The Bangkok Sculpture Center, so typically of Bangkok, is little-known and diabolically hard to get to, but when you do, it is spectacular. Although its a good hour from Sukhumvit and you will need the taxi driver to make at least one call for directions – and you are supposed to book in advance (I didn’t) – I heartily recommend it. Its free too.
Few countries have as rich a tradition in sculpture as Thailand. This is underscored at the entrance to the main street nearest the centre, where you pass a kerbside store of devotional animal sculptures – zebras, chickens and tigers – for shrines. Sculpture in Thailand – whether decorative or religious, in temples, gardens or shopping malls, is a part of life.
The centre, which is privately funded by a construction industry magnate, is housed in a beautiful purpose-built display hall, all angular concrete and bright glass windows. Pieces of sculpture are displayed on the lawns and outside on balconies, and in a beautiful rooftop garden. Each piece has a plaque with a description in English and Thai.
But the best bit is yet to come. After this very elegant, minimal and modernist introduction, you enter the building itself and plunge into a big hangar-like warehouse where Hotel California was blaring on my visit. Suddenly all pretensions are stripped away and you are in a working studio space, where sculptures are stored (in big crates) or are being made. It comes to life.
On a raised walkway above the hangar are more pieces, some of them amazing, culminating in an impressive bronze cast of the garuda that hangs on Bangkok’s central post office.
Many of the pieces, again, are preoccupied with Buddhist themes – and there are some really interesting and occasionally creepy, pieces.