There's a lot more to South East Asia's cultural scene than temples, pagodas and palaces.
This part of the world also boasts a number of impressive art spaces. Featuring traditional, progressive, local and international pieces, here's our pick of the best art galleries in South East Asia.
1) Fine Arts Museum, Ho Chi Minh
Dip into Vietnam’s fascinating art history with a trip to Ho Chi Minh’s Fine Arts Museum. Travel through the colonial, communist and independence days as you see pieces of work which showcase the country’s remarkable shift from the 20th to the 21st century.
The site, 66 Nguyễn Thái Học Street, was selected by painter Nguyễn Đỗ Cung in 1963. Next door at No. 65 was an artists’ colony. The museum also houses a small but lovely collection of late 20th and early 21st Century paintings.
2) Neka Art Museum, Ubud, Bali
Witness the growth of Balinese painting here at Ubud’s Neka Art Museum. Established by Suteja Neka, a private Balinese art collector and dealer, this museum houses a wonderful and assorted array of regional pieces.
However, the work of foreign artists can also be enjoyed on the upper floor, while the Photography Archive Centre contains black and white photos of Bali from the 1930s and 40s.
3) Theam's House & Artisans d'Angkor, Siem Reap, Cambodia
There’s also Artisans D’Angkor where you can learn about the ancient traditions of Khmer arts and crafts. And if those two aren’t enough, we can also arrange for you to visit a local photography gallery and Samatoa, the UNESCO-awarded weaving and dying shop.
4) Islamic Arts Museum, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
Found in a stunning property, Kuala Lumpur’s Islamic Arts Museum not only hosts terrific exhibits, but is a piece of art in itself. With domes covered in gorgeous decoration and gleaming tiles, this museum should be high on any art aficionado’s KL agenda.
The collection of Islamic decorative arts on display here is truly impressive and regarded as one of the best in the world. When you’re not exploring the textiles, jewellery, carpets and pottery, the Middle Eastern restaurant offers a tasty place to dine, while the gift shop boasts some of Islam’s most beautiful pieces.
5) River Gallery, Yangon, Myanmar
Art in Myanmar is currently experiencing a surge in contemporary creativity due to the new political system. Witness this leading and diverse movement at the River Gallery, an art space housed in the beautifully colonial Strand Hotel. The work of both established and up-and-coming Burmese artists is featured here.
The work on show encompasses a wide variety of techniques and themes from the classic to the progressive. However, the River Gallery’s support does not stop in Yangon. The gallery also holds exhibits at establishments across the globe where they endeavour to promote the best of Burmese art.
The best of the rest
6) Art:1, Indonesia, Java
Split into two buildings, this institution is a refreshing take on Java’s dynamic and colourful art scene. Work from renowned Indonesian creatives are based in the permanent collection in Art:1 New Museum, while Artspace:1 offers a look at contemporary pieces by promising local and global artists.
7) Museum of Contemporary Art, Bangkok, Thailand
MOCA is home to a wide array of over 800 modern Thai paintings and sculptures which depict a range of topics, from religion to corruption. A collection of Vietnamese, Chinese, Italian and Japanese pieces are also on display, while an entire wing is devoted to European Victorian paintings.
8) Traditional Arts & Ethnology Centre, Luang Prabang, Laos
This independent, non-profit centre nurtures the art and customs of traditional Laotian cultures. A visit here offers an unusual insight into ethnic minority groups and their artisans, while a stop at the gift shop gives the chance to buy wood carvings, hand-spun cotton and applique toys made by these communities.
9) Faculty of Arts Museum, Chiang Mai, Thailand
In Chiang Mai, the cultural capital of Northern Thailand, this museum is part of the city’s university and helps to develop local artists and creatives. Gaining attention from international artists, the student exhibitions shown here include performances and contemporary displays.
10) National Institute of Fine Arts, Vientiane, Laos
Discover Laos’ artistic culture at the National Institute of Fine Arts, or NIFA, in Vientiane. Now part of the Ministry of Information, Culture and Tourism, the institute works to support and display the paintings, sculptures and installations of its staff and students. If you’re in the mood for shopping, keep an eye out for paintings at cheap prices here.
Our top cultural example trips to South East Asia...
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