After spending time in Chiang Mai gathering inspiration from various street art pieces we were looking forward to finding some creative art spaces in Bangkok. Our knowledge of the Bangkok art scene was minimal. We did a few internet searches for the best museums and galleries. It wasn’t until we stumbled upon a copy of the Bangkok Art Map (BAM) that we set our plan in motion. BAM was our lifesaver. Not only was it a map of all the art spaces around the city, but it also listed most of the website addresses, museum descriptions, hours and closest metro or BTS stations for each location. Free copies of BAM can be found in random coffee houses, museums, hotels and tourist information offices.
We set aside two half days to walk the city to visit smaller venues showcasing photography, contemporary art and maybe some indoor street art type pieces.
We are big fans of old libraries and chose the Neilson Hays Library as our first choice. Designed by Italian architect Mario Tamagno and built in the 1920’s by Dr. T. Heyward Hays in tribute to his wife, Jennie Neilson Hays. The beautiful building instantly transports you back in time and away from the chaos of the busy streets of Bangkok.
The first of two interesting exhibits was in the rotunda of the library and the second in the café next door. The exhibit space in the rotunda was small but lovely. The café space was a bit awkward because some of the tables were set directly under the artwork making it hard to see the photos up close. Unfortunately, photography inside the library and café was not allowed.
The rest of our day we pretty much struck out at Kathmandu Photo Gallery, U Baan Art Station, Speedy Grandma and Soy Sauce Factory. Kathmandu was closed on our first visit. Both U Baan and Speedy Grandma were in the process of installing new exhibits. We were able to chat a little bit with employees and from our chats and the little we were able to see of the spaces they both seemed pretty cool. We added both to our list to visit “next time”.
The Soy Sauce Factory was our biggest letdown. There was a private meeting when we arrived, and the upstairs which houses the art would not be opened again until the next day. Downstairs served food and drinks, so we stayed to see if we could get a feel of the place. The food was good. The employees spoke little English (and us even less Thai), so it was difficult to get any information. The only art downstairs was a mural on the wall in the back. The space was quite large and had lots of potential, but we just weren’t feeling it. If you have been and felt differently, please let us know. I especially had high hopes for this place because I had read some amazing reviews but left disenchanted.
Our second day was full of pleasant surprises. We returned to Kathmandu Photo Gallery and instantly loved it. The space was so inspiring and inviting. The restoration of this two-story pre-war shop house was the vision of photographer and owner Manit Sriwanichpoom. If you are into photography and/or creative spaces, carve out some time to visit Kathmandu. Even the upstairs sitting room was a photographic delight.
Next on our list were Tang Contemporary Gallery, Thavibu Gallery and Bangkok Art Galleria all located inside the Silom Galleria. Located on the 4th and 5th floors of the North Tower in the middle of a partially empty outlet and jewelry mall. We found some pieces we liked, and the space was set up for some fun personal photo opportunities (an Instagrammers haven). Not all pieces were labeled, and not all rooms were open, although they were all viewable through glass walls. We weren’t able to find anyone who spoke English to assist us with questions regarding the unmarked artwork. However, we did like the 4th-floor space and the variety of artists on display.
Bangkok CityCity Gallery was the last of the spaces we stopped. A new exhibit had opened a few minutes before we arrived. We liked the space and were impressed with the friendliness of the employees. In fact, we were even allowed to tour the storage room to see the extra art pieces, not on official display. We would definitely return to see future exhibits.
We have noted some locations to add to our “next time” list. We would like to get to 100 Tonson Gallery and BACC. Both came highly recommended by employees at Bangkok CityCity Gallery and Goethe Institut. We also added Foreign Correspondents Club of Thailand and the Bangkok University Gallery to our list. We wish our first day had gone a bit better but finding Kathmandu, and the Neilson Hays Library sparked a creative fire in us. The inspiration was exactly what we were hoping for during our walking tour of art spaces in Bangkok.
Things to Know Before You Go
- Check hours – Business hours may be different due to holidays, exhibit changes, etc.
- Check exhibit dates – The smaller locations close between exhibits for installation.
- Not all locations allow photography. Be mindful of the rules.
- Check gallery/museum websites for special events
- Bangkok Art Map
- Bangkok City City Gallery
- Kathmandu Photo Gallery
- Nielsen Hays Library
- Soy Sauce Factory
- Speedy Grandma
- Tang Contemporary Gallery
- U Baan Station