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Art for art’s sake, please




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By Tan Bah Bah

I suspect that the people behind any project to promote art in the HDB heartland has a kind of self-preservation checklist.

There must be no obscenity – check. No reproduction of The Scream or Mona Lisa or risk getting sued – check. Don’t anyhow draw Shrek, or end up paying copyright fee – check.

Avoid producing scenes of filthy lifts or cluttered corridors – check. If you have to portray any race, make sure the other races get equal play  – check. This cannot, that cannot.

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Someone then has a bright idea and presents it to the Committee:  “Members of the Committee on Artistic Endeavours and Excellence in the Heartland,  try Fusion HDB Style. Apply the Picasso modernist touch to any subject. The beauty of this approach is that you can draw anything you like –  kampong maidens carrying buckets of water, Night Safari animals staring blankly at visitors, kopitiam goings-on, neighbours quarrelling and so on and all in approved cubistic shapes. Voila.

All are very standardised and anodine, as to be a massive yawn. And we want art to inspire and evoke emotions?

I look at the ‘work’ done for the Void Deck Art Gallery in Gek Poh Ville and am saddened. Is this the best we can offer by way of wall murals after 50 years of existence as a nation?

The ‘murals’ have no more life than a wallpaper.

We have turned two iconic buildings  – the Supreme Court and City Hall- into a spectacular $530 million National Gallery housing the world’s largest collection of South-east Asian art. One of the plans, I gather, is to promote art in the heartland, really promote, art.

Don’t just go for the lowest common denominator. It’s downright insulting.

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