STRIPPED of funding from City Hall, the cash-strapped Bangkok Art and Culture Centre (BACC) has been forced to reduce its opening hours for the first time since launching as the capital’s art hub a decade ago.
“Without financial support from the Bangkok Metropolitan Administration [BMA] for two years, the BACC is facing financial crisis,” the arts centre announced on Sunday. “We are not closing the centre, but we are tightening our belt by reducing operating hours and cutting down activities. This will impact artists exhibiting at the upcoming international Bangkok Art Biennale and Theatre Festivals, shop owners and visitors.”
The announcement spread quickly across social media as art lovers and artists voiced concern.
BACC director Pawit Mahasarinand gave no details of the impact of the cost-cutting, but asked media to join an event at the centre on Wednesday at 1.30pm where over 40 staff plus 80 artists and many shop owners will attend, all clad in black.
City Hall has cut about Bt80 million in annual support over the past two years, forcing the BACC to seek funding from the business sector and donations from the public. Money is so short that paying electricity and water bills has become a problem.
Drawing by Vasan Sitthiket
In May, the BMA moved to take control of the centre’s operations from the non-profit Bangkok Art and Culture Centre Foundation.
But a four-month public campaign led by the Artists Network under the hashtag slogan #freebacc drew more than 20,000 supporters. They have so far managed to fight off the attempted takeover.
Sunday’s news of the cost-cutting measures has seen an additional 600 people back the BACC’s independence at www.change.org. As of yesterday, a total of 20,600 had registered their support.
“BACC is the only arts oasis in the capital,” young artist Nat Sumanateya wrote on Facebook. “Since it opened, it has become the public art hub, where both artists and the general public can enjoy and learn.”
Wrote Sittikun Bun-itt: “My daughter always hangs out at the art centre, which has helped her to appreciate and love art. You [the BMA] will destroy the value of this arts centre for the young generation.”
The BACC is co-hosting international works at the Bangkok Art Biennale, but shortened opening hours will affect the festival. Critics say this will damage the Kingdom’s reputation as a venue for big art shows.
Social activist Pibhob Thongchai is among those encouraging the public to call City Hall hotline 1555 and ask the BMA to support the art centre. He also asked Electric Metropolitan Authority and Metropolitan Waterworks Authority to waive the BACC’s utility debts.