Bangkok Art and Culture Centre, Art & Politics

Nov 24, 2018

A visit to the Bangkok Arts and Culture Centre (BACC) is a must for contemporary art lovers. It stands out on the corner of the Pathumwan intersection amongst the shopping centres. There are some interesting sculptures in the front square – so you won’t miss it!

Both the inside and outside the building is reminiscent of the Guggenheim in New York, with its huge white curving facade and spiral walkways and its spiral walkway connecting the upper floors. The nine-story vibrant art centre, includes galleries, performance spaces, a library, and auditorium. It provides cultural and international programmes of exhibitions, music, films, dance and performing arts. BACC is directly accessible directly from the Sky Train station and has become a meeting place for young and old artists and creatives.

The  artHUB@bacc has more than 30 unique shops and cafés offering unique art-inspired items and dining experiences.

The BACC is celebrating its 10th anniversary and has had a record 1.8 million visitors over the past year.  We were lucky enough to visit in November when the BACC was playing host to Bangkok’s first major international art biennale. The inaugural event tackles often-censored topics such as sex work and Thailand’s war-torn south. It has attracted some of the art world’s biggest names – from the performance artist Marina Abramović to the Japanese sculptor Yayoi Kusama.

Choi Jeong Hwa’s ‘Happy Happy Project imposing artwork hung all the way down the central atrium was the first work that confronted us when we entered the building. This installation inspired by the everyday and recycled objects covers many of the eleven floors of the building.

Choi Jeong Hwa (South Korea) ‘Happy Happy Project: Basket’

 Sunanta Phasomwong creates dark macabre sculptures reflect sorrow, frustration, and family relationships using black wire as the primary material.

Sunanta Phasomwong (Thailand) “The State of suffering (Mental Therapy)”

Fiona Hall ‘Forest Floor’ depicts a shadowed forest with dark secrets buried within understory. Skeletal parts painted on bottles strewn like leaves act as the residue of conflicts and genocides. The artist has painted in white on beer bottles and for some body parts, like the hands, skull and pelvic bones, has used a broken off part of the bottle.

Fiona Hall (Australia) ‘Forest Floor’ 2018 oil paint on glass

The journey of BACC has not been an easy one. The centre opened 2008, 13 years after the idea was first suggested. Political stumbling blocks, changes in government and granting funding prolonged the process. Advocacy by the Thai Artists’ Network paid off today the BACC dedicates itself to providing somewhere for locals and visitors to define and explore art and culture.

Unfortunately, the struggle is not over. A year after the Bangkok city government stopped granting funds set aside for the centre, it’s fate hangs in the which has prompted another #SaveBACC campaign. BACC director, Pawit Mahasarinand, believes it might have something to do with the BACC being a hub for protesters and that the art is seen as too provocative. In 2014, the BACC plaza became a gathering place for protesters during the tense months leading up to the ousting of prime minister Yingluck Shinawatra.

“There are always people who say art should not be political but art cannot avoid politics. People have an opinion about things and express it through art. It is important for any democratic society to give space to that and I want to keep it that way.”

Pawit Mahasarinand, Director, Bangkok Art and Culture Centrein an interview with the South China Morning Post

Make sure you visit the BACC when in Bangkok…hopefully, the doors are still open.