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Anomaly, revelation and Pairoj

October 2013


Golden Robe by Asian artist Rearngsak Boonyavanishkul (Thailand)
Golden Robe
by Asian artist Rearngsak Boonyavanishkul (Thailand)
oil on canvas, 100cm x 80cm

My visits to artists in Asia are always rewarding and interesting. However, on my last trip, I had the chance to revisit the Museum of Contemporary Art (MOCA) in Bangkok (Thailand).

If you are unfamiliar with MOCA, it is a purpose built private gallery built to house the collection of one Thai businessman, Boonchai Bencharongkul.

The gallery is impressive. Certainly, many countries would be envious of such a gallery space, let alone private collectors!

But it's what the gallery houses that for me is an interesting insight into Asian art collecting on a major scale, but more specifically collecting contemporary Thai art by ultra wealthy Thais.

Certainly, there are a number of private museums in Bangkok and certainly around Asia, however, it is the depth of collecting and the massive amounts of money in building these private museums which is quite extraordinary.

But let's return to MOCA. It is a vast, 5-storey, plus underground parking, storage, etc., building. Beautifully designed and with the staffing that one would expect in a public gallery in any major international city.

The collection is 99% Thai art. The remaining is the work of a 19th century European artist housed on the 5th floor.

But it is the Thai art that I would like to discuss.

The "Greats" of Thai painting and sculpture are displayed there. Rearngsak Boonyavanishkul, one of our leading artists, has major works in the collection and his sculptures adorn the main entry foyer. Works of other leading contemporary artists are also on display as part of the owner's collection.

However, this time there was a temporary exhibition, which included works in the permanent collection, but also works for sale. Unusual for a gallery of this type.

The works for sale were not being sold by the gallery, but rather being sold by the artist himself: Prateep Kochabua.

The works are well executed surrealist paintings by an artist who is well known in Thailand but virtually an unknown outside. When I enquired, the prices were all above $US 100,000 each.

Now, for an artist to receive these prices, in the vast majority of cases, they would have to be internationally recognised, yet in Thailand, that is not seen as being a criteria for any assessment of either the works themselves or the pricing.

Food for thought!

As I entered another gallery, I was advised that the most expensive painting purchased by MOCA was here. Honestly, after 4 attempts, I could not correctly choose which one it was.

From what I had been told, the work was purchased directly from the artist by Mr Boonchai for in excess of $US 600,000.

This is a major purchase for any collector, yet again, the artist, Chaleomchai Kositpitat, has absolutely no presence or recognition outside of Thailand and is basically an unknown.

When one compares this to any other country, I cannot see this situation occurring anywhere else.

Certainly, in Indonesia, Singapore, Malaysia, Vietnam, China or the Philippines, all of their major artists are known and collected outside of their borders, but in Thailand it is a different situation: an anomaly.

Perhaps this is the new Asian collector: one who just doesn't consider other markets. But it is interesting too that the amount of wealth now in Thailand and other countries in Southeast Asia can allow such pricing and an introverted perspective on the art of a country.

It is the new world of collecting.

Mina Mina by Aboriginal artist Judy Watson Napangardi
Mina Mina,
by Aboriginal artist Judy Watson Napangardi
acrylic on Belgian linen, 180cm x 120cm

Wakirlpirri Jukurrpa (Dogwood Tree Dreaming) by Aboriginal artist Liddy Napanangka Walker
Wakirlpirri Jukurrpa (Dogwood Tree Dreaming),
by Aboriginal artist Liddy Napanangka Walker
synthetic polymers on linen, 76cm x 76cm

I mentioned a short while ago that I had seen work supposedly by Aboriginal artist Judy Watson Napangardi in London, which I just knew wasn't "right".

I had also seen a lot of these works being shown online and in commercial galleries in Australia and overseas, where they were described as being by Judy.

I have been researching this and am pleased to announce that some of the more reputable galleries dealing in Judy's work have reassessed these paintings and marked them as "collaborative" or "collaboration", and reduced their prices substantially. (Her genuine works are increasing in value.)

This is NOT an example of "faking" Judy's work, but rather would appear to be an attempt to capitalise on her reputation by members of her direct family.

If you are in doubt:

  • The first clue is the colour. Judy's painting is always bright and to some, garish. The collaborative works are painted with much more subdued or subtle colours.
  • Remember too that all of Judy's works display the application of paint by an unsteady hand, dragging the paint across the canvas, after all, Judy is in her late 80's and really only began painting in her 50's.

Also, I have recently been advised that Liddy Walker Napanangka, who is the same age as Judy, is becoming frail.

These women are some of the great artists of Australia and the world.


Blue for You by Asian artist Pairoj Karndee (Thailand)
Blue for You,
by Asian artist Pairoj Karndee (Thailand)
synthetic polymers on linen, 80cm X 80cm

New arrival
We have received a superb new painting by Pairoj Karndee. Blue for you is just stunning and continues to gain an international following.

Please email me for more information and to discuss any of the topics above.
Anthony Smith and the asart team

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Anthony Smith has been invited by Art Antiques Design to share his expertise about art in a series of articles:

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