We are very excited to share this feature with Museeum readers! It is yet another incredible story of a private museum that changed the cultural landscape and shaped the art scene in the region and internationally. MAIIAM is a private museum of contemporary art in Chiang Mai, Thailand.
Every time we write about private museums such as The Broad, or the Museum of Russian Impressionism, we in fact write a story about people behind the venues. Getting to know such people as Eric Bunnag Booth and his family, art collectors and founders of the MAIIAM, is always a pleasure and an inspiration. The Bunnag-Beurdeley family has collected art for over 30 years and finally decided that it was time to share this heritage with people.
“My family and I wanted to share our collection of Thai and South-Eastern Asian artists, amassed during the past 25 years, with everyone. We hope to inspire people to collect art and wished to have a venue for artists, especially from the younger generation, to show their works of art,” – Eric Bunnag.
The opening of MAIIAM in Chiang Mai was very anticipated. First, there is no alternative to such a museum in Thailand. But there is more to it: the stunning architecture and location of MAIIAM! The museum occupies 3000 sq. meter warehouse in the historic crafts district of Sankampang. The architects redesigned the building while maintaining its industrial spirit. They covered the façade with hundreds of mirror tiles, which creates a beautiful illusion of light and space. It seems as if the building dissolved in its surroundings. Apart from the permanent collection, museum has spaces for temporary exhibition, screening room, design store and a café.
“The museum opened on July 4, 2016, 16 months after we purchased the land and 13 months after the design was approved. It was very ambitious but our architects from all(zone) and the main contractor Urbanform were magicians. We visited a few places in Chiang Mai, which is 700 years old, full of culture and crafts and has been the home of many modern and contemporary artists for the past 30 years. It was the first location, an old warehouse that we fell in love with. The architects understood from the start what we wanted to achieve,” – continues Eric.
“Our museum is for the artists. The works of art is the highlight and everything was designed to accommodate the collections. It was a difficult task for the architects to design (redesign) an existing space, in such little time, but they did an incredible job. The museum is not for the ego of the owners or the architects. It is for the artists.”
“There is no permanent collection of Thai contemporary art available to the public in Thailand. One has to travel to Singapore to learn about the Thai artists from the 1990s to the present. It is for this reason that we have about 100 pieces from the collection permanently on view. We are not presenting the history of Thai contemporary art and it is not our duty to do so. The government needs to take the lead on this. Our collection is based on our point of view and on our emotions. We also have a large space for temporary exhibits. We are planning two per year along with educational programs. In the winter, we will have musical and art performances in the main hall. And we are also preparing film programs to be shown in our screening room.”
“We have been fortunate to receive visitors from Thailand and around the world. It's been so pleasing to see that 80% of them were under the age of 30. Nevertheless, the museum is for people of all ages. It is a place to discover Thai contemporary artists (there are pieces from the region) from the 1990's to the present time.”
Museeum team is looking forward to getting to know more about the MAIIAM museum, and writing about its fascinating educational program, performances and concerts. Stay tuned!