Why Farmgroup's Vorathit Kruavanichkit Started Hotel Art Fair
Local art aficionados have a lot to get excited about this weekend, as Hotel Art Fair makes its much-awaited comeback. Since 2013, Farmgroup—the Bangkok-based design consultancy known for working with names ranging from Wonderfruit to Louis Vuitton and Bacardi—has been taking over one select boutique hotel a year to showcase the works of exciting international and local artists in individual rooms. This year, the team continues collaborating with creatives, as well as galleries, and will be occupying the rooms of 137 Pillars Suites & Residences. Ahead of the opening day of Hotel Art Fair 2018 this Saturday, Thailand Tatler had a quick chat with the co-founder and creative director of Farmgroup, Vorathit Kruavanichkit (who is also a Thailand Tatler Generation T lister) about the Hotel Art Fair and his views on the local design industry.
What inspired you to start the Hotel Art Fair?
I’ve been doing this for many years now. This will be the fifth year we’ve held the Hotel Art Fair, and actually, we started this event for many reasons. Firstly, I am personally in the creative, art and design business, so I see the value of art. I recognise the importance of art and design and the impact it has on culture and society. However, many in positions of high influence and power do not. No one has really risen up to do anything for the new, upcoming generations of artists, even local Thai artists. There is very little support out there for Thai creatives and their work.
So is this why you initiated this event? To support local Thai artists?
Yes. Right now in Thailand, the main people who value art—apart from people in the industry—are brands. But even then, they do it for their products, to improve their brand image or for marketing. There are very few people who are trying to promote local Thai artists for their work. This is the key reason I decided to start something. Another reason is because Thailand doesn’t really have a stage for local artists and art galleries to gather and meet. There isn’t a mutual ground for people who share this interest to meet and share ideas in an environment that’s more about exchange rather than competition. I think having something like this would really benefit our society.
This will be the fifth Hotel Art Fair. What can we expect to be different this time round?
When I first started this with my partner, the plan was to change hotels every year. My priority is to hold this event at a hotel that is owned by a Thai person instead of a large chain. Because of this, every year the event will definitely be different, because when the venue changes, the environment,atmosphere and everything changes. In this event, every room in the hotel will be taken over by a gallery or an artist, and it’s up to them how they want to curate the space. So every year you can always expect something new and fresh. The overall vibe has been completely different each time we’ve held the event.
Apart from Hotel Art Fair, do you have any other upcoming projects?
If you’re talking about design work or curation, I constantly have projects going on. But for me, the Hotel Art Fair is really the key, highlight project of each year. I have plans to make it even bigger, but I’m still trying to figure out how to make this happen in a way that will actually work in Bangkok (laughs). While we are a creative agency and I also take on my own projects, the Hotel Art Fair is the one project that is really meaningful to us—something we created and built up ourselves—so I have high hopes for it in the future.
Could you tell us a little more about your lifestyle?
My lifestyle really isn’t that complicated. I balance my time between my work and my family and occasionally friends. You know, happy wife, happy life (laughs). But for me, art and design is something that follows me every day. I constantly think about it no matter where I am or what I’m doing.
You mentioned the design industry. Is there anything you want to develop or improve when it comes to Thailand’s art and design field?
Personally, I believe the main problem we have right now is that Thailand is at a point where in terms of quality, we are comparable to other countries. However, other industries have not really realised this and don’t recognise the value in our art and design industries. People still do not see the value of design and so they don’t want to invest in it.
What do you mean by this?
I mean that in Thailand, creativity will always take a back seat—it’s the last priority. Then you have countries in Europe or Japan, where creativity and design are industries that dominate and always come first. This makes it very difficult for businesses in our art and design industry to grow.
What is the negative impact of this issue?
When people do not see the value of something to begin with, that value will never increase and that’s why the cost of design doesn’t increase either. We might have a lot more talented people in the creative scene now and our skills might constantly be improving, but the money in this field isn’t going anywhere. Fresh design graduates are still getting 15k, 18k salaries—how do you expect them to survive like this? They can’t. But because there just isn’t that much money flowing into the industry, design companies have to hire staff under these kinds of salaries, which are actually sometimes lower than what babysitters receive. It really doesn’t make sense, so this is something I really want to change.
How do you hope to change this?
Well, the Hotel Art Fair is a step we took to hopefully make things better. I really hope this message goes out not to designers in Thailand but more to people in other industries—those with influence. I really hope to help them see the value in our creative scene, to recognise the importance of our art and design industries and help increase the value.
Hotel Art Fair 2018 takes place this weekend, June 9-10, from 11am-11pm at 137 Pillars Suites & Residences. For more information, visit fb.com/hotelartfair.