Jirat Ratthawongjirakul: “We wish to be a place that nurtures young artists and encourages established artists to continue experimenting and shifting their practice.”
Getting to know Gallery VER, an artist-founded initiative in Bangkok with its sights abroad
Co-initiated by Rirkrit Tiravanija, Gallery VER was established in 2006 as an artist-led initiative. The independent space was a response to the lack of opportunity for young artists to gain exposure outside of government and corporate-sponsored competitions. While there were commercial galleries operating in Thailand at the time, most were reluctant to take a chance with artists who did not already have mainstream recognition. Gallery VER came at an important juncture in the development of Thai contemporary art, with a dynamic programme that continues to champion conceptualist modes of thinking and art-making.
The name VER
The gallery takes its name from VER magazine which artist Pratchaya Phinthong published from 2000 to 2004 when he doubled as the gallery’s director. A shortened form of “over” in English, “ver” is used as a common Thai slang. In adopting this name, the gallery is interested in different aspects of the word “over” such as to move or span across and to invert.
Move to N22
2016 was an important year for Gallery VER as they started a new chapter after moving into the N22 complex, where they continue to reside. The gallery has come a long way since its first iteration in 2006 at a riverside spot in Bangkok’s Thonburi district, accessible mostly by boat. Located within walking distance from both Bangkok Skytrain and MRT Subway stations, the new space has a 100 square-metre main exhibition gallery and a second 25 square-metre room. This allows for the possibility of hosting two concurrent shows or a larger single presentation. Other galleries in the N22 community include Cartel Art Space, founded by fellow Chiang Mai artist Mit Jai Inn, Tentacles Gallery and La Lanta Fine Art.
First international showcase
At Rirkrit’s recommendation, Gallery VER participated in the inaugural S.E.A. Focus in 2019 with a presentation around the theme of ‘Pressure of the Inner Mind’. Notably, it was the gallery’s first art showcase to an international audience and they featured three artists: Udomsak Krisanamis, Wantanee Siripattananuntakul, and Nuttapon Sawasdee. Director Jirat Ratthawongjirakul says, “Our aim was exposure hence we chose artists of different ages: established, mid-career, and emerging, respectively.” The trio represented Gallery VER’s diverse programme and commitment to work with artists at different stages in their career.
Gallery VER stays true to its artist-led roots, giving space to new ideas and voices. “Running a gallery is not only about the sale of the artworks,” Jirat explains. “We wish to be a place that nurtures young artists and encourages established artists to continue experimenting and shifting their practice.” A number of artists have had their debut solo exhibitions at Gallery VER over the years, including Niwat Manatpiyalert, Kamolros Wonguthum, Nontawat Numbenchapol, and Thavika Savangwongsakul amongst others. Operating in Thailand, where there is a history of art censorship during its junta regimes, the gallery has built a reputation of supporting their artists in spite of potential political backlash.
Looking ahead, Gallery VER aims to regain momentum on their international engagements which were halted during the COVID-19 pandemic. One major programme is their participation in Frieze London in October 2023, under the fair’s new ‘Artist-to-Artist’ initiative. In this section, eight internationally-acclaimed artists are being invited to propose artists for solo exhibitions at the fair and Rirkrit has nominated Wantanee Siripattananuntakul. In addition to her presentation at Frieze London, Wantanee will also be exhibiting at the 3rd Thailand Biennale, alongside Mit Jai Inn. Audiences can look forward to the upcoming edition of Thailand Biennale in Chiang Rai when it opens in December 2023.