A big part of why I love traveling is because of the fact that I get to discover local art and artists. During my visit in Bangkok, I had one free Saturday to explore the city. The weather was terrible that particular day and I was tempted to stay in my hotel and sleep in. I worked the weekend prior so I kind of gave the weather a middle finger for raining on my last Saturday in Bangkok. Not wanting to waste my remaining time in Thailand, I decided to go to the MOCA or Museum of Contemporary Art in Bangkok.
Are we there yet?
The place is not reachable directly by Skytrain, so we decided to take an Uber to get to the Museum. We initially thought that MOCA was near Chatuchak Market since Chatuchak was mentioned in the address and boy am I glad we didn’t decide to get adventurous. It’s a considerable distance from our hotel (Plaza Athenee, Bangkok) along Witthayu road, so we played it safe lest we risked getting lost in a foreign country that hardly spoke English.
Outside the main building is a lotus-inspired sculpture. We were ushered in by the accommodating staff and paid around 200 THB for our tickets. The place had a coffee shop but we decided to go ahead and explore the galleries.
MOCA was established in 2012 and built by businessman Boonchai Bencharongkul to commemorate King Rama 9 as well as honor Professor Silpa Bhirasri, The Father of Thai Contemporary Art. The building of 20,000 square meters has 5 floors divided into several areas showcasing Thai national artists, Contemporary artists, Temporary exhibitions and even a Green room dedicated to Romantic Classic Art during the Victorian era. I love that the building’s architecture was very simple and minimalist which contrasts the intricate and detailed paintings, sculptures and mixed media artworks that it displays. I had no expectations, but I was very curious. Following the fan-girling moment that I had with Thai National Artist Panya Vijinthanasarn’s massive artworks at the Bangkok International Airport, I had an idea about traditional Thai art. Unlike western art that uses shadows and highlights to show perspective and depth, Thai art is very flat and two dimensional yet very detailed.
We were greeted with sculptures and paintings right away and I’d like to share some notable images from the exhibit:
One of the biggest highlights of the Museum is the triptych installation of 7 meter tall paintings representing The Three Kingdoms – Heaven, Earth and Hell. Visitors will walk through “The Passage Across The Universe”, a dimly lit tunnel to view the massive works by Sompop Buddharat whose use of light colors has depicted “Heaven” in a very intricate style, Panya Vijinthanasarn painted “Earth” driven by worldly excesses and Prateep Kochabua, whose surrealist and grotesque style fits the disturbing image of “Hell”.
In this massive white building, four rooms are solely dedicated to National Artist Thawan Duchanee. The highly acclaimed artist studied in Thailand and was even mentored by Professor Silpa Bhirasri, known as “The Father of Thai Contemporary Art”. He earned a doctorate degree in metaphysics and aesthetics from the Royal Academy of Arts in The Netherlands. He died in 2014 at the age of 74
“He was a true avant-garde—not because he did abstract art, but because of his individualism. He defied category because his greatest skill is to assimilate and hybridise various elements, identities, and forms.” Art historian and Thai Culture Ministry secretary, Apinan Poshyananda as told to the Bangkok Post
His distinctive work were even more emphasized by the red and black walls juxtaposed against the dominant monochrome paintings that he created.
I sat there for a while thinking about how much I wanted to stay in that room surrounded by exquisite art. The massive works, impressive as they are, do not completely summarize the life of the artist that left them behind.
Art isn’t something that you’d first think about when someone mentions Thailand. It’s notorious for being a mecca for shopping, a place of chaos, heavy traffic and tuk-tuk rides, elephant tourism, exotic food and even ladyboys, but MOCA is a testament to the richness of Thai cultural landscape and even after spending a day at the museum, I know I hardly scratched the surface of Thailand’s beautiful and extraordinary culture.
Address: 499/50, Vibhavadi Rangsit Rd., Lat Yao, Chatuchak, Bangkok 10900
Phone: +66 2 016 5666
Opening Hours: 10:00am to 6:00pm, Tuesday to Sunday (closed on Monday)
Entrance Fee: 200 baht for the general public, 90 THB for Students and FREE for visitors over the age of 60 or under 15.
Others: Cameras are allowed but no flash photography. Beverages are to be surrendered (but can be retrieved later)