Mystery of the Day: Singapore Biennale “a big hit”, according to Straits Times, 17 May 2011

Hahahaa! It was a good way to start a public holiday. The ST Life section pgC6 reported that despite worries that the Biennale would not be well-attended, it printed that about 912,897 visitors to the multi-sited show.

But wait a minute. As I’ve already noted, the National Heritage Board (and perhaps all other statutory boards that count ‘visitorship’ as a key-performance-indicator) commonly inflates the numbers of visitors to some its events (click ‘here‘). This Biennale seems to be one of those.

The total of indoor visitors to the Biennale was only 196,000, out of the grand total of 913,000. These 200,000 can be considered ‘real’ visitors as they had SPECIFICALLY entered premises where artworks were exhibited within. These I think can be counted as ‘genuine’ visitors as they had intended to visit the Biennale and were likely to have spent significant amount of time viewing/learning about the artworks. Fair and square.

But what about the majority of the 717,000 ‘visitors’ who were not ‘indoor or admitted visitors’??? These are the mysterious ‘outdoor visitor figures’ as reported in the ST. For someone to be counted as an ‘outdoor visitor figure’, s/he must have had ”clear and deliberate eye contact with the artwork”.

Hahaha. In that case, I request that the Singapore Art Museum revise its figures from 912,897 to 912,898, for I had to driven past the boxed-up Merlion and maintained ”clear and deliberate eye contact with the artwork”. Hey wait! I’ve driven past it more than once, so maybe the figures should be 912,908. Oh….! What about the thousands of office workers who work in buildings around the Merlion and had on a daily basis made ”clear and deliberate eye contact with the artwork’? Ok then, 918,739. And then there were the 1000s of sailors who sailed up and down Clifford Pier who had good views of the boxed-up Merlion…….

The real question is, for SAM, how does it count the people who had made ”clear and deliberate eye contact with the artwork”. It’s easy with an indoor display (with staff counting, or using other automatic electronic devices), but who from SAM stood outside the Merlion (and other outdoor displays) to count the 700,000+ ‘outdoor visitors’??? If there was ever an audit of visitorship, these numbers will never stand up to scrutiny.

So, let’s wait and see how many visitors the next Biennale would bring in. Surely it must cross the 1,000,000 mark… woo-hoo-wee!

P.S. Had a brilliant thought for SAM when it organises the next Biennale in a few years! Put some artworks in all 3 terminals at Changi Airport. WIth about 40,000,000 million passengers passing through annually (or about 3,000,000 or so per month), the month-long Biennale would then report visitorship of at least 2,000,000 to 3,000,000 of whom would have had ”clear and deliberate eye contact with the artworks”. And unlike Kallang Airport, people won’t complain about it being hard to find Changi Airport! You can take my idea for free!

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4 Comments

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4 responses to “Mystery of the Day: Singapore Biennale “a big hit”, according to Straits Times, 17 May 2011

  1. Pingback: Local museums and the ‘turf-war’ of what-is-your-is-not-really-yours | 23princessroad's Blog

  2. Pingback: Raffles torn apart: Thinking about Returns-on-Investment for heritage exhibitions in Singapore | 23princessroad's Blog

  3. Pingback: You say ’5,200,000′, I say ‘huh’?: Deepika Shetty’s easy way with heritage numbers | 23princessroad's Blog

  4. Pingback: Statistics, statistics and damn lies: a harmless accounting trick in the Singapore art/heritage scene? | 23princessroad's Blog

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