Thawan's 'Black House' commences charging visitors
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Thawan's 'Black House' commences charging visitors

Baandam Museum director Doytibet Duchanee (in black) poses for a photo with a visitor. (Photo by Chinnaphat Chaiyamol)
Baandam Museum director Doytibet Duchanee (in black) poses for a photo with a visitor. (Photo by Chinnaphat Chaiyamol)

CHIANG RAI -- The iconic Baandam Museum created by the late master artist Thawan Duchanee has begun charging all visitors an 80-baht admission fee for the first time in 40 years, starting on Dec 1.

“Since Baandam was built more than 40 years ago, we’ve never charged visitors, and its expenses were met by the family, from my father's generation to my generation,” Thawan’s son Doytibet, who is managing director of Baandam, said on Thursday.

“But now the monthly expense of running Baandam has gone up to one million baht. So for Baandam to survive, we need to impose an entry fee to cover operating and maintenance costs.”

Thawan Duchanee visited his art exhibition at Siam Paragon shopping centre in this file photo of Dec 16, 2103.

Mr Doytibet said the museum had arranged additional services for its visitors such as distribution of 100,000 limited edition prints on paper of Thawan’s painting “Battle of Mara 2010“, on-site tour guides in Thai, Chinese and English, and cultural performances on weekends. The museum has also increased its staff from 40 to 60.  

On Oct 1, Wat Rong Khun, better known as the White Temple, in Muang district began to charge foreign visitors 50 baht, while there were no entry fees for Thais. Renowned national artist and creator of the temple Chalermchai Kositpipat, a friend of Thawan, said the admission fee would be used for the temple's management.

Baandam Museum, also known as Black House Museum, is one of the top 10 tourist attractions in Chiang Rai. It is a collection of almost 40 houses, reflecting the architectural cosmology of Thawan’s philosophy while providing a museum setting for his love of the dazzling as well as the macabre.

The houses, built on a 100-rai plot in tambon Nang Lae of Muang district, are made of wood, glass, concrete, brick and terracotta and they house Thawan’s collections of paintings, sculptures, silver, gold, animal bones, skins, woodwork carvings, and buffalo horns.

The venue is also the home of the late National Artist when he was alive. The internationally renowned artist died of hepatitis in September 2014. 

The museum said in a statement released in early November that “the houses have run down because of old age and that they are mostly built of wood". 

"Other problems include earthquakes, floods, thunderstorms and termites. So we need to constantly maintain and repair them," the administrators said.

“The museum also has to build more facilities to provide convenience and accommodate visitors who are increasing every year”.

About 40 years ago, Thawan turned his abode into a museum, exhibiting his paintings and other art pieces. All of the buildings were painted in black, in keeping with its name and because it was his favourite colour. 

His works have been shown across the globe, with solo exhibitions in Bangkok, Amsterdam, Paris, Japan, Australia and the United States. Among his famous works is the series Maravijaya, some of which are on display at Baandam.

“I’m a painter. All the carcasses here are for sharpening my imagination, starting with nature,” he once said of Baandam. 

“Everything in here represents the circle of life — birth, ageing and decay.”

Foreign visitors purchase souvenirs at Baandam Museum. Thais and foreigners will be charged 80 baht entry to the museum from Dec 1. (Photo by Chinnaphat Chaiyamol)

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