11,000 signatures and rising.

A petition to stop controversial plans to turn Bangkok Arts and Culture Center (BACC) into a coworking space is gathering pace, with the future of the center potentially decided tomorrow (May 15).  

Last Thursday, Bangkok Governor Asawin Kwanmuang announced plans for the Bangkok Metropolitan Administration (BMA) to take over the BACC’s operations from the non-profit Bangkok Art and Culture Centre Foundation, much to the dismay of the local art community.

“As the BMA annually provides B40 million in funding to the foundation, it is better that BMA officials operate the city centre,” the governor was reported as saying by The Nation.

As part of the plan the BMA would reportedly lease the ground-floor area in order to recoup losses and convert the exhibition floors into a “learning centre.”

In a report by Khaosod English, Pawit Mahasarinand, director of the BACC, said he heard City Hall is already planning to install 2,000 sets of tables and chairs inside the building in order 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,” he's reported as saying. 

Outspoken artist Vasan Sitthiket and other members of the Thai Artists’ Network, the art movement that played an integral role in pushing through the launch of the art center 10 years ago, have also criticized the decision.

On Saturday, Kallaya Kassakul, the network’s coordinator, posted a petition on Change.org calling on BACC supporters to #freebacc from the BMA. As of Monday midday, the petition’s collected nearly 12,000 signatures from people throwing their support behind the Bangkok Art and Culture Centre Foundation continuing to run the centre.

The Artists’ Network will hold a meeting at the BACC tomorrow to discuss the future of the centre, including a proposed letter to PM General Prayut Chan-o-cha asking for the dismissal of Bangkok Governor Asawin Kwanmuang over the takeover plans.

That same day the Bangkok governor will also hold a meeting with BMA executives to decide the fate of the BACC.

Opened in 2008, the BACC is Bangkok’s premier art and is located amid the gleaming malls of Siam, one of the capital's prime areas for foot-traffic. The centre welcomed over 1.7 million visitors in 2017. Its exhibitions are also known for their occasionally provocative subject matter.