‘Baandam’: The Black House Museum by Thawan Duchanee

“In my imagination and dreams, time and space become one; they vibrate with an irrational quality attributable to the dream although I know they have the original beat of reality. Artwork is my love made visible; it represents everything in the infinite universe materialized through my imagination”  (Thawan Duchanee)

‘Baandam’ is the Black House Museum designed by Thai National Artist Thawan Duchanee (1939-2014). ‘Baandam’ is a complex of over 40 houses which are situated 10km north of Chiang Rai.

Thawan-DuchaneePicture of the artist Thawan Duchanee, from his site

Thawan Duchanee is a prominent representative of Thai and Asian art. He started his artistic education at the Poh Chang Arts and Crafts College. Thawan Duchanee then studied at Silpakorn University under the Italian painter Corrado Feroci (Silpa Bhilasri) who is known as the father of modern Thai art. Thawan Duchanee is also familiar with Western artistic traditions since he also studied at the Royal Academy of Visual Arts in Amsterdam.

Returning to Thailand, Thawan Duchanee developed a signature style of artistry using predominantly black and red tones. This is based on the styles of traditional Buddhist art and is supposed to symbolize the darkness immanent in humanity.

Black House Museum

Baandam Triple Building, Black House Museum

White Temple and Black House in Chiang Rai

Baandam Main Building‘Baandam’ main building*

Baandam Tiered Building‘Baandam’ tiered building* Baandam Tiered Roof Building‘Baandam’ tiered roof house*

This tendency is also reflected in the Black houses of ‘Baandam’ in Chiang Rai. Thus, the Black Houses are designed in different styles and what is special about them is that their colour is predominantly black. Hence, there are also some white buildings but their only function is to bring out the Black Houses even more distinctly. Most of the Black Houses of the ‘Baandam’ Museum serve as a kind of ‘showroom’ for various artefacts, curiosities and oddities.

Baandam Cylindrical Building‘Baandam’ cylindrical white building*

In fact, Thawan Duchanee’s estate is an interesting collection of bizarre, surreal structures including a zoo’s worth of animal skeletons 😉

Baandam Hides and Eggs‘Baandam’ collection of hides and eggs* Baandam On Skeletons‘Baandam’ On skeletons*

Nevertheless, ‘Baandam’ a special kind of museum because the objects and artefacts of the Black House Museum are all related to death, mortality and impermanence. In other words, one may also say that they highlight the negative side of nature.

Baandam Snake Skin‘Baandam’ snake skin* Baandam Skull and Egg‘Baandam’ skull and egg*

Hence, there are many skulls from different animals as well as skins (e.g. snake skins), hides, eggs and carvings of more traditional demons. In addition, ‘Baandam’ also has interesting furniture and special collectors’ pieces to offer.

Baandam Carved Facade‘Baandam’ carved façade* Baandam Carved Pillars‘Baandam carved pillars*

(*Photo credits: Anandajoti Bhikkhu)

I am very much impressed by Thawan Duchanee’s art and the Black House Museum in Chiang Rai, in particular. I think it is the mixture between traditionalism, curiosity and oddity and makes it so special. Considering Western artists, I think the Swiss surrealistic artist H.R.Giger would have loved ‘Baandam’ and its oddities!

Finally, I’d like to close this article by inserting this short video about ‘Baandam’, the Black House museum in Chiang Rai so that you can get some more impressions. In this video, Thawan Duchanee’s son Doi-tibet Duchanee explains something about the art and the intentions of his father. It’s worth watching! 🙂

Have you been to ‘Baandam’ and do you like this museum complex?

There is also a comprehensive book about Thawan Duchanee called ‘Modern Buddhist Artist’ written by Russell Marcus. Perhaps you’d like to check this out and my review to this book 🙂

Have fun exploring! And if you have the chance, visit ‘Baandam’ 🙂

Do you know that there is also a White Temple (Wat Rong Khun) in Chiang Rai that serves as a kind of juxtaposition to the Black House museum? If you want to learn more, check it out here 🙂
Yours, Sirinya