By Kornrawee Panyasuppakun
During a meeting with BACC executives yesterday, Deputy Bangkok Governor Thaweesak Lertprapan gave an assurance that the city administration would save the public art centre from a looming financial crisis.
Without subsidies from the Bangkok Metropolitan Administration (BMA), the BAAC has announced that it will have to cut opening hours by two hours a day, from 10am-9pm to 11am-8pm.
“We intend to urgently provide between Bt30million and Bt40 million to keep the facility running as usual throughout the coming year,” Thaweesak said, adding that further discussions on the subsidies would be held by the end of this week.
However, Thaweesak emphasised that the BMA would not alter its 2011 contract with the non-profit foundation, which states that it must shoulder its own operating costs.
In practice, the city has always supported the public art centre financially, donating about Bt40-60 million per year, to help it stay afloat.
BACC director Pawit Mahasarinand says the centre has been in a crisis ever since the city failed in its new budget to approve its application for funds. It is now required to provide details of its projects and activities, he added, and City Hall went a step further by suddenly deciding to revisit the contract, despite having supported the centre for many years.
Many netizens believed the move was part of a BMA attempt to take over the centre, which is situated in the heart of central Bangkok.
Thaweesak insists City Hall has no such plan and will not allow any private company to run the place either. “It is not the intention of Bangkok’s administration to let the private sector run the art centre,” he said.
“Right now we are figuring out how to improve management. We need better management and better people to run the place.”
He said the BMA was considering using either a non-profit organisation or a social enterprise to run the venue.
The BACC has been relying heavily on Bangkok’s contribution from public funds. In 2017, for example, the centre earned about Bt37 million from donations, sponsorship and by renting out space to craft stores. Altogether, Pawit said, that covered 45 per cent of its operating costs, while the other 55 per cent – or Bt45 million – was supported by City Hall.
Pawit told The Nation that the contract specified that the public art space must be open to the public and that admission to its exhibitions must be free.
He also said that in order to keep the spirit of an art centre, the BACC foundation could not rent out their spaces at high prices or the craft stores run by art lovers would be replaced by chain stores like Starbucks. “People coming to BACC want an art centre, they have enough shopping centres already,” he said.
According to their current contract, the BACC foundation will run the centre until 2021.