A finger in every (art) pie: The government and public art projects in Singapore

I saw this article on Channelnewasia online “Void-deck art galleries to be launched in Jurong” (click here). The moment I saw the title, I immediately wondered about the ways the government is involved in this project. Why did I instinctively think that way? Govt-linked institutions like Singapore Art Museum proudly say “Community outreach continues to be an important area of the Museum’s function”. The National Arts Council raves about “bring[ing] the arts to where people work, live and play” and “a myriad of arts activities to encourage community arts participation and to inspire lifelong engagement in the arts”. If I did a straw-poll today, I am confident that most would agree that public art projects/exhibitions and the government are like peas in a pod.

To my pleasant surprise, the void deck galleries in Jurong are managed by non-profit arts enterprise Social Creatives with no govt involvement at all. Nothing about SAM, NAC, NHB… nothing.

I should be happy (and I am). Art does belong to everyone. It is only right that some art projects are privately-socially funded, and presented in non-intimidating spaces that are free and accessible.

But sometimes in the Singapore ‘public’ art scene – with govt-money thrown at million dollar biennales (I bet you many Singaporean taxpayers who fund this regular exhibition can’t even pronounce the word, let alone having to make the effort to see the exhibits) and multi-million dollar art museums – public art (read ‘atas’ or snooty art as mentioned in the CnA article) in Singapore seems to be dictated from top-down, and from a ‘if-you-don’t-understand-high-art-then-you-should-move-along’ perspective.

Be glad that there are some out there who are taking some of the public-art initiatives out of government hands.  

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