Bangkok is known for many things, but it is definitely not known for being a regular host of classic artworks. Southeast Asia in general sometimes feels very remote from classical art. For some reason, the famous artworks make their way to the East only on rare occasions. As a European, I frankly took all the artworks surrounding me for granted for a very long time. Since I first left Vienna, I have learned to appreciate that some of the most famous artworks are exhibited within walking distance. In the course of the celebrations of Leonardo da Vinci’s 500th birthday, the Italian embassy to Thailand made it their mission to make Italian Renaissance art more accessible in the region. Together with “Monet to Kandinsky”, two digital exhibitions are currently shown at River City Bangkok.
Before I visit exhibitions, I always prepare and do online research. However, the media coverage for these two exhibitions was quite superficial in my opinion. The Italian Renaissance exhibition is part of the celebrations around the 500 year anniversary of Leonardo da Vinci. Most of what I found online was announcing this part of the exhibition.
The Embassy of Italy had commissioned high-quality prints of the original works of da Vinci. According to the web, these are exhibited in their original size. I have to admit, I found all of the information online very confusing and sometimes even contradicting. Furthermore, we tried to book tickets online in advance, but due to a system glitch, the payment gateway did not seem to work. Therefore, I decided to just head over to the exhibition and see what it is like.
The exhibition is located at River City, a mall near the Sheraton Hotel by the Chao Praya River. This mall used to be a centre for antiques and art from the region. In a way, it still is. But like so many places in Bangkok, it has become increasingly upscale. There are high-end antique shops, tailors and other lifestyle stores.
At first, I was not sure if both exhibitions would take place at the same time. It was not clear from the ticket website or the media coverage. My assumptions were confirmed at the ticket counter: there is one ticket for both exhibitions. They are consecutively shown in the same room.
The exhibition starts in a big room connecting two “showrooms”. The digital installations are shown in both rooms at the same time. You can choose where you want to watch them. In the “connecting room”, there is a lot of information about the Italian Renaissance exhibition and its four artists – Raphael, Leonardo da Vinci, Sandro Botticelli and Michelangelo. The works used for the multimedia installation are explained in detail as well. Even now, I am not 100% sure if the digital prints referred to by the media were the ones used in that room. According to the articles, the prints are displayed in the same size as the original paintings. However, the Mona Lisa, for example, was displayed in a much bigger format.
I assume that most of us are familiar with the four Renaissance artists. We all have somehow heard of them. However, how many details about their work do you really know? The information provided is perfect for those who want to start learning more about the artists and their works. In my opinion, it would have been useful to also provide a general timeline or text about the basics of Renaissance art as not every visitor will be familiar with it. I definitely recommend to read the texts before you enter the digital installation as there is no information provided during the showing. Unfortunately, there was no information about the “Monet to Kandinsky” show.
The digital installation is about one hour and, as mentioned above, covers the Italian Renaissance as well as Monet to Kandinsky. The artworks are projected to big screens on the walls and on the floor and are accompanied by music. But there is more to it than just this. The usually static paintings come to life thanks to meticulous animation. Some parts of the paintings move, some are taken out and some turn into completely new shapes. A lot of effort and precision was dedicated to develop this installation. Every movement is carefully matched with the classical music.
Our showing started with the Italian Renaissance projection. Immediately afterwards, the Monet to Kandinsky installation started. The latter premiered in Berlin and has been shown in Bangkok since April. It involved works by the likes of Monet, Cézanne, Gauguin, van Gogh, Seurat, Klee, Gris, Kandinsky and Munch. I assume that we only saw parts of the original digital installation – when the show debuted in Bangkok, it also showed works of further artists such as Klimt which were not part of the installation we saw.
To sum up, the two digital exhibitions are definitely an enrichment of Bangkok’s art scene. Even though these are not the original artworks, it allows art enthusiasts or “art beginners” to see classical art and learn more about it. Furthermore, the digital animation paired with music is a great way to attract attention of those who are not the usual target group of art exhibitions, ie. people who are already interested in it. I am sure there are some visitors whose major motivation was to shoot selfies and videos for Instagram. But who knows, maybe this exhibitions serves as a kind of “entry drug” and lights the fire of their interest in art?
As the exhibition targets a broad range of visitors and especially those who may be not too familiar with either the Italian Renaissance or the Impressionist and later movements, it would have been useful to provide more information – especially about the Monet to Kandinsky exhibition. In my opinion, a lot of the artworks displayed need explanatory texts or (audio) guides providing more information about the works. As an art beginner, I would find it very hard to understand Kandinsky’s paintings without any additional information, for example. Furthermore, it would have been useful to display the original paintings in the same way as the Renaissance artworks. The multimedia installation only focuses on parts of the paintings and it may be difficult to understand them without literally offering the “bigger picture”.
For those who already know more about the artists and their works, it is still a nice experience. I felt like attending a concert which was visualised by famous artworks.
Tickets and Opening Times
Open daily 10 am until 10pm, until 8 November 2019
Regular tickets are BHT 350 (about USD , EUR ), concessions are available for children, students and seniors. (There are discounts available for customers of AIS mobile phone contracts).
How to Get There
As River City is quite far off from the sky train (BTS) and MRT (subway), I recommend taking a taxi to the mall. The exhibition is on the second floor.
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All information as of the date of publishing/updating and based on the personal visit of Elisabeth Steiger and the information provided at the location and the official website of the exhibition. We cannot accept responsibility for the correctness or completeness of the data, or for ensuring that it is up to date. All recommendations are based on the personal experience of Elisabeth Steiger, no fees were received by the recommended places above.