WTF: Bangkok's Hip New Gallery Space

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Christopher Wise

Bangkok's hottest hangout was actually born from "six months of despair and depression." After completing a course of curatorial studies and unable to renew her Rockefeller Foundation research funds, Somrak Sila wondered what she could do to "bring art closer to Thai people."

Knowing that "another commercial gallery wasn't the answer," Somrak, 32, and three partners created WTF, tel: (66-2) 662 6246. It's a hipster-filled, three-story bar, café, exhibition space and screening room — with a dance floor. The fledgling curator's only criteria: "A little avant-garde, something never seen before but not too difficult."

The seemingly obscene name was meant to admonish the infighting among local artists making up Somrak's first group show. But now harmony prevails. When a curfew during street protests closed much of Bangkok last year, WTF stayed open to become "a true refuge" for those in the Thonglor district, giving rise to the initials' current meaning: Wonderful Thai Friendships.

With her brainchild thriving beyond her wildest dreams, Somrak has just opened Opposite, a nearby performance space for ticketed events. In the meantime, WTF is proving there's much mileage left in the Thai formula of wrapping serious purpose, even edgy art, in sanuk, or fun.