Acting Minister implying that local/regional art cannot draw crowds like blockbusters can

Acting Minister for Culture, Community and Youth Mr Lawrence Wong said “A stronger focus on local development and content rather than international “blockbusters” may have contributed to the decline in visitorship at the Singapore Art Museum” (click here for the report).

This implies that blockbusters with international content draw more visitors than exhibitions focusing on local/regional art content.

I beg to differ Minister. Here are a few ideas for you to play with:

1. Nudes of Southeast Asia, for obvious reasons. Make it ‘RA18+’, and surely old men with umbrellas will queue for this?

2. Sacred Buddhist art of Thailand, Laos and Cambodia (incorporating relics of Buddha). Just because of the relics, lots of devotees will show up.

3. Exhibiting local/regional art side-by-side with European Masters, to draw links between the two. Imagine old Indonesian Masters next to Gauguin, tribal Indonesia art next to Primitivism pieces by artists like Picasso. Perfect way of combining a foreign blockbuster with local/regional art.

4. Tribal art of Southeast. Not as anthropological curiosities, but as a ‘primal’ form of art.

5. Controversial local art. Many artists have gotten into trouble before for art that strays from what is sanctioned (from performing the snipping of pubic hair to appropriating the Singapore flag in designs). I’d like to see a curated exhibition of such art, thoughtfully set against the backdrop of what is ‘censorship’.

6. Exhibitions on local art/craft with strong ‘ethnic’ content, such as ‘Art of local Indian Rangoli’, ‘Henna designs’, ‘Chinese embroidery, ‘Malay wedding decorations’ etc. Such exhibitions should at least draw good numbers from the relevant ethnic groups and also local schools who want to learn more about ‘racial harmony’.

SAM will forever be the forgotten child, now that the much larger, much more extravagant National Art Gallery is going to steal all its thunder. But rather than rolling over and blaming local/regional content for lower visitorship, there’s a lot more that can be done. Come on SAM. You were 1st in Singapore. You’ve done a lot for art appreciation in Singapore. Don’t give up your throne so readily.

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