BANGKOK — The director of the city’s largest downtown cultural center said that the city’s desire to take it over and turn it into a co-working space is ill-considered.
A day after Bangkok Gov. Gov. Aswin Kwanmuang said he wanted to take control of the Bangkok Arts and Culture Centre, or BACC, and turn it into a co-working space, the facility’s director said the 10-year-old art center’s future was in jeopardy.
“The BACC is the pride of Bangkokians and Thais. So it’s strange why this issue is coming up for the BACC which has been running so smooth as of late. I suppose this is an era where anything can happen,” Pawit said Saturday night in an interview. “Neither the governor nor the people on the BMA council are elected.”
Gov. Aswin Kwanmuang said on Friday the Bangkok Metropolitan Administration is looking at taking over management of the BACC so the city can monitor its finances and turn the building into a co-working space for students to do homework and read.
“The management by the BACC foundation is full of various inconveniences, such as an insufficient number of chairs and tables,” Aswin said. “Each year the city supports the BACC with 40 million baht. If we could manage this money ourselves, we could develop the center in appropriate ways.”
Aswin was installed as provincial governor by the ruling junta after his popularly elected predecessor became tainted by a corruption scandal.
The BMA department of culture, sports and tourism could tentatively be in charge of managing the center, the governor said, with increased commercial tenants to bring in more revenue. City Hall officials will meet Tuesday to discuss the matter, he added.
Pawit said city administors have not contacted him or the center yet, despite Aswin broadcasting his intentions across the media and online Friday. Pawit said he heard the city is already planning to order and install 2,000 sets of tables and chairs inside the building to turn it into a co-working space.
“This shows they already see the BACC in a different way. It’s an art and culture center, not the kind of co-working space that is trending in the private sector,” Pawit said. “This is pretty much the only place where you can listen to seminars and music, view art and sit and work all in the same building for free.”
“If this turns out to be true, then the exhibitions floors from the seventh to ninth floors would just be filled with tables and chairs. It wasn’t built to be used like that,” he said.
The center has also hosted some provocative exhibitions of the kind unlikely to go over well with some in the halls of power. And since the 2014 coup, its vicinity has become a routine location for pro-democracy rallies.
As for the 40 million baht that city government claims to give the BACC each year, Pawit said that number’s been inconsistent: Some years have seen that much from city coffers, while others have seen none – including 2018.
Much of the operating budget, which ranges from 75 million baht to 90 million a year, have to be obtained from donors and corporate sponsors.
“Some years we haven’t made a profit, but we still had savings. Otherwise, we couldn’t survive,” Pawit said.
He also said it’s contract to use the land, signed in 2011, doesn’t expire until 2021.The art world has expressed its consternation with the news, with discussion taking place on social media using the hashtag #YourBACC, and a Change.org petition opposed to the move.