Bangkok starchitect Bill Bensley’s opens up about debut art exhibition
One of the world’s great hospitality architects is picking up the paint brush
“I am nervous,” he said. “While I have bags of confidence as a designer of hotels, uncertainty prevails in my mind today. I have no formal training in the fine arts so I call myself an 'outsider'. That hopefully lowers viewers' expectations of my technical skills. Having said that, I am confident that the messaging of my work, good or bad technically, will surely delight some.”
While not a formally trained artist, Bensely has had the opportunity to pick up more than a few skills during the pandemic, which turned his jet-setting architecture career upside down and left him landlocked in Thailand. He put that extra time to good use, completing over 100 paintings and hundreds more sketches in a newfound passion he calls “all consuming”.
“Most weekends, I paint 12 hours a day,” said Bensely, who counts Donald Friend, Diego Rivera, Hernan Bas and Matisse as his most important artistic inspirations. “At this point in my adventure, I am changing my inspiration every month.”
The pieces that make up “Love – Camp – Explore – Dreams” are a mixture of mediums and styles, but do try to aesthetically reflect the exhibition’s wider themes. For instance, the use of juxtaposed colors in “Love” being a statement on racism, Camp’s examination of idiosyncratic LGBTQ themes, or Explore being comprised of sketches made during a trip to a secluded Indonesian island and sharing stories with local villagers.
One of the biggest aspects of the show will be the contributions made to wildlife conservation efforts in Cambodia through sales proceeds generated during the event. Bensely’s philanthropic efforts are heavily invested in the neighboring state, and he hopes this exhibition can help shine a light on some of the environmental issues the country is battling.
“The impact will be huge,” he said. “The Shinta Mani Foundation funds everything from wells and clean drinking water to schools, homes, healthcare, microloans for small businesses, and a seed sharing program to help people grow better food. As for Wildlife Alliance, I started working with them when I bought the land for my tented camp, Shinta Mani Wild, to save it from becoming a titanium mine.
“It is a camp with every bell and whistle,” he continues. “But more than that, it makes the conservation of the Cardamom forest possible: a forest which is the last great wilderness of SEA, and its lungs. This small camp is nestled in those woods, and every stay funds the work of the Wildlife Alliance, a private army that battles poachers and loggers, protecting the land on the front lines of conservation. They are my heroes and need all the help they can get!”
“Love – Camp – Explore – Dreams” runs from now until Feb 28 at River City Bangkok's RCB Galleria on the second floor. Entry is free.