Bangkok. It’s a chaotic tangle of glossy high rises placed over 100-year-old cement shophouses placed next to 300-year-old architecture that glitters and glows like something out of a dream. Street dogs lounge in front of convenience stores; grannies slump past iPhone-clutching college kids; incense and flower garlands surround shrines next to shopping malls.
Simply put, there’s nowhere like it.
Many people detest walking in Bangkok due to the brutal heat, aggressive traffic and lack of safe road crossings in a lot of places. But I walk the city as much as possible, bending around vendors’ carts and scampering across bustling roads in exchange for front-row experiences. This has allowed me to photograph some of the street art that pops up around corners, down alleys, in empty lots, on houses, and sometimes in places where you wouldn’t expect.
After collecting shots of Bangkok’s urban art for more than three years, I’ve selected 45 examples that I happen to like. This is by no means a comprehensive assessment of street art in the Thai capital; inevitably I’ve only seen a fraction of what’s out there. Some of what you see here no longer exists, and plenty more of it will be covered over by new buildings within a matter of months.
One tragic point in this process was the day when I finally took a taxi up Vibhavadi Rangsit Road to find that countless compelling graffiti paintings had been scrubbed off the giant concrete columns that will supposedly support a rail link to Don Mueang Airport some day. I’d past this veritable gallery of street art many times, but delayed too long in actually trying to go out and roam around. Such is the nature of the beast. Reflecting a city’s soul, street art is in a constant state of evolution.
In terms of the artists, all I know is that these two ultra-creative cats did some of the graffiti art you see here, while some was created during the Bukruk Street Art Festival in 2013. Other “pieces” are little more than angst-driven scribbles that somehow still come through as works of art; they capture some real feeling despite a lack of clear focus. Indeed, their lack of focus is what makes them what they are.
Other examples present the more traditional and often quirky art forms that have graced Bangkok’s streets for centuries, while still others display art that doesn’t have to hide in the shadows for one reason or another. Among this latter category are a couple of the many paintings that have been created by city kids on the outer walls of schools.
The photos were taken all over the city, from distant West Bangkok alleys to the Sathorn financial district to the backpacker neighborhood around Khao San Road. If you want to see a lot of terrific street art in one area, Siam Square (look in the alleys) and the new W Art District off Sukhumvit Road are both worth a wander.
These 45 shots of Bangkok street art are presented in a directionless jumble, just as they would appear in the city itself.