Aurum Gallery by Goldie: A tale of finding provenance in Thailand by dance music’s mad renaissance man
"I came to Thailand to retire…that went out the window."
In the same way that hip-hop was the soundtrack to graffiti culture in the US, drum ‘n’ bass was the soundtrack to street art in the UK — and Goldie was an architect of that golden era. In the three decade long odyssey that ensued, Clifford Joseph Price has been bubbling as a cultural clout: a DJ, artist, label owner, actor, director, composer, yogi and aerosol master. The man has a seemingly endless supply of hats and is inherently deserving of the most hackneyed label of all time: Goldie is a fucking legend.
During the 30+ years he’s been active, Goldie has punctuated the crossover between dance music and art while changing the face of street culture, moving a younger and underprivileged generation away from the shadow of drugs and crime and instead focused on art. For his contributions, he was awarded a precious piece of gold to match his toothy gold grin: an MBE by Prince Charles. Today, at 54 years old, Goldie has humbly shifted his focus to Thailand where an emerging art scene is fermenting and continues to vibrate at a frequency that astounds us — his creative climax might still be coming. Though it’s been years since he went bombing, graffiti continues to run strong through Goldie’s veins and he is embodying the art form by opening up a permanent art gallery in Bangkok dedicated to street art.
What was once considered ugly and — well, vandalism — is now being swallowed up by the mainstream and slapped with economic value. High-end restaurants are using it as a way to sell tacos, art collectors are foaming at the mouth for work coming out of the shadows and mega corporations are commissioning graffiti artists to paint the walls of their office buildings. Thailand might be a little behind in this model but Goldie is (once again) playing a fundamental role glamorising the subculture while mentoring a growing number of young artists across Asia to find their voice through art. Aurum Gallery will, of course, show some of the world’s most influential artists from Goldie's personal Rolodex like Vhils, Belin, Saturno, Ben Eine, Odeith, Bio and Crash (to name a few), but it will also place up-and-coming local and regional talent like P7, Benzilla, Jecks and Wal Chirachaisakul right next to them — all together showcasing the diversity of aesthetics and culture on the walls of his 528 sqm gallery.
A conversation with Goldie never goes as planned — it’s a discombobulating experience as he spews a verbal onslaught of music, names, ideas and experiences that is more in line with life coaching than an interview. Your questions are thrown out the window as he delivers a 1,000-word manifesto on sociology after you ask him how he is. But you’re intoxicatingly sucked down Goldie’s rabbit hole for a moment as the man delivers a riveting recount of the world around him. Right now, that world is in Thailand and it’s all about art. Here is what we learned about The Journey Man’s latest journey…
So, you’re opening a gallery while the world is going through some unprecedented times right now. What made you continue with the project?
"We had a decision to make early on — do we lose this amazing space and just chuck the towel in? And I'm not one to chuck the towel in. Worst case scenario is we have invested in some great art that will never get seen — but it has to be seen! The industry has been good to me and I wanted to put something back in culturally. So even though we’ve risked a lot of money during a global pandemic, Thailand seems to have adjusted very well. The lockdown has been effective here because the government has been strict and the recovery has been a lot better.
Economically, I'm sure you'd love the clubs to all be open now because you'd be making them some money out of it. But also, we need this. When it comes to any kind of struggle, we go towards the arts and music, we always have done for centuries. As long as music has existed, when there's a problem, like when New York went through its mad depression, people turn to music and art."
"When it comes to any kind of struggle, we go towards the arts and music, we always have done for centuries. As long as music has existed, when there's a problem, like when New York went through its mad depression, people turn to music and art."
Is that what you're trying to do by opening a gallery? Giving people an outlet through art?
"I think so. I just have a good vision and I want people to see it. Anything with integrity takes a lot of heart and soul, and the community of drum ’n’ bass music has taken its whole ethos from the community of graffiti writers in that all of these people that have come through a lot of trauma are voicing their opinions through art. And this dirty thing that they called graffiti is now taking over the world in terms of the new renaissance without a shadow of a doubt. Even my friends at the Miami Graffiti Museum are documenting this stuff and now it's being recognised from a global point of view. So there's no argument that graffiti is not an art form, that would be like saying we should still be operating on coal."
So is that why you've chosen graffiti as the common theme of the gallery?
"People in the music industry always go "Oh my God, Goldie's painting now?" I'm like, "Well, that's a bit late. I've been painting all my life for as long as I can remember." I think I was 18 years old when I went to New York and met these prolific graffiti writers and they took me under their wing. They became my friends, and they propelled my life to where I am now. I have a lot to thank those people for because I'm still with the same crew I've been with for 36 years, the Tats Cru. I want to do that for young artists too, I want to be that guy. You know I've got a paint shop in the gallery, so if people want to paint, they can come in and paint. The other day I worked with this amazing local artist called Jecks. He's an amazing kid and he's self-taught. He's got a great style and he's just picking your ear about certain things. You show him certain writers and stuff that he never knew existed and it's blowing his mind — but he's already great."
What about your music career? Where does that stand at this point in your life?
"Well, I came to Thailand to retire…that went out the fucking window. I've been in Asia for seven years and since being here, I’ve done six fucking albums. It all started with ‘The Journey Man’ and coming here to make 'The Journey Man' was a godsend because it was like making an album without trauma — it was like real catharsis and enlightenment. And that started a whole bunch of other things like James Davison and I doing Subjective, and Subjective Two is done along with Subjective Three already in the can.
We also just launched Fallen Tree 1Hundred, a label which is also the soundtrack for a six-episode TV series I’ve written with Dan Caden and Clint Dyer called Sine Tempore — which is basically Latin for without time — and it’s a ridiculous soundtrack. The music would leave people on the dance floor scratching their heads. 99.9% of the albums that we are signing to Fallen Tree are all part of the soundtrack to the TV series, which is kind of unheard of because when you're dealing with TV and you're dealing with urban where it's difficult for record companies to hire any music from publishers. The amount of money they pay the artist just becomes too much. So we own all of the music, which is brilliant.
So it’s been a ridiculous amount of music but to finish your question with the desert, it's just seasonal — because I'm painting like a motherfucker now but come October, that's when I'm gonna hibernate and go, ‘Right, what music are we doing?’ Anyway, I thought it was gonna end at ‘The Journey Man, but it was actually the beginning of something completely new."
So right, you’ve been in Thailand for a long time now and I think a lot of people don’t know that. Are you full-time in Thailand, or are you splitting your time between there and the UK?
"Full-time — I just go and tour and come back — I don't like being away from my family. And Thailand’s given me a real life — the yoga and the meditation. When I go back there, it vibrates at such a fucking rate that I know I’m insane but the insane guy I speak to in my head, he's already enough to deal with. But then imagine having to deal with 12 of them in my head at any given time? It’s always been known to me that I have 12 crazies living in my head — one of them is a child that no one listens to and the rest are just fucking 11 other fucking crazies. But now, they’ve started listening to the little guy, which has been brilliant in Thailand. And they're all sitting around a table very amicably, discussing politics, COVID and stuff. But I also went to New Zealand for New Year’s Eve and smashed that to fucking bits because that's what I do — I still have the ability to do that because when you grow up in street culture, it doesn't just go away. It's hard when people get older in culture, they just think they’re going to be weak — but I'm firing on all cylinders."
And is that why you picked Thailand to be home to Aurum Gallery? Forget that you lived there, I want to understand why Thailand when your cultural history was bred in the west?
"Does New York need another gallery? Does London need another gallery? Does Miami need another gallery? I don't need to do something that's already been done. Financially, I don’t need money, nothing I’ve ever done has been motivated by that. Instead, I like the idea of having something that's culturally displaced. And Bangkok is a city that's growing and the Charoen Krung area reminds me of Shoreditch…when it was cool. 25 years ago in Shoreditch, there was nothing there too — no shops, no coffee shops, no fancy bullshit. But we made a cultural impact there and that’s what matters to me. So if we start a little fire over here, something good might come of it.
There are also a lot of artists who have never shown in Bangkok, like Odeith, Saturno or Nick Walker. There is a lot of tax here, if you want that fucking artist, you gotta pay that import duty. And we've done that. I put my money where my mouth is, excuse the pun. These guys have never shown, and some people wanna see that stuff.
There are two things in the world that run alongside: art and music, and one of those has been compromised. You can download music pretty much for free anywhere. But when it comes to art, it can't be downloaded — it’s so primal. You have to go into a space and sit with a painting. And I just want a whole bunch of people that have not seen these artists in the flesh to look at this stuff and go, "Wow, this is great." But also to have these really stupidly famous paintings next to a kid that no one really knows, I want to put exposure on those guys too."
"There are two things in the world that run alongside: art and music, and one of those has been compromised. You can download music pretty much for free anywhere. But when it comes to art, it can't be downloaded — it’s so primal. You have to go into a space and sit with a painting."
So what's the local and international split in terms of the artist that you're featuring?
"It’s about a 30/70 split but that's something that you kind of need…an international platform. I've gotten together all these artists that I have known for 35 years and some of them have never shown in Asia so there's a lot of high-end contemporary art but I think that this could be a good opportunity to balance that out. There are also some amazing local artists that I think outshine a lot of people — they just haven't had the exposure, that's all. But I hope that can be balanced equally, and that we can bring the provenance of these local Thai artists up."
And what is the local street art scene like in Thailand anyway?
"I can't explain what it's like, but I can see what I see. From an urban point of view, it's following the same model of what's been in Berlin and London for a long time — just 15 years behind. But all of a sudden this started changing, and people start changing their attitudes towards it. So it’s actually becoming a honey pot and people are coming here, taking cameras out and taking pictures. So, what I see is a lot of street art really coming up and it’s really starting to jump here in a lot of ways. The graffiti shop that sells all the paint? It was doing nothing five years ago and now it's like they got every colour in there."
Any stand out pieces to talk about or artists to look out for?
"Anything by Wal Chirachaisakul, P7 and Jecks. Wal Chirachaisakul has done some outstanding work and I can’t get over the P7 totem head. There is also a Britsh female artist named Toni Cogdell from Bristol, unheard of but she’s fucking amazing. I like the idea of keeping an open door and an open mind. I’m actually going to speak to this kid who manages street artists and I want to meet them all. It’s good for me to be in a place where no one knows me and I can meet these new kids that have got this new energy. I think there is going to be a lot of opportunities for young artists coming up and although I came here to be anonymous, if my name can shine some light onto these local artists, so be it."
Aurum Gallery officially opens to the public on July 4 at Warehouse 30, Soi Charoen Krung 30, Bangrak, Bangkok. Find more information on the website, Facebook page or on Instagram.