Three exhibitions now showing at the Bangkok Art and Culture Centre pay tribute to His Majesty the late King Bhumibol Adulyadej
WITH THE ROYAL cremation of His Majesty the late King Bhumibol Adulyadej less than two months away, the Bangkok Art and Culture Centre is once again paying tribute to the late monarch and his genius in art with a series of exhibitions under the umbrella of its “In Remembrance of HM King Bhumibol: The Supreme Artist” programme.
The entire eighth floor of the centre has been given over to portraits of the late monarch created by leading artists of various generations in different genres as well as precious collectibles under the overall title “Remembrance of the Great King”
More than 1,000 rare photographs of His Majesty the late King Bhumibol Adulyadej and royal family members are on display together with related collectibles.
The seventh floor meanwhile is home to “Earth Water Forest Air: The Royal Inspiration”, an exhibition of 90 artworks by 45 artists who were inspired by the late King’s 4,000-plus Royal projects. Running through November 12, the paintings, sculptures, mixed media, photographs and installations on show focus on the sustainability practices and environmental projects he initiated to bring a better life of his people.
For its part, “Remembrance of the Great King”, which is co-curated by Prof Dr Apinan Poshyananda, Tawatchai Somkong and Sakchai Guy, features more than 160 artworks created during his reign and after his passing by about 100 artists, plus some 1,000 rare photographs – all bearing portraits of His Majesty.
The artworks come in various styles from realistic, abstract, super-realistic, pop art, to childlike, comic and traditional Thai. His Majesty is seen in various poses, from childhood to old age, on the throne, in the field with camera and map, and with his beloved pet dog Khun Thongdaeng.
Watchara Prayoonkum’s bronze sculpture with two of Sakwut Wisesmanee’s charcoals in the background
“Art can heal sorrow, I believe,” says co-curator Apinan. “We combine artworks in different styles by several artists, many of whom have been painting the monarch for years and others who have created new works to express their deepest gratitude and loyalty. One of rare paintings is a portrait of HM King Bhumibol and HM Queen Sirikit by the great Indonesian painter Raden Basoeki Abdullah.”
The portraits of their Majesties King Bhumibol and Queen Sirikit by celebrated Indonesian painter Raden Basoeki Abdullah
Basoeki’s undated 1.5-by1.2-metre oil on canvas features their Majesties in full regalia. The King admired the works of Basoeki so much that he invited him to Thailand to paint the portraits of the royal family. That was the beginning of a friendship that would last for decades, with the monarch referring to Basoeki as a cultural envoy for Indonesia.
Celebrated artist Preecha Thaothong contributes his large bronze sculpture of the late monarch sitting on the throne with his favourite pet dog Khun Thongdaeng at his feet as well as a sculpture of his book “Mahajanaka”. This is the first of nine limited-edition works and the artist has said he will demolish his mould once the series is complete. The two pieces, Preecha adds, will go to a charity auction to raise funds for foundations initiated by the late monarch while the remaining seven will be donated to museums.
Preecha Thaothong’s bronze sculpture and paintings
This portrait of His Majesty is divided into two parts – young and old. He is seen wearing traditional Thai jongkraben – a lower-body wrap – on the right side of his body while on the left he is wearing Western-style trousers.
“He was both the greatest monarch and a down-to-earth being,” says Preecha. “I sculpted the book ‘Mahajanaka’, which the late King penned about perseverance, to underline that for much of his 70 years on the throne, King Bhumibol travelled to the poorest and most remote corners of his Kingdom, sitting on the ground with farmers and villagers, listening to their problems and responding with more than 4,000 sustainable development projects to better their lives.”
His Majesty brought a modern twist to his “Mahajanaka”, which is based on the story from the Tripitaka. It recounts the last incarnation of the Buddha as King Mahajanaka, who ruled the kingdom of Mithila, before being born again as Siddhartha. As King Mahajanaka, he valiantly faces challenges and trouble of every kind – from sinking ships to bloody succession feuds – and survives them all through his remarkable perseverance.
“As his name Bhumibol means ‘Strength of the Land’, I also coated the sculpture with slip - potter’s clay that is thinned and used for coating or decorating ceramics,” adds Preecha.
“After the passing of His Majesty, I created 109 works in different |styles to illustrate his great devotion to the country and all of them |will be displayed at my gallery |in Chiang Rai in October.”
The late King’s innovative solutions to soil problems earned him the first Humanitarian Soil Scientist award from the International Union of Soil Science in 2012. In 2014, the United Nations designated His Majesty’s birthday on December 5 as the annual World Soil Day and the year 2015 as the International Year of Soils.
A hand-engraved portrait of the late monarch by Pinit Phantaprawat
Pinit Phantaprawat, who used to work for the Bank of Thailand and was responsible for engraving King Bhumibol’s portraits for banknote production, displays nine engraved portraits of the late King in both monochrome and colour.
“A hand-made engraving is a series of lines, dashes and dots, combined together to form a complete picture. It’s a complex and intricate form and each picture took me about five months to complete. This process is usually used for banknote production because it nearly impossible for one person to duplicate all the engraving on a particular banknote,” says Pinit, whose engraving appears on the exhibition poster.
Witsanupong Noonan’s bronze sculpture of royal family members
Celebrated photographer Nitikorn Kraivixien turns his talents to painting for the show with an oil on canvas title “Magic Reign” featuring the King’s portrait in the rain.
“I play with the words ‘rain’ and ‘reign’,” says Nitikorn, “King Bhumibol was an amazing person who brought fertility to his land like a magic rain.”
Also on display are bronze and plaster sculptures by noted sculptors Khien Yimsiri, Kaimook Chuto, Sanan Silakorn, and Watchara Prayoonkum as well as acrylic and gold leaf on canvas by Thongchai Srisukprasert, digital print on canvas by Thavorn Ko-Udomvit and oils by Panya Vinjinthanasarn and Rearngsak Boonyavanish.
More than 1,000 rarely seen photographs of King Bhumibol and his family members are on show in an adjacent gallery. Ranging in size from one inch to 1.6 metres, many are from the private collections of Narat Napawan, Thanatit Chinkrittikul, Somchai Cheewasuthanon and Chak Kanchanakad. Joining them are portraits captured by nine talented lensmen such as Taywin Chanyawong and Thaweechai Jaowattana.
“Virtually every Thai home has a portrait of the monarch. We chose an enclosed library-like space to display this collection of photographs so that visitors can fully concentrate on the works. The curved wall is covered with his portraits, which allow for a panoramic view and adds emotional clout. The room is also designed in an oval shape to represent the King’s eye, as if he were still keeping watch over his people. As his subjects, we should know how to continue our lives by following his footsteps,” says co-curator Sakchai Guy.
The room has glass cases arranged in the form of the Thai number 9 displaying small photographs, their provenance as well as the photographer often unknown, along with precious collectibles related to King Bhumibol such as old books, cameras, spectacles, a saxophone and a violin.
A rare autographed picture of the late monarch and his late elder brother King Ananda Mahidol and late elder sister HRH Princess Galyani Vadhana as children.
“Among the highlights is a rare autographed picture of the late monarch and his late elder brother King Ananda Mahidol and late elder sister HRH Princess Galyani Vadhana as children. Though this picture is worth around Bt20 million, it’s a priceless treasure for the collector,” adds Sakchai. “Another photograph is a portrait of the late King and Queen Sirikit captured by Chamnong Bhirombhakdi and signed by their Majesties, which were normally given as a gift to the diplomats.”
An example of the signed photos of their Majesties King Bhumibol and Queen Sirikit traditionally presented to the diplomats
The last and the highlight of the series is the exhibition “Through the Lens of His Majesty King Bhumibol Adulyadej”, which opened to the public yesterday. Continuing until January 7 on the ninth floor, it features some 200 photographs captured by the late King during his 70-year reign, many of which have never before been shown to the public.
“The exhibition is divided into three sections. During the early of his reign, the monarch mostly photographed his family. The next section displays the photographs he took during his journeys through the country to improve the lives of the people and put them on the path to self-sufficiency and independence. The last part is a series of photos he took towards the end of his reign when his health was poor and he mostly stayed at Klai Kangwon Palace in Hua Hin. He loved to capture his pet dogs and his surroundings,” says Nitikorn.
GREAT ART PAYS HOMAGE
“Remembrance of the Great King” continues until November 26 on the eighth floor of Bangkok Art and Culture Centre.
The centre opens daily (except Monday) from 10am to 9pm. It’s at Pathumwan intersection, opposite MBK mall (BTS: National Stadium station).
Call (02) 214 6630-8 or visit www.BACC.or.th.