Chiang Mai is now considered the art capital of Thailand. Northern Thailand has always been a fertile ground for visual and fine artists, producing more than its fair share of National Artists over the years. But only recently has the art scene burst into full bloom with galleries and public exhibitions popping up throughout Chiang Mai City.
in 1982, Chiang Mai University’s Faculty of Fine Arts was established and has become one of the country’s leading institutions in advancing the academic arts. Lacking in public exhibition areas, galleries and financial backing, their students and faculty regularly organised exhibitions in Bangkok, generating national awareness of the growing Chiang Mai art scene.
A group of artists banded together in the early 1990s forming the “Chiang Mai Social Installation Project” that devised creative ways of displaying their art publicly, involving the community. All these efforts gradually attracted more art collectors, art lovers and art students, firmly placing Chiang Mai on the Asian art map.
Eric Booth – a good friend of ours – whose father helped build the Jim Thompson Silk business, took notice of Chiang Mai’s contemporary art scene early on as an avid collector. In 2016, he opened MAIIAM, the largest contemporary art museum in Northern Thailand, which seems to have been the trigger for an art gallery boom in Chiang Mai.
The art “scene” is now deeply rooted, notably due to its organic artist-inspired growth rather than top-down government grants and promotional programs. The community has strengthened by having to band together, forming cooperatives and partnerships to develop more galleries and exhibitions.
Chiang Mai’s Lanna heritage also provides unique local influences that visitors will notice. Entire streets are lined with small galleries and artsy cafes, outdoor markets overflow with a dizzying variety of art. Chiang Mai is an art-lover’s paradise, from the timeless hilltribe crafts, to Lanna-style wood carvings, to silkware, to furniture design, to world-class contemporary art galleries and absolutely everything in between. There is something for everyone and we can help you find it. Explore Chiang Mai with us on your next Asian Adventure.