Monday, July 22, 2019

Cash-strapped BACC counts on friends in deed

Jun 08. 2018
The exhibition “In the Kingdom: 140th Anniversary of B Grimm” opening today is most prominent among efforts to sustain the Bangkok Art and Culture Centre. Photo courtesy of BACC
The exhibition “In the Kingdom: 140th Anniversary of B Grimm” opening today is most prominent among efforts to sustain the Bangkok Art and Culture Centre. Photo courtesy of BACC
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By Phatarawadee Phataranawik
The Sunday Nation

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EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW: A major B Grimm exhibition leads a busy roster of shows and events despite dire finances

The Bangkok Art and Culture Centre (BACC) Foundation is about to raise its profile as vice chairperson Panya Vijinthanasarn and committee secretary Chatvichai Promadhattavedi seek a meeting with the city’s unimpressed governor, Aswin Kwanmuang, about funding support and sustainable management. 

Whether the meeting is arranged or not, the foundation is organising a press conference to unveil an action plan later this month.

The move follows the Bangkok Metropolitan Administration’s (BMA’s) decision last month to establish a committee to study the way the controversial culture centre is managed. Eleven members are to be selected for the committee within 90 days.

BMA failure to contribute to BACC funding this year has left it struggling financially, but it still has plenty of supporters, including the Thai affiliate of multinational conglomerate B Grimm.

The fund-raising exhibition “In the Kingdom: 140th Anniversary of B Grimm” opening today (June 10) demonstrates how the private sector can help keep the arts alive. Continuing through June 20, the show also commemorates the BACC’s 10th anniversary.

Part of the exhibition focuses on the history of diplomatic relations between Thailand and Germany through postal artefacts – letters, postcards and stationery from the company’s collection. A second part constitutes contemporary art illustrations of B Grimm’s corporate philosophy – commissioned pieces by 12 leading Thai artists, plus three works on loan for the show. 

“We want to raise funds for the BACC because it’s facing a financial crisis,” curator Somsuda Piamsumrit told The Nation.

“B Grimm spent more that Bt4 million in mounting this exhibition. Over Bt3 million of that went to the commissioned artists, whose works will be sold, and the rest covers the rent.”

Somsuda urged collectors and other art lovers to view the show and make a purchase to support the centre.

BACC director Pawit Mahasarinand said he appreciated the “truly special” project. 

  “The content of the exhibition is also educational and inspirational for the general public,” he said. “If all of the artworks are sold, I’m hoping we’ll get a few million baht, which will greatly help us continue our activities here.”

Regardless of the funding shortfall, the BACC will host all of the exhibitions and festivals previously planned for this year. Later this month “Beyond the Air We Breathe” will be on display on the ninth floor, featuring images by world-renowned photographers. Next month’s “PhotoBangkok” will occupy most floors. 

In August, the Performative Art Festival resumes with the premieres of three interdisciplinary works. September brings the third annual “Early Years Project”, and October the start of the inaugural Bangkok Art Biennale and the 20th annual performing arts festival Asiatopia. 

The Bangkok Theatre Festival and International Dance Festival return in November, and Her Royal Highness Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn will have her 10th and largest photo exhibition in December.

“We’re doing all of this,” said Pawit, “despite the fact that we haven’t been able to reimburse any project organisers through the Office of Culture, Sports and Tourism, where our Bt40-million budget is frozen until September 30, when it will be transferred to the Ministry of Finance. We’re doing all of this knowing that the more we spend, the shorter the time we have left.”

Pawit believes that, if the funding blockade continues, the programming will really feel the sting next year.

“Take our ‘Art Brut’ exhibition as one example: It’s all artwork created by mentally challenged people, and it has generous Japanese sponsors, but the planned ‘Art and Therapy’ exhibition and film screenings and performing arts that would nicely complement ‘Art Brut’ would have to be cancelled.”

“This year we’ve already reduced our support for Asiatopia and the Bangkok Theatre Festival, which affected hundreds of artists,

“Without the educational programmes, the public only sees the exhibited works. Hopefully the BMA will continue to pay our electricity bills – otherwise people might have to use their phone flashlights. But there will be no complementary programmes to inform, educate and inspire and the BACC will be less vibrant. 

“We won’t cut the educational programmes for students in BMA-run schools, though, because that’s written in our contract.”

The BACC also has foreign cultural partners who have continued their strong support, Pawit said. The “Cinema Diverse” programme will continue next month with the screening of the acclaimed French film “Girlhood”. 

“It’s also part of the French Embassy’s “French Highlights” programme,” Pawit said, “and their team has been very helpful and generous.

“We look forward to more collaborations like this with other countries too.”

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