The Singapore government has earned a reputation of sorts for being the most disciplinarian where chewing gum or throwing rubbish on the road can invite compulsory caning. At the other end, the government is encouraging avant-garde art work. As you know, the avant-garde artists or their art work are anything but spic and span or stick to the rules.
It appears Singapore’s rulers are stretching their own rules for considerations such as being modern art lover and at the same time strict disciplinarian. Last month Singapore in fact encouraged Art Stage Singapore, a commercial fair and festival of contemporary art. Besides, a sprawling art gallery has come up on Gillman Barracks, an old British Army barracks that the authorities got renovated into a contemporary-art complex. There’s room in the barracks for 17 commercial galleries and a nonprofit center stretching over 15 acres.
If you start believing that the government is for once lowering its guard on morals you may not be right even for a moment. There are rules even for art for art’s sake. Every exhibition and performance has to submit its plans beforehand and seek permission from the censors at the Media Development Authority. Only after its approval does an avant-garde artist can go ahead with their work or performance for exhibition.
The man behind the government’s ambivalence to modern art is Eugene Tan, the elegant Singaporean. He runs Gillman for the Lifestyle Programme Office of the Economic Development Board, which looks after the business end of arts. With a PhD in Time in Contemporary Art and Nonprofit, Eugene has apparently impressed on the government about art for art’s sake.