Key elements of the contemporary art museum in Thailand


Siriwat Sanserm, M.Ed (Art Education)

Communication Design Department, School of Fine and Applied Arts

Bangkok University, Thailand.







This work aims to study and defines key elements of the contemporary art museum in Thailand. The information search is taken place in eight contemporary art museums located both in Thailand and Japan.

            The study is divided into two parts. The first one focuses on the museum statement, the museum management systems and the development of those systems. The rest is to study those art museums in terms of theirs constructions and other related factors, resulting appropriate methods to allocate functions and spaces of Thai contemporary art museum.

            The research findings indicate appropriate roles of Thai contemporary art museum should be a place that exhibits and collects art and cultural works gathering from Thailand and other countries, and act as an educational service of arts and cultural to a local community. It will help to join contemporary arts and cultural with the lifestyles of people in the society throughout the institute should be standardization to the global contemporary art museum. The education was emphasized in 3 following ways: 1) education rules elements 2) exhibitions elements 3) museum communication and activity.        


1. Introduction

National Education Act B.E. 2542 values contemporary art and culture, as evidence by Section 25 which prescribes that the government shall support the operation and the establishment of all lifelong learning centers such as public library, museums and art galleries.

In addition to being a center of contemporary art and culture accommodating the need of artists to have a venue where they can showcase their meaningful work, contemporary art museum itself is an academic and appreciative learning center of people in the community. Therefore, it is important that the museum is well managed and planned to make the best use of available space, to turn it into an attraction Thailand can be proud of, and, to help Thai people realize the significance of contemporary art museum and become more appreciative of Thai art and culture.  As an organization supporting and promoting contemporary art and culture, compiling information, conducting research to enhance knowledge, wisdom and contemporary art and culture application, Office of Contemporary Art and Culture sees the need to establish a lifelong learning center where contemporary art and culture can be brought to a wider audience. It has thus conceived the research titled “Key elements of the contemporary art museum in Thailand” to ensure that the contemporary art museum is comprised of fitting elements and that an appropriate management is adopted. The resulting museum would be more internationalized and capable of accommodating artists and admirers of contemporary art and culture alike.


2. Objectives of the research

1.                              To study and compile researches and determine key elements of contemporary art

museum in Thailand

2.                              To study and plan elements of contemporary art museum, analyze the core of each

element, and, establish a vision for the construction of contemporary art museum.

3.                  To study and develop a management system for contemporary art museum as a

lifelong learning center.


3. Scope and method of study

       3.1) Study of relevant literature

(1) Study definitions and essence of contemporary art museum

            (2) Study philosophy and role of contemporary art museum according to the policy of International Council of Museum

(3) Study information, philosophy and educational role of art museums and galleries

(4) Study organizational information, establishment policies, visions, objectives, goals, management, operation, activities and relevant issues

(5) Study physical elements of art museum (e.g. architecture, landscape architecture, civil engineering, system engineering and artwork)    

      3.2) Selection of case studies in Thailand and Japan

            Case studies selected are art museums and galleries displaying domestic and international contemporary artwork. They represent both publicly and privately managed art museums and galleries.

1) Case studies in Thailand

1.1) National Gallery (Bangkok)

1.2) Bangkok Art and Culture Center (Bangkok)

1.3) The Queen’s Gallery (Bangkok)

1.4) CMU Art Museum (Chiangmai)

2)  Case studies in Japan

2.1) Fukuoka Asian Art Museum (Fukuoka)

2.2) 21st Century Museum of Contemporary Art (Kanazawa)

2.3) Museum of Contemporary Art Tokyo

2.4) Mori Art Museum (Tokyo)


4. Research tools 

            The two tools used for the collection of data in this research are as follows:

4.1) Two questionnaires

            First questionnaire: Managerial elements of contemporary art museum                                 Second questionnaire: Physical elements of contemporary art museum

            4.2) Brainstorming conferences involving scholars and specialists in relevant fields

5. Data collection

5.1) Analyze literature and site survey information in order to arrive at conclusions

5.2) Analyze and summarize findings of brainstorming conferences

5.2) Compile data from qualitative interviews for analysis and summary


6. Data analysis

            6.1) summary: Brief characteristics of case studies


Managerial elements

Art museums and galleries in Thailand

Art museums and galleries in Japan


Mission, key policy and objectives


Focused on collection and display of mostly local contemporary artwork


Focused on display, community involvement and different forms of community artistic development


Museum planning

Lack of clear direction and vision

Lack of planning and operational plans

Plans and operational goals consistent with policies and visions


Museum operational plan

Unable to achieve primary objectives


Able to achieve primary objectives


Organizational structure

Management and exhibition divisions according to the primary mission

Structure consistent with primary mission



Majority of funding from the government

Lack of sufficient and undisrupted funding for the operation

Systemic funding by the government and the private sector

Strategies to raise funds independently


Location, building and facilities


Located in area where communities cannot take part in

Lack of facilitating public transportation

Located in community areas

Facilitating public transportation available


Visitor and service hours

Service hours do not allow for access outside of business hours

Service hours allow for full access



Marketing strategies

No marketing and corporate communication plan

Systemic employment of marketing strategies and corporate communications



            6.2) Facility space usage and proportion analysis

                        The survey of eight case studies has revealed that all allocate the majority of space to gallery space as follows:

Museum of Contemporary Art, Tokyo (MOT)                               7,400 sq.m. (42%)

21st Century Museum of Contemporary Art, Kanazawa  4,191 sq.m. (45%)

Fukuoka Asian Art Museum                                                         2,485 sq.m. (41%)

Mori Art Museum                                                                            2,875 sq.m. (*%)

Bangkok Art and Culture Center                                                   4,068 sq.m. (26%)

CMU Art Museum                                                                           1,917 sq.m. (49%)

National Gallery                                                                               7,059 sq.m. (*%)

The Queen’s Gallery                                                                       896 sq.m. (47%)

Remark: *Incomplete data


Case studies may be divided by gallery space size into three categories:

1.                              Case studies with gallery space of 7,000 sq.m. or larger

2.                              Case studies with gallery space of 4,000 sq.m. or larger

3.                              Case studies with gallery space of 1,000 sq.m. or smaller

The gallery space of each case study, however, constitutes more than 40% of total area. It may thus be concluded that gallery space is the most significant area of museums and galleries.


According to the diagram of each case study, the proportion of spaces from largest to smallest is as follows:

·                                            Gallery space

·                                            Artwork storage space

·                                            Education area and public area

·                                            Administration area

·                                            Library

·                                            Gallery preparation area

·                                            Service area


Artwork storage space is considered a supporting area of the gallery space. This research studied the proportion of these two areas to arrive at a guideline for the determination of artwork storage space size, which, according to Table 5.1, range from 10% to 42% of gallery space.


            6.3) Summary of findings of brainstorming conferences

(1) Thailand does not have a clear national policy on art and culture. This is not positive for the implementation of relevant infrastructure and definition of relevant details, particularly those involving establishment of art museums which bring artistic knowledge and experience to the communities. The government should provide funding to art museums and implement tax rebate scheme for museum sponsors.

(2) Key elements of art museum ensuring success and interest of the public are well developed operational plans, well designed and implemented activities, efficient executives and staffs with artistic knowledge and experience, and, clear visions.

 (3) Different forms of visitor and community involvement play an important role in the long term survival of art museums.

(4) New contemporary art museums to be constructed require appropriate funding in order to create all necessary elements.

(5) Art museums and exhibitions should involve professionals from specialized fields such as exhibition designing, infrastructure and special techniques in order to achieve optimal results and to best reflect the objectives of the exhibition. Exhibition is currently implemented by very few people, most of whom are museum executives and curators.

(6) Contemporary artistic and cultural initiatives should take into account the cultural contexts involved, and, artistic and cultural fields variety. This is to introduce visitors to and help them understand different forms of art, leading to future appreciation of visual arts.

(7) Future art museums should be of the following qualities:

-   Art museums of national importance

-   Art museums which can survive on their own in the long term

- Lively and intriguing art museums, capable of attracting visitors, with appropriate space allocation for the number of artwork on display, art education and open space to accommodate all possible forms of contemporary art presentation

- Unique art museums that embody classical Thai qualities while meeting

international standards

            (8) Art museums should engage in continued and systemic public relation campaigns to enhance awareness among members of the community and build a network of partners which will provide long term support.

            (9) Recommendations: Social roles of contemporary art museum

                  9.1) Contemporary art museums should clearly illustrate their stance and uniqueness.

                  9.2) Contemporary art museums should clearly establish their roles as an institution.

                  9.3) Contemporary art museums should focus on visitor and community involvement in order to render it lively and sustainable.

9.4) Contemporary art museums should take into account the role of an art educator.

9.5) Contemporary art museums should adopt flexible policies capable of being adjusted to reflect changes at all times.

9.6) Contemporary art museums should work towards integration with the community.

9.7) Contemporary art museums should engage in cooperation with other organizations and other industries to maximize networking and creative opportunities.




7. Summary


Following the survey of eight contemporary art museums in Thailand and Japan and resulting comparative analysis, it is determined that contemporary art museums and galleries in Thailand need to improve their elements in all respects: organizational principles, policies, visions, objectives, operational objectives, management systems, activity plans and relevant issues.


This research has found that contemporary art museums and galleries in Japan are well planned and managed. They can serve their community to the best of their potentials because of the relevant elements in place. As well, their managerial elements and operation are consistent with the following museum management principles:

1. Determination of visions and objectives

2. Establishment of policies and operational plans

3. Support planning and management strategies

4. Performance measurement and evaluation

5. Personnel

6. Funding

7. Location (including building, artwork collection and facilities)

8. Execution of policies and operational plans

9.  Marketing planning, which is considered as a management strategy, is crucial for a museum to pursue its objectives and fulfill the needs of visitors. This is consistent with museum ethical requirements prescribed by International Council of Museum which provide the basis for museum managerial procedures and authority


With regard to physical elements, this research has found that the case studies allocate the majority of available space as gallery space. Spaces in the order of size from the largest are as follows:

1.                                          Gallery space

2.                                          Artwork storage space

3.                                          Education area and public area

4.                                          Administration area

5.                                          Library

6.                                          Gallery preparation area

7.                                          Service area


In summary, contemporary art museums are among the most significant artistic institutions, bridging artwork, their creators and their audience, and, involving the community. The issues faced by art museums include management, funding, visitors, relationship with local organizations, and, founding objectives. Further, the staffs’ lack of understanding of communication and education principles, which are key to the operation of museums, results in the contemporary art museums being unable to provide the best artistic education and experience. Consequently, managerial and physical elements of contemporary art museums and galleries need to be well thought out in order for these institutions to serve and truly become a part of the community.



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