Phuket art and handicraft galleries with local, regional and Asian art treasures are sprinkled all over the island, from Bang Tao and Surin (in the north) to Patong, Phuket Town and farther south to Rawai. Driving around some areas of Phuket, such as Patong, you soon realise that art in Phuket is a popular pre-occupation.
Patong for Phuket Art
Famous for its nightlife and post-tsunami media coverage, Patong is also a centre of growing interest for art shopping in Phuket, with many talented artists creating originals and reproductions of famous paintings.
Patong stores worth a visit are Rosewood Lamps for handicrafts and textiles; New Collection, an exhibition of Kashmiri and Oriental carpets, and other fine north Indian and Thai arts; and Tung Thong Antiques, near Patong Beach Hotel, which offers rare ceramic relics from Cambodia, Burma, China and rural Thailand.
Shopping for antiques in Patong can be a little more expensive than some of the surrounding areas owing to the beach’s reputation for package tourism, but there are still bargains to be found with a little time and patience.
Bang Tao-Surin for Phuket Art
These areas have several upmarket art galleries. Just inland from Surin Beach is Plaza Surin, which is full of upmarket art and crafts. There’s also a good French restaurant on the top floor.
In the Bangtao area, check out Canal Village, inside the Laguna resorts complex. There are also several art and craft places on the road near the Cherng Talay police station, and on the road from Cherng Talay to the Heroines Monument. Especially worth visiting among this last bunch is Phuket Ceramics, run by two very talented sisters who produce very original crockery, jars and vases. They will make ceramics to your specific design as well; a service that upmarket hotels on the island use to the full.
Chalong-Rawai-Nai Harn-Kata for Phuket Art
The south of Phuket now hums with an array of boutique artisan outlets. Manee Sai Garden Art (opposite Wat Chalong) is notable for outdoor/indoor sandstone décor of fountains, murals, frescoes, water jars, candle holders and lamps. Designs include Thai, Khmer, Balinese and contemporary.
Antipodes, a woodcarving showroom on the left descending the hill to Rawai, is run by a charming Burmese-Shan family who hand carve timber furniture and sculptures, which are left to cure for three years before applying the finishing touches. Rawai also offers a few funky shell accessory stores for that ’70s beach shack look.
Several small galleries have sprouted up in the Nai Harn area offering original and reproduced arts. Chokechai Interiors Casa has some interesting showpiece Thai and regional arts. The Nai Harn-Kata road is also home to several original galleries. Mantra Art, on the left hand-side, is a must, but by appointment only. The artist-in-residence creates stunning collector art of Asia-influenced mixed media on canvas, although is often out of the country exhibiting her works. Just down the road is Symbol of Life Gallery; an eclectic collection of nature and life art in a forest garden created by original oil and acrylic artist Niran Chanhom.
Kata-Karon for Phuket Art
Kata and Karon beaches offers a few art reproduction galleries, but one in particular stands out from the crowd: Earth to Art, a pottery and ceramic store opposite Dino Park on the Kata-Karon beach road.
Phuket Town for Phuket Art
Phuket Town is a feast of galleries, antique and handicraft stores. A full day is required to journey through the historic Sino-Portuguese streets and alleys to discover the treasures on offer.
Rinda Magical Art Studio is home to Jay-Da and Watcharin Rodnit - a slightly eccentric Thai couple who share their joy and love for life and nature with abstract oils and mixed media; view by appointment only. Sarasil Art Gallery, with original work by five Thai artists from rural scenes to surrealistic dreamworks. Meanwhile, Phuket Fine Art Gallery is an exhibition for famous and unseen Thai and Asian works of mythology, legend and contemporary inspiration.
More upmarket are Soul of Asia, which sells original paintings by Chinese and Vietnamese artists, along with limited-edition runs of bronzes from Salvador Dali and prints by Andy Warhol; and D Gallery, in the Royal Phuket Marina, which has regular shows of original paintings by Thai and Vietnamese artists. Take a fat wallet.
Less arduous on the pocket is Gallery 346, which has a knack of displaying unusual Thai art, including works by Thai graffiti artists. Also worth a stroll are Thalang Road and Soi Romanee, which have a number of small art/crafts/antiques shops.
Last, but certainly not least, is Khun Tawatchai, an awe-inspiring local Thai batik artist and art teacher whose voluptuous female goddess works are displayed on the softly-lit and perfumed walls of the Perfection Beauty Boutique.