Recovering a Love of Art in the New Normal

Damrong Wong-upraj’s large portrait greets visitors on the 8th floor (Photo by Veena Thoopkrajae)

After another Covid-related shutdown, the BACC opens its doors again to art-hungry enthusiasts

Proving that art always has a place in people’s hearts, more than 500 art enthusiasts turned out on June 22 to celebrate the re-opening of the Bangkok Art and Culture Centre (BACC) after a two-month shutdown caused by COVID-19.

The warm welcome was a clear signal that public art venues, especially one with generous space and good air-circulation, are still very much wanted even in uncertain times.

Closed on April 29 in an attempt to contain the third wave of the coronavirus, BACC is marking its return with 3 art exhibitions including a new fund-raising show at the main gallery on the 9th floor. Sadly, though, more than half the shops in the building remain shuttered, their takings so low during the pandemic that they were unable to survive.

A staff member holds a sign to remind every visitor to wear a face mask. (Photo by Veena Thoopkrajae)

Since opening its doors to the public in 2008, the cultural centre has been a meeting place for art lovers and artists and a venue for a wide range of cultural events. But it too is facing financial challenges. Its operator, the BACC Foundation, which is at the helm for next 10 years, is struggling to find sufficient funding for the operation.

This sorry state of affairs has led to the launch of the “BACC Fundraising Project 2021”, an initiative that aims to engage the public in lending support to the BACC so it can continue to serve as the “People’s Art Centre”.  The programme is kicking off with “People to People”, an exhibition of contemporary artworks donated by 58 artists with the money raised from sales going towards the funding needed for future operations. Art lovers can contribute by supporting the artworks.

The mixed media exhibition showcases a variety of contemporary artworks including drawings, paintings, prints, photographs and sculptures. Each artwork displays the artist’s name, details and price. Ones that are “taken” have coloured stickers attached, signalling that they are unavailable. On the first day alone, almost 10 pieces were booked. To support artists and the centre from home, the exhibition can be viewed on the BAAC Facebook page. Anyone wishing to reserve one or more pieces should contact Mr. Pichairat Mekchai. The show continues through July 18.

Damrong Wong-upraj’s abstract work in 1961 [Courtesy of MoNwic] (Photo by Veena Thoopkrajae)
There is enough space for everyone on the 9th Floor though the staff is ensuring that the number of visitors is limited to 100 in each round. The first day brought 566 people but while the number is very modest, it shows that the centre is still among the first choices for Bangkokians wanting to indulge their senses.

Visitors to the BAAC should also visit the main gallery on the 8th floor where the works of the 1999 National Artist in Visual Arts Damrong Wong-upraj are on show. “Damrong Wong-upraj: A Retrospective of Versatility and Discipline”, which continues until July 25, comprises 70 prints and paintings, excerpts from academic articles and video interviews of people close to him at different times in his life. Together they paint an intimate portrait of his works and thoughts, explore the trajectory of his expanded horizons, and his contribution to the Thai art scene as a whole.

The two main exhibitions provide a welcome break for anyone wanting to escape thinking and worrying the current outbreak.

Black-and-white photographs by Charnpichit Pongtongsumran (Photo by Veena Thoopkrajae)

Visitors should also spare a little time to stop off on the 3rd floor, home to an exhibition titled “BACC 12”, which takes viewers back through time to where it all began and remembers the people involved in the project as well as the cultural activities that have been held in this unique building. Here, as well as in the BACC shop on the 5th floor, art lovers can show their support with a 50 baht donation and receive a postcard commemorative postcard of their choice.

By Veena Thoopkrajae

A wooden sculpture by Thanatcha Chairin (Photo by Veena Thoopkrajae)


A painting on a paper sculpture, the style of which is inspired by late Princess Marsi (Photo by Veena Thoopkrajae)


Part of Damrong Wong-upraj’s collection was inspired by Japanese art. (Photo by Veena Thoopkrajae)


Paintings by Kingtun in “The People to People” (Photo by Veena Thoopkrajae)


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