History of Art at Siam Kempinski Hotel Bangkok
The grand hotel Siam Kempinski opened its doors to the public in 2010. The hotel is situated in the heart of Bangkok, in an area of unique heritage and history. Here stood the ‘Pathumwan Palace’, later known as the ‘Sra Pathum Palace’, ordered to be built in 1851 under the reign of King Mongkut (Rama IV). The name ‘Pathum’ was given to refer to the nearby lotus pond of the canal Khong Saen Saeb. The palace became one of the most important places for the Chakri Dynasty to arrange their ceremonies in subsequent years. Later, The Royal family generously gave a part of the palace to be turned into a hotel, which was called the Siam Intercontinental Hotel. Over the next thirty years, the hotel was reconstructed and it was at this time that the Siam Kempinski Hotel was officially launched. The team at Siam Kempinski appreciates the memorial status of the land, and so uses the symbol of the lotus around the hotel, as a reminder of its revered nature.
There is a fine quality to the architecture and decorations of Siam Kempinski Hotel Bangkok. The hotel is a branch of Kempinski, which was initially formed by Berthold Kempinski in Geneva in 1897. The décor serves to highlight a mix of urban luxury presentation and exclusive service. In order to reach a satisfactory standard, the creative development team decided to use Thai history and culture to enrich the identity of Siam Kempinski alongside other style elements. The property was designed as an enclave, defined by a fusion of modern and contemporary Thai architecture, with a lush tropical garden at its centre. The architecture and interior design were coordinated to complement each other while reflecting and reinforcing the prominence of the tropical garden at the core. This five-star hotel combines Kempinski’s trademark of European flair with Thai hospitality traditions.
Apart from striking architectural design, the hotel teams use a variety of artworks from prominent Thai artists to reflect their place in Thai culture and tradition. The majority of artists were prestigious award winners, invited to create art pieces exclusive to Siam Kempinski Hotel Bangkok. After four years of research, study and development, more than two hundred original paintings, sculptures, and photographs have been commissioned. Also, countless objets d’art and antiques were collected from all over Thailand to complement those major art pieces. All of these artworks are on display at Siam Kempinski Hotel Bangkok, in public areas, rooms and suites. The hotel is fast gaining a reputation as a serious collector of arts, and supporter of emerging, and renowned Thai artists. The Siam Kempinski Hotel Bangkok is debuting one of the largest Thai Art collections ever created and orchestrated for a hotel in South East Asia. With almost four hundred art pieces, the Siam Kempinski Hotel Bangkok’s collection represents the cultural profile of the hotel; a contemporary vision of Thai artistic traditions and culture that blends seamlessly with timeless architecture, tropical gardens and a theatrical interior.
In this particular project, the symbol of the lotus is the central element of the hotel decoration. Historically relevant and symbolically coherent, the lotus flower and cascading water inform and inspire the works found in this art collection. In ancient times, the lotus was held in regard as the union of the four elements: Earth, Air, Fire and Water. The roots take to the earth, while the flower grows on the water; its leaves feed from the air and the power of the sun’s fire. The lotus therefore symbolizes the perfection of the fourfold order of the natural world. The unfolding petals of the lotus also indicate to the expansion of the soul. The lotus represents the purity of body, speech and mind, as if floating above muddy waters of attachment and desire.
In practice, eighteen renowned Thai artists – Alongkorn Lauwatthana, Ariya Kitticharoenwiwat, Arnan Ratchawang-inn, Chotirost Techapanwanit, Chutchawan Wannapo, Dow Wasiksiri, Jiraparnn Tokeeree, Kriengkrai Vongpitirat, Metha Kongsonthi, Paramat Lueng-on, Pichet Piaklin, Pornchai Jaima, Somsak Sansukjareonpol, Songdej Thipthong, Sumpun Sanathed, Tippanet Yaemaneechai, Wasinburee Supanichvoraparch, Watcharaporn Yoodee – and art curator Surisak Kittisasikultorn, joined forces for the art project, creating artworks specifically designed to decorate certain spaces within the hotel. The result was a unique, exclusive collection of elegant pieces that enrich the experience within the Siam Kempinski.
Mid 2017, Samir R. Wildemann, General Manager of Siam Kempinski Hotel Bangkok, decided to create this online art museum in order to provide relevant information about the artworks and the Thai artists who created them. This Corporate Social Responsibility project is also anticipated to encourage the development of the Thai art community in a broader sense and support existing Thai culture as well.
Surisak Kittisasikultorn’s narrative (Art project curator)
My name is Surisak Kittisasikultorn, I was the curator of the Siam Kempinski Hotel Bangkok art project in 2010. I gathered and selected all of these artists and artworks from a variety of sources found across all of Thailand. The objective and concept of this project was conducted by the Siam Kempinski Hotel Bangkok. They wanted to create a project in order to recompense the kindness of the Thai Monarchy, as the hotel is located on land owned by The Royal Family. Thus, they decided to commission Thai artists to produce artworks that would symbolise the Chakri Dynasty. With regards to the history of the Monarchy and the hotel itself, Siam Kempinski decided to use the ‘lotus flower’ as a central framework to this project. As I was selected to curate, display and make such a great project happen, I was truly appreciative and thankful for such an opportunity. I really wanted to use this project to encourage Thai artists as well.
When I chose the artists and artworks, not only did I have to study the concept of this art project, but I also had to consider the interior design and how to use an artwork to enhance the mood of an area. In addition, it was important for me to select the artists who create artworks with earnestness and determination. The artworks that they produced should convey a message to the audiences. To do this, I studied the artists’ experiences and their past works to check whether or not they were a good fit for this project. For some artists without much fame and experience, I had to get to know them to see their view and potential. They have to be able to improve and continue in this career with determination and commitment. And I wanted to use this project as an opportunity to show that being an artist is a real career, not just a mere hobby; a career with opportunities to progress and to succeed. In other words, I aimed to use this project by the Siam Kempinski hotel to connect Thai artists to Thai people.
For the artworks that were selected for this project, I was open to all kinds of techniques that could be employed by the artists. I think the artists should have the freedom to express themselves in any way they find suitable to produce exceptional art pieces. The only thing that I asked from them was that the artworks must be designed with one particular concept in mind; which was the ‘lotus’, in accordance with main purpose of the Siam Kempinski tribute. Personally, I also considered the “lotus” as the most suitable symbol to represent the relationship between the Siam Kempinski Hotel Bangkok, Thai local history and the society at large, as well as the concept of the hotel itself. I thought the lotus flower was important to Siam Kempinski in many ways. I studied the history of the hotel over the course of this project, and found that Siam Kempinski Hotel Bangkok stands on a plot of land that used to be a part of King Mongkut’s Summer Palace. This palace is known as Sra Prathum Palace (Lotus Pond Palace) because of the various lotus ponds situated there. In the 1960’s, part of this palace’s land was leased to build the first privately run international hotel, the former Siam Intercontinental Hotel. But in the year 2000, Siam Intercontinental Hotel was demolished to give way to Siam Paragon shopping mall and Siam Kempinski Hotel. This was the main reason why I came to think of “lotus” as the perfect symbol to connect the Sra Prathum Palace with the Siam Kempinski Hotel, a new landmark in Bangkok. The blooming lotus flower is also the logo of Siam Kempinski Hotel Bangkok.
I was inspired by the history of the hotel. As I was researching the lotus flower, I learned that lotus is the symbol of the union of the four elements (water, earth, air and fire), representing a perfect harmony of nature. I then thought how to develop the concept further by using the rich historical and cultural background of the hotel, combined with the extensive Thai artistic heritage. Lastly, I like to consider Siam Kempinski Hotel as an oasis located in the heart of Bangkok, the hotel is a sanctuary for people to escape their busy life.
For all these reasons above, I decided to use the theme “lotus” as the focus of the artworks and to combine it with the different techniques used to design the artworks. I wanted to give a unique identity to every pieces of art while connecting them to each other, to the hotel design, history, and to Thai culture.
I will end this introduction by saying it is our aim, through the creation and installation of artworks at the Siam Kempinski hotel, and this online platform, to creatively preserve and promote Thai culture, Thai art and Thai artists, as well as the spirit of Siam Kempinski Hotel Bangkok.
Art history content provided by Art Consulting Thailand