A bright star in Bangkok
Nova Contemporary has been making waves in the regional art scene since its establishment in 2016. With its focus on the contemporary, the Bangkok-based gallery aims to encourage exchange between Thai and international artists, and cross-pollination across artistic disciplines. For its first participation at Art Basel Hong Kong this year, the gallery presented works by Burmese artist Moe Satt.
We speak to its founder Sutima Sucharitakul on her journey as a young gallerist and Nova Contemporary's programme.
You had a degree in fashion promotion and public relations from the London College of Fashion before turning to a career in art. Could you share what prompted that shift and how the time in New York later shaped your perspective?
I have always been drawn to the artistic side of fashion. What fashion and art have in common is creativity, and that is what I am passionate about.
My internship experience at the Metropolitan Museum of Art was invaluable. It also gave me a clear viewpoint that I want to be involved with living artists.
Is there a gallerist or gallery you are particularly inspired by or take as a point of reference in establishing Nova Contemporary?
I love most of the Berlin galleries such as Tanya Leighton and Esther Schipper. They have interesting programmes and work with great artists. Other galleries that are out of the box include Kurizumantto (Mexico City) which is very experimental, and Scai the Bathhouse (Tokyo) which is housed in a beautiful unexpected location.
These galleries demonstrate that good exhibitions are not only concerned with commercial success but also involve working with daring artists. I like to balance these two aspects.
Kawita Vatanajyankur, 'Shuttle' (video still), 2018, performance video. Edition of 4 + 2AP. Image courtesy of the artist and Nova Contemporary.
What qualities do you look out for in the artists you work with? Also, is it a conscious decision to represent Thai artists from your peer group? I am thinking of individuals such as Tada Hengsapkul, Kawita Vatanajyankur and Latthapon Korkiatarkul.
I look for artists who are constantly developing new ideas. I want to support my artists and bring them to the international art platform. Tada was our first artist and I contacted him even before the gallery opened on the advice from a curator in Bangkok. Kawita is a peer from primary school, and we reunited after both of us moved back to Bangkok. Latthapon used to work at the gallery and has since left us to pursue his artistic practice full-time.
A 2016 Bangkok Post article mentioned that "you are giving yourself three years to find out if you can change the way society perceives art, and at the same time help artists get on by generating more collectors in Thailand". How has the landscape changed in the last three years and what are your thoughts on those challenges today?
The art scene in Bangkok is very complex and the past three years weren't easy. On a positive note, people are more interested in art today. For me, the challenge is helping the general public to understand our programme. We are trying to educate the audience by showing artworks we consider important, and not only the aesthetically beautiful but also contextually significant.
2018 was a big year for the Bangkok art scene. There was the inaugural Bangkok Art Biennale as well as Korakrit Arunanondchai's curatorial series Ghost:2561. Both projects featured a number of high-profile international names alongside artists from Thailand. What more do you think can be done to make Bangkok "Asia's next world-class art destination"?
I think everyone in the art scene should work together. Instead of having different events at many locations, we could combine efforts and find ways to make it easier for visitors to navigate around them. This is especially around the busy periods, not just in Bangkok but also in Krabi where the 2018 Thailand Biennale was organised.
What do you collect? Does it relate to the work you do as a gallerist?
I wouldn’t call myself a collector but I buy what I like personally. I collect what was in my budget and meaningful to me. It doesn’t always relate to the work I exhibit at the gallery though I also try to support my artists as much as possible.
Yanakorn Sinvatcharaporn, 'Saffron Garden of the City', 2019, salted fish, pellets, squid armature, saffron flower acrylic, 200 x 200 x 40 cm. Image courtesy of the artist and Nova Contemporary.
Are there any upcoming programmes we can look forward to?
I am looking forward to our next exhibition which is a collaboration with Bangkok University. As part of their BRANDNEW Art Project, we are showing Yanakorn Sinvatcharaporn's first solo exhibition. This initiative started in 2004 and has fostered new talents, many of whom have gone to become leading artists such as Arin Rungjang.
Thereafter, we will have a solo show by Cambodian artist Khvay Samnang. It will include the video he presented at Documenta14 and new sculptures produced specially for the exhibition.