A first look at the Soho House Bangkok art collection
Ahead of our official House opening, we’ve picked 10 works reflecting the diversity of the vibrant Thai art scene
Thursday 23 February 2023 By Anastasiia Fedorova and Sara Terzi
Soho House Bangkok opened its doors for Founder members this week – with design and interiors, menus and events reflecting the city’s authenticity. The art collection, which holds the work of 33 artists born or based in Thailand, is an integral part of the vision.
‘The aim of this collection was to reflect the diversity of the contemporary art scene in Bangkok, and more generally in Thailand, by including artists working in different mediums and at different stages of their career,’ says Sara Terzi, Senior Art Collections Manager at Soho House, who curated the collection. ‘The artists’ practices touch upon a large range of themes, such as womanhood, spirituality, global warming, gender identity, the interpretation of folklore and myth, and post-Covid societal issues.’
Located in the Sukhumvit neighbourhood, the House merges indoor and outdoor spaces, with the pool in the outdoor terrace as the centrepiece. Working with different spaces, from calming darker rooms to vibrant bright areas, was a challenge, Terzi admits, but an exciting one.
‘The intimate scale of the House allowed us to think and utilise the space differently, for example by having a unique installation piece by artist Aracha Cholitgul under the staircase or by commissioning a site-specific artwork by Pannaphan Yodmanee, which is seamlessly placed in the atrium vaulted ceiling,’ she explains.
The works in the collection draw from traditional themes and techniques while giving them a fresh interpretation, with many of the artists exploring what it means to be Thai today. Below, Terzi picks 10 highlights from the collection.
1. Pinaree Sanpitak
‘Breast Vessel Soho House’, 2022
Welcoming members to the House, this textured painting sits within Sanpitak’s long-standing practice centred around the representation of a woman’s body in its most elemental and spiritual form. Inspired by the powerful experience of breastfeeding her own child, the Breast Vessel series morphs the breast shape into the one of a mound and vessel: the artist connects a personal experience with forms that recall that of Buddhist offering bowls or stupa shrines, sacred hemispherical structures found in Thailand and around many Southeast Asian countries.
2. Kawita Vatanajyankur
‘Scale Of Justice’, 2016 and ‘Carrier (Fish)’, 2017
In her performative work, Vatanajyankur turns her body into a mechanical tool or object to explore the nature of everyday and domestic work, and to underline issues of labour, feminism, oppression, and consumerism. In ‘Scale Of Justice’, the artist becomes a traditional ‘beam scale’, balancing overflowing hanging baskets from her arms and feet, while in ‘Carrier (Fish)’ she highlights the labour-intensive nature of the fish industry, one of the main national export products of Thailand. The works act as reminders of how men and women helping drive the Thai economy forward often receive little credit and consideration.
3. Korakrit Arunanondchai
Korakrit Arunanondchai’s multi-layered practice – which includes filmmaking, painting, installation and performance – reflects on technology and spirituality, the accumulation of data, the fragility of memory and the interfaces between world history and personal experience. This special commission for the House is part of his ongoing History Paintings series, first exhibited at MoMA PS1 in New York, marked by the use of stretched denim – often tie-dyed with bleach, painted together with different elements appearing over time and in parallel to his ongoing ‘Painting With History’ films.
4. Jakkai Siributr
‘Airborne (Wattana)’, 2023
Another site-specific commission, named after the district where Soho House Bangkok is located, reflects the artist’s sentiments towards the authorities’ handling of the pandemic. For the making of the work and as a way to assist those individuals who most suffered economically, uniforms of professionals from the tourism sector made redundant were collected via monetary exchange. The uniforms were then disassembled, sewn into face masks, and reassembled into a tapestry that stands as a memento of this particular time in history. The artwork is embellished with various talismanic objects to underline how a distrust of the authorities brought parts of the population to rely on superstitious beliefs.
5. Apichatpong Weerasethakul
‘A Conversation (On Cinema And The Sun)’ and ‘A Conversation (On Animism)’, 2022
In the series of photographic works titled A Conversation With The Sun, artist and filmmaker Apichatpong Weerasethakul deals with his ongoing interest in exploring machine autonomy and man-machine collaboration. Taking inspiration from the study of philosopher Jiddu Krishnamurti’s (1895-1986) ideal of being, Weerasethakul once again makes use of his favoured motif of the fabric curtain backdrop, overlapping hand-drawn elements with machine-generated images created on the neural network architecture platform VQGAN+CLIP.
6. Aracha Cholitgul
‘LDR - Moving Mountain No.2’, 2021
This unique installation is part of Cholitgul’s series The Study Of A Long Distance Relationship, created in a time when the artist was questioning the meaning of home based on her own personal experience of uncertainties, emotional distance, and the complexity of relationships. A painted chair appropriated from her childhood house highlights a nostalgic sense of belonging, while the chart on the wall reflects the emotional response of the artist in the wake of moving out her family home.
7. Jarasporn Chumsri
‘La Couture Saint-Pierre-en-Auge, Normandy, France’, 2022
This special commission is part of a set of works created by Chumsri in a public open studio for the 2022 Bangkok Art Bienniale. Drawing from the observation of real and perceived artistic space in the post-Covid area, the introverted artist takes advantage of the technology used by Google Earth to virtually travel and paint places where artists who have influenced her practice have lived and made work. In the painting for Soho House, Chumsri pays homage to David Hockney and to Normandy, a place that greatly inspired the British artist.
8. Thidarat Chantachua
Thidarat Chantachua’s practice is informed by spiritual and artistic Islamic traditions, where repetitive pattern and geometric elements are used as a base unit for her intricate architectures. In her work she combines embroidery and painting techniques to create ambiguous yet alluring spaces. The colourful thread weaving plays with the viewer’s perception, and for the artist symbolises a way of interconnecting different planes – and, in a broader term, diverse cultures.
9. Kraiwitch Tungsomboon
‘Last Shot’, ‘Twinkle Twinkle’, ‘Hello’, ‘Devil Fruit’, 2022
In these works from his Little Twinkle series, emerging talent Kraiwitch Tungsomboon reflects on childhood joyful times and innocent friendships. The oversaturated palette acts as a nostalgic filter on the artist’s memories, recreated in ironic yet eerie set-ups in ‘Last Shot’ and ‘Twinkle Twinkle’. ‘Hello’ focuses instead on the figure of the ‘nanny’, a sometimes frightful and all-knowing person from a child’s perspective, with ‘Devil Fruit’ playing on the Thai proverb ‘to have (many) eyes like a pineapple’.
10. Maitree Siriboon
‘Family Dots’, 2013-15
This work is part of the Save Thai Buffalo series paying tribute to the buffalo as a symbol of Thailand’s culture and history. In the artist’s view, buffalos helped with the development of the country, but are now rarely seen in rice fields and have become a metaphor for many negative attitudes. By painting buffalos from his native Isaan region with non-toxic materials, Siriboon underlines with humour the new ‘decorative’ role they have taken on in contemporary Thailand. The contrast between world-famous paintings, the gentle gaze of the animal and the Thai landscape are also emblematic of the cultural shock experienced by the artist coming back to his hometown after his first long-term stay in Europe.
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