While fashion is ubiquitous _ draping models in magazines, gliding down red carpets, displayed in shop windows, coveted and paraded by its devotees _ style is deeply personal.
The late Patsri Bunnag was one of Thailand’s first style icons. She was one of the early fashion models in the country and is said to have been a muse of, and close friend to, Thailand’s founding figure of fashion, His Serene Highness Prince Kraisingh Vudhjaya. Over the years she became a fashion editor, as well as one of the first people to import the latest European designs to Thailand. Following her marriage to French antique collector and dealer Jean Michel Beurdeley, she spent many decades living in Paris, where she became well known for her sense of personal style, (once being complimented by Pierre Cardin for her La Croix jacket, Beurdeley tells with pride) and her formidable collection of fashion and accessories. Patrsi and her husband, as well as her son Eric Booth, were also avid art collectors, and over the years have amassed one of the most comprehensive and impressive collections of contemporary Thai art.
It was the family’s dream to one day open a contemporary art museum to showcase their collection, and in 2016 that dream was realised in the opening of Chiang Mai’s MAIIAM Contemporary Art Museum, an art destination which has now put Chiang Mai firmly onto the Asian art map.
Although she was an integral part of its conception, Patsri sadly passed away the year before MAIIAM opened its doors. However, her presence can still be felt, as there is an entire room in the museum dedicated to her and her family’s significant patronage of the arts. MAIIAM has so far held two acclaimed exhibitions, featuring Chiang Mai resident artists Cannes Film Festival’s Palme d’Or winner Apichatpong Weerasethakul followed by an retrospective by Kamin Lertchaiprasert.
MAIIAM’s latest exhibition, which will end on the 15th of June, is an homage to Patsri’s sense of style and a love letter from Beurdeley and Booth to their beloved wife and mother.
“We lived surrounded by art in Paris,” Beurdeley told Citylife as he guided us through the Mon Art Du Style exhibition at MAIIAM. “My wife understood that taste is inspired by surrounding and that style is a way of thinking. She has a great appreciation of art and said that style comes from all that you’ve see in life…all that surrounds you.”
As a family of collectors, their passion is clearly shared, but it was Patsri’s sense of personal style that gave way to a wardrobe that consists of some rare pieces from some of Thailand’s and the world’s most influential designers, as well as some nameless pieces she picked up over the years (she had an intriguing penchant for Thailand’s modest mo hom which she would mix and match with more haute items to create a uniquely Patsri style).
The exhibition is a marriage of the family’s love of art and fashion and showcases some of Patsri’s most interesting and unique garments and accessories exquisitely curated by relative Pring Bunnag, who has created an exhibition which, according to the organisers, “shows that style is not just skin deep. It is the expression of a complex aesthetic worldview, reflecting not just one’s superficial ‘taste’ but a much more intricate belief system and ultimately a personal philosophy of living.”
We follow Patsri’s joy of living with style as we are first greeted by wired mannequins clad in black Issey Miyaki, Christian Dior and Rick Owen ensembles in the great hall of MAIIAM, silhouetted against a backdrop of black textile with gold letterings stating, “Style is a Way of Thinking.”
We then journey from room to room where curated pieces of art from the Beurdeley-Bunnag-Booth collection are paired with displayed items from Patsri’s wardrobe in a manner that creates dialogue and elicits emotion, rather than attempting to capture on oeuvre. A gold leather Christian Dior Haute Fourrure Coat shimmers and floats on a wired mannequin above a pile of golden flakes, sightlessly overseeing a laboriously layered and vibrantly coloured painting by Mit Jai Inn through a pair of Oliver Peoples sunglasses. A metallic Issey Miyake Fete jacket casually flung over a humble mo hom is displayed in front of a tapestry created especially for this exhibition by artist Jakkai Siributr who has cut up and re-stitched together a pasticcio of fabrics from Patsri’s beloved indigo mo hom and Issey Miyake pieces.
Textures, styles, colours, shapes and materials echo back and forth in dialogue between art and fashion, evoking emotion and seamlessly merging the two worlds. The symmetry of an architectural Miyaki crest stretch jacket, its lines mirroring Sopheap Pich’s organic print, is echoed by its almost comically grotesque shadow. Just around the corner, an avant-garde structural sleeveless Comme des Garcon jacket hovers over a gapingly surreal bowl of beetle-red teeth by Montien Boonma.
There are custom made pieces by Thai design houses including Tirapan, Nagara and Atelier Pichita, some with charming anecdotes or tribute notes attached by the designers, adding context to the artistic narrative. Patsri was also partial to accessories, in particular glasses, of which she had hundreds…many of which are displayed throughout the exhibition, though even MAIIAM’s vast spaces perhaps couldn’t contain them all, so visitors can scan parts of her collection on the wall screen _ an orange Oliver Goldsmith Zig Zag, a vintage pair of pastel pink winged frames from Belgium’s Theo, a glittery Herve Dormar. She was also a lover of necklaces and many mannequins are adorned with Lacroix or Dior jewellery as well as fabulous pieces by Thai designer Jamjaras Suchiva, man behind the eponymous Mon Jam, our city’s favourite viewpoint up Mae Sa Valley.
Mon Art Du Style, which means ‘my art of style’ in French, is a pun play of Thai meaning ‘look at art, see style’, which captures just some of the many threads visitors of the museum can follow: the Beurdeley-Bunnag-Booth family’s passion, Patsri’s own style-infused life, the colliding collage of Bangkok and Paris couture, the relevance of Thai artists in context of the international stage…you can take away what you will from this exhibition because your interpretation of the exhibition is as personal as Patsri’s style.
Visit MAIIAM’s Mon Art Du Style from now until 25th of June.122 Moo. 7, Tonpao, Sankampheang, Chiang Mai 50130Opening Hours: 10 am – 6 pm Everyday except TuesdaysEntrance Fees: Adults 150 baht, seniors 100 baht, students 100 baht, children under 12 freeFor more information please contact: Tel: +66-52-081-737 / +66-81-386-6899Email: email@example.com Website: www.MAIIAM.comFacebook and Instagram: MAIIAM Contemporary Art Museum