Would you pay over 200,000 baht for a painting that you cannot hang even in your house? A group of businessmen has won the bid for a portrait of an exiled historian by a satirical cartoon page. One of them said that he has to keep the artwork secret due to its sensitivity.
The satirical cartoon page Khai Maew has made a stunning return after the portrait of the exiled historian was sold for 221,120 baht at last Sunday’s auction.
On 18 February 2018, the portrait by Khai Maew, with the signature of exiled monarchy critic Somsak Jeamteerasakul, was sold at auction for 221,120 baht. The sale was conducted by the Facebook page Sell Everything in the World
and all the money will be donated to the Fund for Political Prisoners and Prisoners of Conscience.
One of the businessmen who won the bid (name withheld due to privacy concerns) revealed to Prachatai that he and his friends want to support political prisoners, so they jointly bid in the auction. He also thinks that this painting is a crucial memento of the Thai political conflict.
“I think that cartoons satirising politics are an expression of opinion that is peaceful and causes no trouble or annoyance if we compare it to earlier movements,” said the successful bidder. "It uses creativity in line with my taste."
He added that as businessmen, he and his friends would have to keep this work very private since they have to work with all stakeholders, including government officials. Being seen as having radical political thoughts may have repercussions on their businesses. “We have had to keep our political stance very private.”
He identified himself as a liberal. The 36-year-old Thai-Chinese told Prachatai that he was educated in Australia.
The portrait was produced by the political cartoon Facebook page Khai Maew X
, who just made a comeback after mysteriously disappearing in January. The page had over 400,000 followers on Facebook by the time it went missing.
The portrait of Somsak features the historian feeding pizza to his cat with the Eiffel Tower in the background. The pizza symbolises Article 112 of the Criminal Code, the lèse majesté law, since the number 112 resembles a pizza delivery hotline.
Khai Maew was voted the most influential Facebook page of the year 2017, according to an online poll organised by Prachatai.
Khai Maew, literally translated as Cat Balls, shows cartoons parodying Thai politics. The gags are quick responses to hot and controversial issues of the moment. The style resembles that of Joan Cornellà in which the characters do not talk and usually feature in four boxes for the readers to read from left to right and top to bottom.
The regular characters in Khai Meaw include a square-face businessman resembling the exiled PM Thaksin Shinawatra, a soldier with toothbrush moustache representing the junta leader Gen Prayut Chan-o-cha and an uncle with a creepy smile mirroring Suthep Thaugsuban, leader of the anti-election protest in 2014.