Compiled by Tiffany Fan
113/3B Kaba Aye Pagoda Road, Bahan // 01 542 560 // http://www.beikthanogallery.com
Beikthano Art Gallery first opened around 1998, and its art over the years has mainly catered to expat audiences. Traditional paintings line the walls of this inviting, family-style art gallery. The space has a very relaxed and homey vibe, as it is located in a large house on a quiet, charming lane right off of the busy Kaba Aye Pagoda Road. It’s one of Yangon’s more long-standing galleries, offering some rare views of the traditional art scene, how the contemporary art of the city has changed over time, and the masterly craft of the scene’s old-timers.
A man smiles and waves a greeting from the upstairs balcony as you walk in, while the open doors of the welcoming home invite visitors to walk in whenever they want. Inside, a woman calls for her husband, a cheery man who comes ambling slowly down the stairs. He introduces himself as the head artist and founder, U Tin Win. The couple runs the place, giving a very mom and pop feel to the gallery – it’s a very casual setting where you can feel right at home, and not a place to dress up. Being veterans of the Yangon art scene, U Tin Win and his wife started their business by opening a small booth in the famous Bogyoke Market around 1990, selling souvenirs and paintings on a smaller scale before saving up the money to open their current location in Bahan.
The name Beikthano means ‘ancient city’ according to the couple – or rather Beikthano was an old city in the state that Tin Win comes from – and the name sort of shows in the artwork that they display, as they try to maintain a theme of tradition with their collections. Most of the artwork displayed are vibrantly coloured realist paintings, with subjects such as people from the various ethnic groups across Myanmar, city scenes in Yangon with a lot of character, but also beautiful landscapes. However the couple always likes to include their share of abstract paintings as well with each collection. Being veterans of the Yangon art scene, the two owners are familiar with the old government’s censorship of certain topics and are glad that new artists are now able to be more free with their expression, but Beikthano’s art stays unpolitical and lighthearted. This gallery is a laid-back place to appreciate the roots of Yangon’s art, while maybe simply having a chat with the lovely owners.