16 November 2016

Contemporary Art Museums in Asia – Indonesia, Malaysia and Thailand

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One of the most appealing aspects of Asia is the extreme juxtaposition of its ancient monuments and primordial jungles, with the almost futuristic development of its urban centers. Any tour of the region is incomplete without fully experiencing both of these seemingly contradictory worlds. This is why visiting a great contemporary art museum is the perfect complement to a holiday full of street toursjungle hikes and temple exploration.

In the last installment of this series we introduced some of the biggest players in the world of contemporary art museums in Asia – Tokyo, Singapore and Hong Kong. This time we will explore the up and coming art scenes of Indonesia, Malaysia and Thailand.

Museum of Contemporary Art – Bangkok

This world-class museum contains over 800 pieces of modern Thai art and is a must-visit venue for anyone interested in learning more about contemporary Southeast Asian culture. A recurring theme throughout is the merging of the ancient with the modern, as well as the meeting between East and West. Buddhism is a major motif in both ancient and modern Thai art.

MOCA Bangkok is the brainchild of Boonchai Bencharongkul, one of the richest men in Thailand and the most prolific patron of contemporary Thai art. The 5-story high gallery contains the works of notable Thai artists, such as Chalermchai Kositpipat who is best known for designing Wat Rong Khun, the all-white temple in Chiang Rai. The top floor is a gallery dedicated to foreign artists, which includes a fine collection of Victorian era paintings.

MOCA Thailand - Conetmporary Art Museums in Asia


National Visual Arts Gallery – Kuala Lumpur

This striking building, with its distinctive glass roof made to resemble a traditional Malay house, is home to over 4000 works of both foreign as well as Malaysian art. The Visual Arts Gallery is part of a complex which also houses the National Library and the National Theatre. The gallery contains a large collection of photography, as well as paintings and sculptures, representative of Malaysia’s diverse population and their multi-ethnic culture.

The gallery also houses a large collection of ceramics, textiles and other works inspired by traditional crafts. Many workshops and seminars are held here, encouraging interest in contemporary art and nurturing the future development of art in Malaysia. If you are feeling peckish after your visit, we would recommend a food tour of Kuala Lumpur’s famous street markets.

kuala lumpur contemporary art museums inasia


Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art of Nusantar – Jakarta (coming soon)

MACAN is a huge privately owned contemporary art museum planned to open in 2017. This 43,000 square-foot facility is being developed as the first world-class international modern and contemporary art gallery in Indonesia. One of the main supporters of this project is Haryanto Adikoesoemo who has pledged to contribute over 800 pieces of Indonesian, American and Western European works of art to the museum’s collection.

Indonesia is already well-known for some very prolific artists, such as FX Harsono who has been creating politically charged paintings, sculptures and art installations since the early 1970s. It is hoped that this ambitious project will bring Jakarta head first into the international art world and that MACAN will become one of the leading contemporary art museums in Asia.

Jakarta Skyline


We hope you enjoyed this short introduction to contemporary art museums in Asia. If you have any questions or suggestions, or if you would like to share your own contemporary art experience in Asia, please leave a comment below.


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