Nestled in Northern Thailand, 700km away from the bustling tourist mecca of Bangkok, Chiang Mai has positioned itself as the cultural capital of Thailand, with many tech start-ups, digital designers, and artists forming a creative hub in the city. With numerous creatives taking up residence here, Chiang Mai has become an extremely artistically and visually rich city to visit. Explore the city’s top ten galleries with our guide.
Meaning ‘good light’ in Thai, the not-for-profit Sangdee Gallery has set itself the task of promoting not only local but also national and international artistic talent. The space has previously showcased the work of Royal Academy alumnus Chris Bredon, who made a study of Aung San Suu Kyi during her house arrest in Rangoon and has also painted canvases inspired by his travels across Madagascar and the African Continent. Sangdee Gallery also has a lively café attached to it and plays host to open mic nights, as well as live musical performances from emerging local talent.
With one of the largest artistic spaces in Chiang Mai, Gongdee Gallery is a veritable incubator of local creative talent. Established in 1989, the gallery set out to showcase some of the finest wooden creations of the Chiang Mai area, blending both Oriental and Western styles of contemporary art. Home to dramatic sculptures such as large Buddhas and altars painted by local artist Baniya, some of the works include home interiors, soft furnishings, and tapestries.
Showcasing the work of local artist Chumpol Taksapornchai, the Matoom Art Space, which was established in 2014, promotes Thai and Southeast Asian contemporary art. Including work in a variety of mediums such as oil, acrylic, and watercolor on handmade bamboo papers, Taksaponchai’s versatile artwork exudes a peaceful aura and allows those who come to view it to take a moment to relax and reflect.
Tita Gallery is located in Mae Rim District, where the tourists can stop on the way to Mae Sa Elephant Camp, or the trip to the North of Chiang Mai. Although it is a popular coffee spot, the gallery is also known for its range of art from the traditional to the contemporary, as well as its support of local artists. Recently Tita Gallery has featured work by renowned watercolor and magazine illustrators Khun Manoth Kitticheewan and Khun Narongyot.
Documentary Arts Asia seeks to encourage and support emerging Asian photographers, documentary artists, and filmmakers. In turn, the gallery aims to give the Thai and visiting international public more exposure to this burgeoning art form, which has some real stories to tell. Past exhibitions have included works featuring Thailand’s Buddhist monks, a photographic spotlight on the contrasts between North and South Korea, and a multicultural project entitled, I AM BANGKOK by Lilian Suwanrumpha.
Since 2004, La Luna Gallery has showcased the work of a number of talented emerging artists from Thailand, Malaysia, Myanmar, and Vietnam. Although some of those who have exhibited here are well-known, most are up-and-coming experimental artists such as Trinh Truan from Vietnam, who has since gone on to exhibit in New York. Within its multi-floor 400 meter square venue are displays of paintings, photos, prints, sculptures, and design products. A unique cooperation with the Elephant Parade makes La Luna Gallery the sole seller in Thailand of the miniature elephants created by Thai and European artists. La Luna Gallery also cooperates with interior designers and offers special deals to developers.
Alongside its larger sister gallery in Bangkok, H Gallery is one of Thailand’s leading venues for emerging regional and international art. Established in 2002, the gallery began with a focus on emerging Asian artists and has since established a program of exhibitions and installations that aim to generate critical and artistic dialogue on contemporary art practices for a global audience. The gallery’s Project H Space is now in its third year, and functions as a platform to exhibit more experimental artists. H Gallery Chiang Mai has seen notable artists and events, such as the 2012 Mit Jai Inn exhibit, which received critical acclaim.
Suvannabhumi is one of the only galleries to focus almost exclusively on Burmese artists. The space provides a retrospective look at Burmese artists and their work in a variety of mediums, ranging from oil on canvas to sculptures. The gallery hopes that these types of art exhibitions will help visitors to experience the rich culture of Burma and celebrate it as a center of exquisite art and architecture.
Nestled in the heart of Chiang Mai, Galerie Panisa is a privately owned enterprise founded in 2002 by the Chindasilpa family, who collectively share a passion for art and furthering the reputation of artists in the Chiang Mai and Northern areas of Thailand. The gallery organizes around five or six exhibitions each year for collectors and art lovers alike to enjoy. All those who volunteer their time at the Gallery are fine artists from the area and therefore can provide visitors with insider knowledge, as well as curating exciting and imaginative exhibitions. Recently the gallery hosted the works of Missamai Prutamang, who explored the lives of Northern Thailand’s hill tribes. His exhibition showed how even these remote tribes are integrating more and more with modern culture.
Ne’na takes a wholly collaborative, international approach to its exhibitions and activities. Founded in 1998 by a group of Thai and Swedish artists, the space consists of several buildings in the traditional Lanna style, in which artists-in-residence live and work together. The cooperative vibe extends to the local arts community, who often work with the international residents on creative projects. Many of the works produced by Ne’na artists are large scale and site specific, like Royce Ng and Daisy Bisenieks Hanging Altar (2009), an installation that recreated the entire cultural center out of natural materials and hanging plants. Although located a mere 2km from Chiang Mai city, Ne’na feels more like a tranquil haven in which to appreciate art inspired by the landscape of Northern Thailand.