5 of the best art and architecture stops in Bangkok, Thailand

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In recent years, an influx of partygoers and pleasure-seekers to Bangkok has wrongly resulted in the Thai capital being characterised as the Sin City of Asia; however, beyond Bangkoks hedonistic nightlife scene is a rich cultural heritage which paves the city streets and sculpts its landscape. Much of the art and architecture of Bangkok is intrinsically linked to the nations most practiced religion, Buddhism, which is reflected in the opulent temples and grand effigies of the Buddha across the land. Whilst this ancient religion has heavily influenced the citys visual culture for centuries, a secular contemporary art scene has gradually emerged over the last decade. Heres our list of top Bangkok art and architecture stops:

The Grand Palace

The Grand Palace is one of the most popular sights in Thailand, attracting around 8 million visitors every year. Built in 1782, the sweeping complex of monumental buildings sits on the banks of the Chao Phraya - also known as the River of Kings. Consisting of over 100 buildings in splendid Thai architectural style, the palace has served as the centre of royal, political and religious activity, encompassing the main monarchical residence, the seat of the government and the famous Temple of the Emerald Buddha (Wat Phra Kaew). This temple is held as the most sacred Buddhist temple in the country, housing the magnificent Emerald Buddha; despite its name, the effigy is carved from jade and clothed in various types of gold dress according to the season. Contrasting the distinctly Thai style of architecture used for the temple, the palace buildings incorporate European influences in structure and decor. Make sure to check the palaces strict dress code policy before visiting.

The Temple of the Reclining Buddha

A short walk away from the Grand Palace is another important religious site, Wat Pho, more familiarly known to tourists as the Temple of the Reclining Buddha. The Buddhist temple complex derives its English name from the colossal reclining Buddha statue on display in the chapel. This incredible figure was built in 1832 during the reign of Rama III, measuring an impressive 46 metres in length and covered in gold. The most intricately decorated effigy are the soles of the feet, which are ornamented with mother-of-pearl and depicting 108 symbols of Buddhism. The Reclining Buddha is only one of many portraits in the complex, which is home to the largest collection of Buddha images in Thailand - over 1,000 in total. The surrounding buildings offer further examples of stunning Thai architecture, combining bright, clean colours and layered geometric designs. As well as displaying the architectural and sculptural talents of the Thai people, there are many painted murals around the complex of important Buddhist scenes. A dress code also applies.

Bangkok CityCity Gallery

Besides boasting some of the cities trendiest hotels, bars and restaurants, the Sathorn district also offers one of the citys newest and most interesting art spots in the form of the Bangkok CityCity Gallery. Opened in 2015 by art expert couple Akapol Op Sudasna and Supamas Phahulo, the space strives to make contemporary art accessible by supporting emerging artists and providing their work with a platform - particularly artists native to Bangkok who often struggle to find representation. As well as traditional art forms such as paintings and sculpture, the gallery displays more modern media including photography, video and live performance. Earlier this year, the gallery held an 8-week exhibition of works from the Thai graffiti artist, Alex Face. The highlight of the collection was the large sculpture of the artists iconic rabbit boy image. Following the successful exhibition of Wisut Ponnimit with the gallerys opening two years ago, the cartoonist has returned and will be on display until the end of this month.

YenakArt Villa

Another addition to Bangkoks contemporary art scene in 2015 was the YenakArt Villa, also located in the fashionable Sathorn district. Founded by French entrepreneurs Frederic Meyer and Jeremy Opritesco, the gallery is housed in a sleek Bauhaus style villa with a grand glass facade and sprawling sculpture garden. The villa hosts a wide range of visual exhibitions, from painting to light-art to fashion shows. Whilst the gallery focuses on promoting Thai artists to global audience, it also features international artists for several-week periods. In April and May of this year, the works of British painter Andrew Stahl - Professor of Fine Art at the renowned Slade School of Fine Art, London - were presented in the exhibition Hot Summer by the Klong; the pieces were influenced by Stahls visits to Thailand since the 1980s. From late October until early 2018, the gallery will host Thai artist Jirapat Tatsanasomboon, who is recognised for his marrying of traditional Asian imagery and Western pop culture.

MOCA

Five years ago, Thai businessman, Boonchai Bencharongkul, invested tens of millions of dollars into creating one of the largest contemporary art museums on the Asian continent - MOCA (Museum of Contemporary Art). As a keen art collector, Boonchai set up the private museum with the aim of honouring the memory of Professor Silpa Bhirasri, also known as the Father of Thai Contemporary Art. Bhirasri - born Corrado Feroci in 1892 - was an Italian sculptor who founded the Silpakorn University during the Second World War. The museum holds over 800 works over five floors from mainly Thai artists, with the top floor - named after English art dealer, Richard Green - being dedicated to 19th century European art. Ensure to spend some time admiring MOCAs exterior, which is a striking cube of pale grey granite, punctuated by crawling geometric floral motif.

Pontus Silfverstolpe is Co-Founder ofBarnebys.

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