Straits Times’ Deepika Shetty and illusions of granduer: What does ‘well-heeled’ mean exactly in the world of art-appreciaters??

Straits Times Life (11 July 2011, page C3) prints an article by Deepika (their resident art-writer?) about ‘Designer Gallery’, a new space that had just opened up in town.

Commenting on the high prices of some of the artworks on sale, Deepika then turns to say “But the exhibition is not just for the well-heeled. Print works by XXX have a price tag of $6,000”.

OK, so according to Deepika’s usage of the English-language, I interpret that she is saying people who are NOT well-heeled (i.e. average, ‘unrich’ Singaporeans) can well afford a $6,000 painting.

B O L L O C K S ! According to Statistic Singapore (click ‘here‘), the average monthly household income in 2010 is S7,214. How this average home can fork out $6,000 for a ‘cheap’ painting, I don’t know.

So, I’m being bitchy again. In an art-world (and a booming Singapore) where a few liberal splashes of paint can easily command a 5-, 6- or 7-figure price tag, a $6,000 painting is indeed a bargain. My beef here is with Deepika and generally how the booming local art-market (and the popular media that is covering this rise) is perceived: Contemporary art is for those who can afford its high prices, or at least appreciate the finer things in life even if they can’t afford it.

I feel that art is one of those things that everybody can appreciate, even if some of us can’t afford to hoard expensive paintings at home for our own private enjoyment. As ‘the’ English-language newspaper in Singapore, I hope that the attitude of Straits Times changes. It should not only cover ‘high’ and expensive art, but also the ‘everyday’ art that is likely to be of more significance to most of us. When was the last time ST wrote an article featuring the artworks of children in a kids’ art competition? Or the paintings and pottery made by the physically-challenged for sale at their own fund-raiser? Or the artworks created by mentally-frail patients through art-therapy? I have one hanging in my bathroom bought from a institutionalised mentally-ill patient for less than $100, and it gives me immense joy as it reminds me daily about the power of art as a form of healing for him and as a connection with humanity for me. ST is of course welcome to cover arty-farty hoity-toity art, but they should also realise that art is for the ordinary people, and not just those who can afford to indulge in it as a bourgeois past-time.

Keep in mind, then, that a $6,000 painting is NOWHERE near ‘cheap’ for most who live in Singapore. I wonder if Deepika is well-heeled enough to buy stuff that are way more expensive, or does she, like the rest of us shmucks whose households earn less than $7,000/month, have to resort to just paying $10 to see them in museums instead? Oh wait, I’m sure Deepika, as the arts-reviewer, doesn’t even have to pay to get into our museums…

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2 responses to “Straits Times’ Deepika Shetty and illusions of granduer: What does ‘well-heeled’ mean exactly in the world of art-appreciaters??

  1. LOL !!! Another anecdote: I got an invite to the gallery in question, and while the folks there were very friendly and accommodating, a long-ish conversation I had with one of the owners left me rather stunned: I’d made some remark to the effect that more players on the local art scene meant more exposure for local audiences and thus more education, and her reply was “I’m not here to educate anyone. I want to sell art.”

    There’s candor for you …

    • And that is why I’ve always been a bit ‘hesitant’ to accept that commercial galleries also put up ‘exhibitions’ like museums. For the retail galleries, their ‘exhibitions’ aim to sell, and not educate. But an ‘Art Lelong’ to replace ‘Exhibition’ would hardly be appropriate for many of these hoity-toity establishments, would it??

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