WTF Bangkok Gallery & Café was opened in April 2010 literally while the Thai army was firing on demonstrators in the capital. Years followed with more upheaval during a series of short-lived governments until the military coup of 2014.It is against this background that WTF was created; founded with the idea of bringing art to people in a casual and less intimidating environment than a white cube gallery and to be a a place for a debate of ideas through worthy contemporary visual culture. By having a café and bar on the street level —passing through a communal space to the gallery floors above, WTF also provides a way to mingle the everyday with art and social messages. This combination of spaces also meant the sales from the café allowed WTF to pursue its vision.WTF Gallery has hosted numerous shows and events in multiple formats and media that span the gamut of contemporary artistic expression. We host 6-8 art exhibitions per year, and those most well received have been those that highlight issues of concern for civil society. Conflicted Vision by 6 prominent Thai Political Artists, 2014, during the lead-up to the coup was a defining moment for WTF. No other gallery dared to address the ongoing stand-off on the streets that pitted elements of society against each other. The same 6 artists will be part of Conflicted Vision AGAIN (July 2020) as an attempt to examine the evolving political attitudes of a polarized society and the artistic community with a revised perspective six years on. In 2019, leading up to the election after 5 years of military rule, Thai artists and galleries were under growing scrutiny with many exhibitions censored or cancelled,. However, WTF gallery hosted Thailand Casino exhibition by Headache Stencil, a Thai graffiti artist, using satirical swipes at the country's elite, as pro-democracy and pro-military forces vie for power (CNN, 2019). The same year, we collaborated with Thai Lawyers for Human Rights to create an exhibition Never Again, displaying evidence of human rights violations as well as resistance and refusal to accept unjust authority.
WTF gallery has held exhibitions focusing on ecological issues, human rights campaigners, political prisoners, the plight of female prisoners and the erasing of historical Thai memory. These issues are little discussed or outright taboo in Thailand. Because WTF is willing to host conversations on these issues the gallery is often called upon to be the spokesperson to shine the light on what is happening with civil society in Thailand. An Al Jazeera documentary and BBC both featured the gallery and Somrak Sila, director, to give sense to contemporary Thai issues.WTF is a small venue that has consistently given voice to artists and issues no other gallery would. By encouraging theses voices we have amplified the concerns and that affect all of society. WTF has done this with intelligence, care, consideration and some say bravery. We feel despite our small size we have an outsized influence in Bangkok and Thai society.