Rolf Von Bueren, founder of Thailand’s famous Lotus Arts de Vivre brings a striking collection of art to Chennai
Our conversation with the curator covers the novelties around Thai art, the highlights of the collection and being privy to an ever evolving global art scene over the last four decades.
Roosters on motorbikes. Bulldog stools. And peacock clocks. This is just a taste of the striking creations on display as part of the Tales of Asia collection at Apparao Galleries this week. Curated by Rolf Von Bueren, founder of Bangkok’s Lotus Arts de Vivre in collaboration with Heeramaneck & Son & Apparao Galleries — look out for home décor, jewellery and handbags — that promise to send your imagination into a tizzy. 18K Gooseberry earrings, anyone? We chat with German-born Rolf Von Bueren, who is from one of the first foreign families to make Thailand home back in the ’60s. Our conversation covers the novelties around Thai art, the highlights of the collection and being privy to an ever evolving global art scene over the last four decades. Excerpts:
Walk us through the Tales of Asia collection that you are showcasing in the city.
Our exhibit, Tales of Asia, features a selection of the most exquisite pieces of home decor, jewellery, handbags and more. On display for the discerning clientele of Chennai, we present the golden lotus leaf, the intricately carved shell gravy bowl, the elegant swan shell bowl, the beloved wooden happy monk sculpture, the opulent baroque walking sticks, and the striking ebony wood peacock sculpture. These pieces are truly a testament to the artistry and craftsmanship of Asia.
How is art from Thailand different from other parts of the world?
Thailand is steeped in the rich cultural influences of India, nestled perfectly between the grandeur of China and the spiritual essence of India. The revered king of Thailand embodies the re-incarnation of the god Vishnu and is adorned in the regal garuda style. Each and every ceremony in the royal court commences with the traditional Brahmin ceremony and progresses in a serene Buddhist manner.
The architecture and customs of Thailand are deeply rooted in Indian tradition, with the kings held in the highest esteem and accorded the utmost respect. The written Sanskrit language in Thailand is more akin to classical Sanskrit, and though it may be considered a lost language, many esteemed scholars in the field hail from Thailand.
So to conclude, Thailand, with its opulent cultural heritage, bears a striking resemblance to India and stands in stark contrast to the more Westernised nations of the world.
Natural materials like seashells and bamboo are a mainstay when it comes to creations from Lotus Arts de Vivre. Is there a traditional significance with these materials that you can speak of?
When it comes to natural materials and their traditional significance, there are two aspects to consider. The first one is the requirement of highly experienced artisans
and expert personnel to handle the materials such as bamboo, wood, stones, seashells, coconut
Secondly, the artistry and craftsmanship of these materials are greatly influenced by the quality of the land and soil. This is particularly evident in regions like India and Thailand, where the abundance of rich soil has led to the flourishing of exquisite materials that were once highly sought after by European monarchs in medieval times. These precious materials, such as shells and ostrich eggs, were then transformed into luxurious decorative pieces and kept within the chambers of royalty. This ultimately led to the establishment of museums in Europe, where these collections could be admired and revered for generations to come.
What are the challenges of working with materials like these?
Regrettably, many governments prioritise modernisation above all else, leaving traditional forms of artistry to wither and fade. The materials and techniques used to create these masterpieces are becoming increasingly scarce and of diminishing quality, making preservation and innovation an ongoing struggle. At Lotus, we are determined to pay homage to the time-honoured tradition of craftsmanship, showcasing the dedication and skill required to produce these works of art. We strive towards revival and also to inspire the next generation to appreciate and carry on this rich heritage.
You began your art journey in Thailand 40 years ago. Give us a glimpse into the changes and
evolution of the art scene.
The pandemic has changed the art scene drastically. There are countless generations yet to be influenced. The art of craftsmanship requires a significant investment of time and energy, and in today’s fast-paced society, there are few individuals willing to commit to such endeavours in order to produce something truly extraordinary. Despite the challenges presented by this unprecedented situation, there are also opportunities for innovation and advancement.
Today, we have access to technologies that were not available just a few decades ago. At Lotus, we are constantly seeking new ways to innovate and utilise the finest materials available. We embrace change with a positive attitude while remaining true to our cultural heritage. Our Peacock Clock is a prime example of our commitment to creating pieces that are both contemporary and steeped in tradition. As we navigate the scarcity of certain materials, we are continually searching for new ways to work with what is available.
Art is ever-evolving and that’s the beauty of it and we desire to continue in this space for the years to come.
After travelling the world and experiencing a myriad of cultures, where is your curiosity leading you in 2023?
I am soon to embark on a journey to Varanasi to visit some weaving factories in the company of esteemed Indian textile experts. I have had the privilege of viewing some truly breathtaking pieces, such as clocks adorned with peacock feathers, right here in Chennai.
Our relentless pursuit of rarity is what sets us apart and allows us to truly craft one-of-a-kind pieces. The transformation of raw materials into exquisite works of art is a sight to behold, and our extensive global travels ensure that we remain attuned to the ever-evolving tastes of the elite. As we continue to explore and push the boundaries of creativity, we look forward to uncovering even more rare and precious treasures in the years to come.
At Apparao Galleries till January 31. Price on request.