About us

Under The Bo is a limited company established in 1992. It is based in Chiang Mai, Northern Thailand & deals mostly in a wide variety of used & antique objects pertaining to cultures from all over Asia & beyond.

It has an extensive international and local clientele, supply dealers, decorators, architects and the discerning private collector.

‘Under the Bo’ galleries are managed and directed by François Villaret, a French adventurer with an eye for the exquisite. He has been traveling relentlessly mostly in Asia, but also Africa for more than thirty years.

He managed an Asian art gallery in Paris in the early 1980’s, and then lived in India and Indonesia, where he discovered a passion for tribal art. He has been collecting unique pieces ever since.

In 1992, when the gallery was first opened it was called ใต้ร่มโพธิ์ ‘Tai Rom Po’ or ‘Under the Bo’ in Thai. The Bo tree is a ficus religiosa under which the Buddha attained enlightenment.

In his shops & warehouse spaces, François has chosen pieces from all over the world. Through careful selection of the most unusual objects, he sells dreams of different forms, cultures and usage. Even when the local market is saturated with lacquer ware, gilded teakwood carving & sculpture, silk weaving and silver jewelry, François is always able to spot, in that dusty old shop, the rare item in need of loving restoration or repair, which returns its original beauty with the added charm of its age & history.

Only a few weeks after opening his first shop the national Thai magazine พลอยแกมเพชร (15 มิถุนายน 2536 issue) recognized the quality of François’ taste & discernment. They published a 36 pages article including photos of one of Thailand’s most beautiful women & famous model, Penpark Sirikul, wearing tribal items collected by François, as well as the story surrounding an intense episode of his life when he almost lost his life.

The article gave the business a boost at its inception, bringing important collectors & celebrities. François worried about the, by now two galleries, meteoric & immediate success when the Asian economic crisis hit in 1997. In the end, time showed he worried needlessly, as his clients are so loyal, that instead of having to cut back, François has continued to increase and renew his stock. While many have gone out of business he has now opened a third showroom.

As the economy recovers, Thai customers are returning, though they are more choosey in their selection, more careful with their investments… This is encouraging to Under the Bo, as it keeps a high level of quality and fast turnover, so there is always something irresistible, or something overlooked on a previous visit!

From time to time François has museum quality pieces, but mostly he concentrates on selecting the best items of their kind and style, unique pieces, that are nevertheless affordable.

At first François concentrated on items from all corners of India and this country remains today a great source of his findings. Later his nomadic curiosity has brought objets d’art from Pakistan and Afghanistan, Borneo and Sumatra, Tibet and Nepal and the far flung regions of China, never before seen in this country. He has also taken to regular forays in neighboring Cambodia, Burma (Myanmar) and has of course selected items from Thailand itself. A part of his newly acquired collection of African pieces is now displayed at the gallery.

He had to open a small workshop of carefully chosen craftsmen for repair, restoration and sometimes re-condition of the imported pieces. But François realized he must find something for his artisans to do between the arrivals of shipments of antiques. Thus he now designs and manufactures furniture, often fusing aesthetics from diverse cultures, or works with clients who have unique decoration needs. His passion for the beautiful object makes him bore when the design is so popular that production becomes an assembly line. He prefers to turn such projects over to other bigger, more commercial workshops, while he concentrates on new designs.

Under the Bo is conscientious about the depletion of Thailand’s old forests and so always make sure anytime teak is used it is antique, often from old farmhouses being torn down to make way for modern concrete counterparts. Otherwise François uses jack wood, a beautifully grained fruit tree, more recently oak & cypress imported from Europe. Furthermore Under the Bo is responsible for planting over 15,000 seedlings of indigenous trees, mostly teak, in a wide degenerated forest, for future generations.

We hope you will take the invitation we extend to browse through François’ prized objects, confident you will find something to your taste.

July 2005