MAIIAM Contemporary Art Museum

MAIIAM Exterior. Courtesy MAIIAM.

MAIIAM is a beautiful private museum of contemporary art in Chiang Mai, Thailand started by Jean Michel Beurdeley and his late wife Patsri Bunnag, together with their son Eric Bunnag Booth. The name of the museum, a play on words meaning “brand new” in Thai, is a combination of the word “new” and a tribute to Mr. Booth’s great grand aunt Jao Jom Iam, a royal consort to King Rama V, who lived in a time when Thailand moved decisively into modernity. Opening MAIIAM in July of 2016, the family wished to share their private collection with the Thai public in order to show how art can enrich lives and provide new perspectives. Providing a definitively international contemporary art destination in Northern Thailand as well as strengthening the already flourishing Chiang Mai art scene, MAIIAM offers the public permanent access to important collections of both Thai and regional contemporary art.

MAIIAM Permanent collection. Courtesy MAIIAM.

With both permanent and temporary exhibitions from both local and international artists as well as performances, film screenings, education programs, workshops, and lectures, the programming aims to engage a variety of audiences. The museum’s permanent collection, chosen based on both emotional resonance and formal correspondences, includes work from the late Montien Boonma, Kamin Lertchaiprasert, Chatchai Puipia, Araya Rasdjarmrearnsook, Navin Rawanchaikul, Natee Utarit, Apichatpong Weerasethakul, Udomsak Krisanamis, Pinaree Sanpitak, and Rirkrit Tiravanija, and emerging artists of the region. The permanent collection is a veritable treasure trove of the masters of Thai contemporary art, an incredible education in itself and a must-see for anyone interested in the progression of contemporary Southeast Asian art.

Apichatpong Weerasethaku. Courtesy MAIIAM.

The building itself, designed by the Bangkok-based architecture and design studio all(zone), is an impressive and memorable structure in its humble context. The façade, covered in thousands of small mirrors, mimic a decorative technique found in traditional Thai temples. The combination of convention and innovation as well as the capacity of these mirrors to constantly respond to their ever-shifting surroundings is the perfect metaphor for Thai contemporary art; the astute ability to mirror, process, and internalize our quickly changing world.

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By Gracelee Lawrence

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