Archive for June 2011
We kinda took over the joint.
Nearly 30 people showed up for the art bloggers’ meet-and-greet yesterday at The Pigeonhole ! We weren’t expecting such an enthusiastic response, so props to everyone for turning up and making our first ever party a mondo hit.
Unfortunately, I forgot to whip out the camera in my pocket, so no photographic evidence of the revelry exists – but there’s always next time.
PM and I are thinking of making this a semi-regular thing. Interested individuals – who couldn’t make it last night – feel free to drop me a line with your e-mail addy.
A couple of weeks back I witnessed a work placed in the men’s room of a major local museum, but more on that later.
So there’s this Japanese video slash arcade game out there called Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure, based on Hirohiko Araki‘s manga of the same name. I won’t bore you with too many details, but suffice to say that it features people who have to power to manifest something called a “stand” – which I guess can be understood as a sort of preternatural entity with specific powers, like enhanced speed, or strength, or control over certain elements. One of the antagonists in the game is a young woman named Midler (yes, in homage to Bette), who prances around dressed in a flimsy veil and not much else. Her stand, the High Priestess, has the ability to manipulate inorganic substances into any object it pleases, and one of the stand’s fancier moves is called “Motor Show”, where it transforms itself into a series of neon-coloured Cadillac convertibles which materialize vertically from the ground to deal some serious damage to Midler’s opponents (below).
A clip of Midler. Start watching from the 1:50 mark to witness “Motor Show” in action.
Watch the clip first.
Ok, now, you artsy types out there, tell me: does it remind you of anything ?
As in, oh, say, a certain outdoor installation featuring cars half-buried in the ground ?
If anyone’s thinking of the Cadillac Ranch in Amarillo, Texas — bingo !
Cadillac Ranch is a piece by the ’60s artistic collective, Ant Farm, installed in a cow pasture some miles outside of the city of Amarillo in northern Texas. It’s basically a line of old Cadillac cars partially embedded in the ground at an angle of about 30 to 45 degrees, which apparently is meant to mirror the tilt of the Great Pyramid at Giza. It’s a pretty iconic piece, and for good reason: a procession of upended vehicles sticking out of the ground in the Texan desert, amidst the sand and the silence and the sun …
The cars are all covered with graffiti these days – user, erm, participation is encouraged – but look at the black-and-white picture above, and the inspiration for Midler’s “Motor Show” is undeniable. Maybe some game designer was sitting around, bored, and happened on a picture of the piece and thought: “Heyyyy …”
From ’70s installation slash land art to surreal Japanese video game – that’s quite a leap.
Hurrah for cultural globalization.
We knew this was coming, but still ……
The Post-Museum is shutting down, while the ASM continues to rake in the dollars. There’s no justice.
Below is a piece by Mayo Martin of For Art’s Sake! that discusses the fate of the P-M and the closure of Alan Oei’s Evil Empire gallery, and what that portends for the local visual arts scene – read the original here.
After Evil Empire, it’s Post-Museum’s turn to close shop next month. We take a look at the brief lives of two independent art spaces. By Mayo Martin.
In a shophouse at one end of Rowell Road, the sounds of Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band filled the air. It’s a typical early evening on a Wednesday, and the place, quaint vegan resto Food#3, had just opened for the day.
But in a few hours, people would start trickling in to grab a drink or a bite before heading upstairs to watch the award-winning documentary Darfur Now.
Two days after that, local musicians, artists and writers gathered for an exhibition and a talk on conversation sounds. And over the weekend, there was a nine-hour nonstop DJ gig and a mini-bazaar where everything was free.
By the end of next month, it’s all going to end. After four years, Post-Museum is closing shop and calling it a day.
Bringing up baby
From the moment it opened its doors on Aug 30, 2007, with a 56-hour durational work by performance artist Kai Lam, this unassuming independent art space in Little India has practically been everything to everyone – a venue for visual art exhibitions, film screenings, symposia and gigs; precious studio space for its artists-in-residence; and a meeting point for artists, students, civil society activists and even the occasional cubicle-bound office folk looking for something new. Heck, even its in-house eatery Food#3 was conceived as an art project.
Operated by husband-and-wife artists Woon Tien Wei and Jennifer Teo, Post-Museum was the logical extension of what they had previously been doing as part of the curatorial collective p-10. The latter was formed in 2004 as a reaction to the artist-centric atmosphere of the art scene. The group opened the doors of their own apartment space in Perumal Road for exhibitions and events that gave equal emphasis to the work of curators, arts administrators and critics, among others.
But it was, as Teo remarked, “still confined to visual art. We felt the impact was quite limited and we were really just interacting with art people”.
One interaction proved serendipitous. A businessman, who was also a painter, offered to lease out a nearby space at a discounted price.
“We were moving beyond just visual art and were actually looking at culture, how museums operate and how governments use culture for their own purposes. With Post-Museum, we were looking, in a way, of reclaiming this idea of culture,” said Teo.
Considering themselves “custodians”, she described the place as a living, breathing entity. “It’s like you have your baby and it kind of becomes its own person depending on the influences and what it learns. We kind of looked after it but anyone could come in and (contribute) whatever they thought could do good for the art scene and society. The idea was to be as open as possible.”
And that meant everything from student shows to talks by opposition party members to singles nights for vegetarians to organising soup kitchens for Little India’s less fortunate denizens.
But for artists with zero experience in something of this scale, it was a steep learning curve. “We learnt everything from scratch,” Teo recalled.
One of the biggest lessons perhaps was the difficulty in running an independent art space that is, well, independent from both government subsidy and corporate sponsorship. And this “social enterprise” hasn’t been working out.
Financial woes are one thing (it runs on roughly S$8,000 a month and has been “losing money every year”) – but even its utopian aims of having people from various fields coming together hasn’t exactly panned out.
“We realised that there were still many people who only came for things they were interested in and stayed in their own comfort zones, when what we really wanted to do was to get more people exposed to other things. We felt the potential hasn’t really been met. It’s not really happening the way we thought it would!” she laughed.
Empire strikes out
While The New York Times recently published an enthusiastic article about Singapore’s “expanding cultural realm” (offering as proof mostly trendy and hip boutique stores), it would seem quite the opposite when it comes to a number of independent art spaces.
Post-Museum’s impending closure comes at the heels of others. Last September, non-profit space Blackhole 212 at Syed Alwi Road, “an independently run community space for anybody who is interested in alternative lifestyle, music and arts”, hung up its guitar straps. In April, Evil Empire shut its doors over at Niven Road.
The brainchild of artist/curator Alan Oei, the cheekily named arts space presented some of the most unusual and exciting exhibitions and events, from holding a drawing contest and a faux auction, to hosting experimental theatre group Cake’s fifth anniversary performance-cum-installation event, to organising the highly successful Open House exhibition at a Marine Parade HDB estate.
Evil Empire, which officially opened last April with the exhibition Child’s Play, was “an accident waiting to happen”, said Oei, who had previously organised two exhibitions held in unusual places: Blackout (held in a warehouse) and the initial Open House.
“I wanted to do smaller shows that were a little more academic and not just large-scale popular shows,” he said.
Juggling overhead costs from between S$5,000 and S$10,000 a month – and coughing up an initial S$20,000 to renovate the shophouse – it was for Oei, like it was for the folks behind Post-Museum, a labour of love. Funded mainly by his own art consultancy and corporate projects as well as sales of his own paintings, the experiment didn’t make him rich but the space did manage to cover its own costs. “Evil Empire wasn’t the huge financial trainwreck that I thought it’d be,” he quipped.
Drawing an audience also wasn’t a problem. “Most of our shows had a few hundred people coming in and what I really liked was that they weren’t just from the art community but different segments,” he said.
Oei shut Evil Empire down because of other factors – such as the lack of interesting artists to work with.
“Thinking back, I didn’t want to continue because, frankly speaking, there weren’t enough artists around. It was getting clear that Singapore was a quite small pond in the end,” said Oei, who now continues to use the shophouse space as his private studio. After a year of dedicating his life to the tenets of the quirky but thought-provoking Evil Empire, “it wasn’t worth my time and effort anymore”.
As for Post-Museum, Teo said that while their Rowell Road haunt will definitely close shop, it may morph into something that’s “decentralised”. She revealed that there have been offers for them to continue what they’ve been doing in venues including office spaces and even beauty store Beauty Emporium at House in Dempsey Hill. The series of projects is tentatively called Outpost.
Between now and then, however, the Little India venue will come alive with a series of fundraising events, including an online crowd funding project (where folks sympathetic to their ideals can pool together resources for Post-Museum’s post-July efforts).
And as one of the final last hurrahs, they will also be hosting a roundtable discussion on what it means to be an independent art space and an exhibition on activism. “It’s the whole idea of having some ideals and acting on it, which is what Post-Museum is about and what we want to encourage people to do,” said Teo.
Kicking it all off is House Of Incest: An Ob/Scene Surrealist Cross-Disciplinary Art Rave. The mini-festival inspired by Anais Nin’s book of the same title starts tomorrow and is co-organised by literary collective Grapheme Zine Lab. It will include an exhibition, film screenings, lectures and a DJ music party.
Post-Museum may not have spawned a revolution of group hugs and peace signs among its multi-faceted crowd, but it has inspired at least one person.
After a visit to the art space last October, House Of Incest co-organiser Vanessa Ho eventually decided to help out, working in Food#3, and later organising the Ob/Scene series of programmes revolving around gender issues.”I really liked the laidback vibe and meeting like-minded people. I enjoyed talking to everyone from bankers to artists. It’s the one place where I find solace,” said Ho.
On the closing of Post-Museum, she shared: “Maybe it’s not something people wanted strong enough just yet. But I’m curious to see where they’ll bring it next.”
House Of Incest runs from tomorrow to July 5 at Post-Museum, 107+109 Rowell Road. For details on this and other fundraising events, visit http://www.post-museum.org or their Facebook page for updates.
His work, that is.
The bright, faux-patchwork aesthetic of Brazilian-American artist Romero Britto, often referred to in the media as “neo-pop”, combines elements of cubism, pop art and graffiti, according to the artist’s Wiki entry. His preference for vivid primary colours, stark, simple shapes, and juxtapositions of basic patterns and illegible script all attest to this certainly. Best of all, though, Singaporeans can judge for themselves at the newly swanky-fied Sentosa, where a whole series of Britto’s plastic sculptures are now on display. They grace the promenade next to the Boardwalk turnstiles – the Boardwalk being the pedestrian crossing from the ginormous Vivo City mall on the mainland. If you’re hoofing it over, you can’t miss ‘em.
Britto maintains a personal site here.
Image of the day: a blurry 1920s photograph of …… whom ?
It’s probably obvious to some – title’s a dead giveaway anyways – but just a quick note: regular users of public transportation in Singapore must have seen ads for the latest “I Quit” campaign by now, with pictures of people who’ve pledged to quit holding up two cigarette-less fingers, and wearing tees proclaiming the proud fact (below).
Anyways, it put me in mind of the black-and-white image above, which I love, simply for its sheer spontaneity and contextual incongruousness: that’s the so-called last emperor of China, Pu Yi, lighting a cigarette for his empress, Wan Rong.
It was probably taken sometime between 1922 and 1924, on the grounds of the Forbidden City: the five-year-old Pu Yi officially abdicated his position following the Xinhai Revolution of 1911 – bringing Manchu sovereignty to an end, as well as two millennia of dynastic rule in China – but was allowed to stay on in the imperial palace. This he did, right up to the year of his sixteenth birthday in 1922, when he wed, taking Wan Rong as his empress and Wen Xiu as an imperial consort. Two short years later, however, Pu Yi and his entourage were hounded out of the Forbidden City by the Christian warlord Feng Yuxiang, whereupon they decamped to Tianjin.
Numerous photographs exist of Wan Rong’s brief residence in the palace though. She’s seen romping through the gardens; daytripping with her mom outside of the imperial compound; just hangin’ out with her English tutor, the American missionary’s daughter, Isabel Ingram (below); even trying to ride a bicycle (below); and, of course, smoking. Thanks to Bertolucci, it’s no secret that the last empress of China had issues with opium addiction, and apparently even from her early days the cigarettes she smoked contained small amounts of the substance.
It ended up taking her life.
In 1946, at the age of 40, Wan Rong, abandoned by Pu Yi and having fallen into Communist hands, died of withdrawal symptoms and malnutrition in a jail in remote northeastern China.
The moral here, I’m sure, is clear enough: Philip Morris really doesn’t need any more of your $$$.
Wan Rong with her English tutoress, Isabel Ingram (right) and Reginald Johnston (left), her husband’s.
The Tanjong Pagar Railway Station ceases operations on 30th June – that’s next Thursday, and there’s a party ! – after which it officially becomes our 64th national monument. So a couple of friends and I decided over the weekend to head there for a last cup of teh tarik. The usually sleepy complex was overrun by hordes of people though, who all apparently had the same idea.
It was a madhouse of howling kids and clicking cameras.
The upshot was that I finally got the chance to eyeball the four massive statues out front: personifications of Agriculture, Commerce, Transport and Industry, each adorns one of the engaged pillars that punctuate the structure’s entrance portico. Common wisdom attributes them to the Italian sculptor Rudolfo Nolli, who was active in this part of the world during the interwar years, starting out in Bangkok and eventually ending up in Singapore.
However, here’s the rub: it seems as if they aren’t really by Nolli at all.
A HUGE shoutout to blogger Sarah of Seriously Sarah for pointing this out; the local art history community owes her a debt of gratitude.
I’m not sure how and when Nolli’s name became associated with the Tanjong Pagar statues, but that particular rumour is rampant on the Internet; even sites like the otherwise reliable Singapore Public Art* make that mistake. The Cavaliere Nolli – he was knighted at some point in his life – is best-known hereabouts for his contribution to the former Supreme Court building, being the man responsible for the tympanum tableau:
The imposing Corinthian and Ionic columns, as well as the tympanum sculpture fronting the Supreme Court Building, were the work of Cavalieri Rudolfo Nolli, a Milanese sculptor. The central figure in the tympanum is that of Justice, with a figure immediately to its left [sic: the viewer's left, not its left] representing the lost soul begging for protection from it. Next to this figure are two legislators with books in hand, representing the law. To the right of Justice, a figure bows in gratitude, followed by a man with a bull, representing riches and prosperity. Two young children holding a sheaf of wheat represent abundance from law and justice.
(Write-up from the Supreme Court’s website.)
* Singapore Public Art has since updated its site, and now has a separate page for the Tanjong Pagar statues here.
Nolli’s tympanum on the Old Supreme Court building. Images courtesy of Asia Explorers.
That Nolli’s was the hand behind this work seems to be an established fact. His much-touted authorship of the Tanjong Pagar statues, however, has been openly refuted by the gimlet-eyed Sarah, who drew attention to the fact that the base of the Industry figure is carved with two inscriptions which name the actual artists (below): the left corner clearly identifies one Angelo Vannetti as the sculptor, even dating the piece to 1931, while on the right, R. Bigazzi of Florence is named as … the artist ? I can’t quite make out the actual words: aside from the unmistakeable “art”, the rest of it seems to be superscripted, and after that we see only the letters “A.T.”, followed by more indecipherable script. (These inscriptions are actually to be found on the base of all four sculptures; read her post here.)
This is quite the smoking gun methinks.
The left (top) and right (bottom) sides of the base of the Industry relief, with their respective inscriptions. Images from Seriously Sarah.
Elsewhere, Jerome of The Long and Winding Road, quoting the Malayan Saturday Post from 1932, establishes “R. Bigazzi” as Raoul Bigazzi of the Raoul Bigazzi Studios, Florence. He writes:
Described by an article in the 7th May 1932 edition of the Malayan Saturday Post on the occasion of the opening of the station as having a “palatial appearance”, the station is now overshadowed by the towering blocks that have come up at its vicinity, as well as by the elevated road, buildings and containers stacked high that obscures most of it from the the docks it was meant to feed. What must be the features of the grand building that stand out most are the entrance arches flanked by the triumphal figures, the work of sculptor Angelo Vannetti from the Raoul Bigazzi Studios Florence, that seem to stand guard over all that passes under the arches into the grand vaulted hallway described as “lofty and cool” in the same article.
That this Raoul Bigazzi is the most likely candidate is corroborated by a notice in The Straits Times, dated 5 February 1929:
Mr. Raoul Bigazzi, the noted international sculptor and decorator, is again visiting Malaya in the course of his eighteenth trip around the world. He is accompanied by the artistic director of his ateliers, Professor A. Vannetti, of the Italian Academy of Fine Arts in Florence. Messrs. Frankel Bros., who have for many years been in charge of Mr. Bigazzi’s interests in Malaya, inform us that his present visit is connected with the public and private work of which he was responsible for several notable examples on previous visits.
(The issue is archived online by the National Library Board here.)
Given the proximity of the dates – 1929 (their visit) and 1931 (inscribed on the statue) – it seems probable that the “public and private work” alluded to above may well have been the Tanjong Pagar station commission.
It’s a tempting speculation, but unfortunately, short of hard evidence one way or another, just that for now – speculation.
And just who were Vannetti and Bigazzi ? A couple of online searches did not yield much. According to what little in English there exists out there in cyberspace, the former also goes by the more Italianate-sounding Angiolo Vannetti, and most sites, beyond giving his dates as 1881 to 1962, don’t provide much else. Bigazzi, on the other hand, happens to be better-documented, mostly because he was active in Hong Kong as well. While he apparently restored the iconic statue of Queen Victoria that now stands in the territory’s Victoria Park (it’s mentioned here), he seems to be chiefly remembered these days for the mosaic murals that covered the ceiling of the former Hong Kong & Shanghai Bank building. The present behemoth, which dominates an already jostling HK skyline, was designed by Lord Norman Foster, and is actually the fourth incarnation of the structure on that site; it was preceded by a sizably smaller Art Deco edifice (below), which was extant from 1935 to 1984, before making way for Foster’s tower. It was the old building that was the home of the Bigazzi murals. These depicted scenes from HK’s maritime and industrial economies in an Art Deco style as well (below), and apparently was titled Progress through the Ages in Transport, Trade and Industry in the Western and Eastern Hemispheres. The site Gwulo: Old Hong Kong, a wealth of information and images regarding the murals, reproduces a document which provides some very helpful details about their design and production:
The theme and basic design were suggested by the architects Messrs. Palmer & Turner. Mr. Raoul Bigazzi was the contractor, and the Russian artist Poudgoursky prepared the actual design.
Mr. Bigazzi went to Venice to order the materials, and Mr. Poudgoursky assisted by Professor Dal Zotto drew the full scale plan from the original sketch in Florence. As it was found impossible to do this in an ordinary building, permission was obtained from the Italian Government to rent a disused church which offered sufficient wall area on which the full scale drawings could be made. These drawings were executed on large sheets of thick paper and were coloured in accordance with the original sketch, which itself only measured 34 inches by 18 inches. In the process of enlarging the drawings many changes were made to improve the shadings, perspective effects etc., taking into consideration the exact position and lighting of the finished work.
The large drawings were then assembled and sent to the manufacturer, where under the supervision of Professor Dal Zotto the various pieces were pasted face downwards onto the drawings with special glue. Extreme care was necessary to ensure that the colour of each piece was exactly the shade indicated on the drawing. When a large area of the design had been completely covered with the corresponding pieces, the design was cut into small irregular sections similar to those of an ordinary jigsaw puzzle, each averaging from two to four square feet in size. Each section was numbered, and a key plan drawn with sections numbered in accordance with the full size design. The sections were then packed and shipped to Hong Kong.
Method of Installation
The ceiling of the Banking Hall was covered with a layer of well levelled and smoothly finished cement, and when this was dry a thin coating of white cement was spread over it. Under the direct supervision of Mr. Bigazzi and Professor Monti the various sections of paper and mosaic were then gently pressed into the cement in accordance with the key plan until they adhered.
The adjoining lines of each section were carefully placed together until each section blended into the next. When the cement was dry, the paper on the outside-that is the full size colour drawing of the original design-was removed with warm water and a hard brush, so that only the finished mosaic design was left embedded in the ceiling. Its surface was then washed with muriatic acid to remove glue and cement stains, and to bring out the full brilliance of the colour.
The actual task of applying the mosaic to the ceiling was carried out by skilled Chinese workers, mostly from Shanghai.
The ceiling is the largest of its kind in the Far East and is the second largest in the world. The entire work was completed within six months.
The former HSBC building, which stood from 1935 to 1984, later replaced by Norman Foster’s design. Image courtesy of Gwulo: Old Hong Kong.
Panels from Bigazzi’s Progress through the Ages in Transport, Trade and Industry in the Western and Eastern Hemispheres ceiling mosiacs in the former HSBC building. Images and info courtesy of Gwulo: Old Hong Kong.
So it seems that, while Bigazzi was in charge of the execution, someone else did the actual designing. Yet even a cursory comparison between the HSBC murals and the Tanjong Pagar sculptures reveal pretty salient similarities: resemblances in iconography and figuration do allow for the possibility that both sets of work may have originated – at least in part – from the same artist. Indeed, their subject matter is almost identical, with several of the same buzzwords cropping up in the titles: “transport”, “industry.” Experience tells us that two different artists will treat the same subject differently, and a couple of motific and figurative parallels here seem to signal a single creative force between the murals and the reliefs. The gesture of the raised, bent elbow, for instance, kept close to the head or shoulder, is seen in Agriculture and Industry (above), and finds an echo in the mural panel depicting ocean liners (fourth from top, above), where two dock workers hauling large packages are caught in the same pose. Elsewhere, the Transport figure (below), is in fact depicted performing a similar task – heaving a box over the shoulder – and even poised before a large spoked wheel, which makes an appearance in the mural as a ship’s wheel, part of a mash-up of various transportation-related motifs. The oversized cog at the feet of Industry can be seen in the mural which features a geisha (third from top, above) – it is located between the loom and some laboratory equipment, presumably a juxtaposition of traditional and technological means of production.
What do you think ?
Feminism in the arts finally comes to our shores ?
The following piece, on the newly released book Women Artists in Singapore, appeared in The Straits Times yesterday (23 June).
It also mentions a related exhibition on female artists currently showing at the SAM, but that may be a figment of the writer’s imagination. Odd.*
* Update: I was wrong about this. There is a show on at the SAM; see my more recent post, The Invisibles.
FEMININE HAND IN LOCAL ART
New book Women Artists In Singapore is the first of its kind here to recognize their work. By Clarissa Oon.
A man thought it up, but a woman completed the job: A book about Singapore’s female artists – the first tome of its kind – is a reality after about two decades.
In the 1980s, while living in Washington, ambassador-at-large Tommy Koh had a dream. Savouring wall upon wall of art by women at Washington D.C.’s National Museum of Women in the Arts, he came up with the idea of publishing a book on Singapore’s unsung women artists.
Women Artists in Singapore was launched earlier this month at the Singapore Art Museum, with an accompanying exhibition of works by selected female artists at the museum. The 163-page book is published by Select Books.
Written by curator and art historian Bridget Tracy Tan, the book features 37 women, from late pioneer Georgette Chen to young contemporary practitioners such as Donna Ong.
In his foreword to the volume he conceived, present National Heritage Board chairman Professor Koh bemoans that women are “overlooked” as artists and “under-represented at senior levels of the art industry”. This, he writes, despite having achieved equality with men in most professions.
The book’s author, Tam, 38, says a “spirit of adventure”, as well as strong artistic practice, connects the women artists she profiled.
A former Singapore Art Museum curator, she is now director of the Institute of Southeast Asian Arts and Art Galleries at the Nanyang Academy of Fine Arts.
Of the artists, she says: “They are all pioneers to a certain extent in their fields. There are also elements of cosmopolitanism and sophistication that come from a strong sense of independence.”
That is the thread which connects, for example, the lush tropical landscapes of oil painting doyenne Chen and Ong’s precise, almost scientifically composes drawings and installations.
She explains: “Georgette Chen’s works take into account the spirit and gestures of her time: Post-Impressionism, the civilization of Nanyang. Donna Ong’s works do the same with new media, popular culture and post-World War II aesthetic discourse.”
She selected them and other artists for the book based on the “worldliness” and dynamism of their practice, out of “hundreds of artists practicing in Singapore who happen to be women”.
Other well-known artists whose work she documented are sculptor Han Sai Por, printmaker Chng Siok Tin and performance and installation artists Amanda Heng. The list includes overseas-based Singaporeans as well as Singapore permanent residents.
The author very nearly did not complete the book. The 15 months of writing and research were interrupted by a 1 ½-year battle with breast cancer, from which she has recovered.
Her research involved going through old newspaper articles and Western and feminist art theory. She also extensive interviews with living artists.
One of them, Tang Ling Nah, 39, says the book is vital, given the paucity of writing on art history in general. “We do have great artists in Singapore, both male and female, but we have not studied them enough.”
Tang, who does charcoal drawings and installations, thinks more detailed documentation should be done, such as setting up an archive which collects information on practicing artists. Hong Kong has an Asia Art Archive for male and female contemporary artists.
Tan agrees there is much more to be written on the subject. The Singapore Art Museum exhibition, in conjunction with the book, features 28 art works by 25 of the artists profiled in the book.
She is considering curating another exhibition on a few of the artists: “I think it will be educational for me, but also a just extension of this research on women artists in Singapore, which, in all honesty, has only just begun.”
Women Artists in Singapore is available at $40.65 from Select Books, major bookstores and museum gift shops. A related exhibition is showing at the Singapore Art Museum, 71 Bras Basah Road, until Aug 14.
So, almost three months after Chinese artist Ai Weiwei disappeared into the no-man’s-land of detention, he’s finally been released by the authorities. Not without a proviso, however: apparently he’s free to walk, but not talk. An LA Times article (reproduced below) has the scoop.
Free Ai Weiwei, a site dedicated to the cause, also has up to the date news.
Ai Weiwei upon his release. Image from the LA Times.
CHINA FREES AI WEIWEI ON BAIL.
The government cites ‘good attitude in confessing his crimes’ in its abrupt release of the acerbic dissident Ai Weiwei, who was in prison for two months without charges. He may now face a civil case. By Barbara Demick.
After languishing for more than two months in prison without formal charges, China’s most famous dissident artist was abruptly released on bail late Wednesday.
The official New China News Agency reported that Ai had been freed “because of his good attitude in confessing his crimes as well as a chronic disease he suffers from.”
The 54-year-old artist is reported to suffer from diabetes and high blood pressure, although he was not known to be seriously ill. More likely the release was a belated response by Chinese authorities to the international reproach that followed Ai’s arrest April 3 at the Beijing airport.
But it appeared that he would not be able to pursue the biting criticism of the Chinese Communist Party that had permeated his artwork and writing.
“I’m not allowed to talk. I’m on probation,” he said apologetically to reporters and supporters who greeted him about midnight as he returned to his studio in northeastern Beijing.
Dressed casually in a gray T-shirt and appearing in good health, he said his future plans were to “enjoy life.”
“Everybody should enjoy life. I can’t say anything,” he said before disappearing behind the gates to the studio.
Though dozens of others have been arrested over the last six months in a crackdown on activists, it was Ai — by dint of his stature in the art world — who inspired petitions and demonstrations across the world. In London, the Tate Modern gallery installed large black letters across its facade reading, “Free Ai Weiwei.” In New York, a Cuban artist used a slide projector at night to cast the artist’s face onto the Chinese Consulate.
Ai had not been formally charged, although the state media reported that his company, Beijing Fake Cultural Development Ltd., had evaded “huge amounts” of taxes. The New China News Agency quoted police as saying that “the decision [to release Ai] comes also in consideration of the fact that Ai has repeatedly said he is willing to pay the taxes he evaded.”
The wording suggests that Chinese authorities might switch their case against Ai to a civil proceeding, which would allow them to back away gracefully from a situation that has brought great embarrassment. Ai’s attorney, Liu Xiaoyuan, wrote Tuesday night on Twitter that they were still awaiting an accounting from tax authorities of how much money was supposedly owed.
Four of Ai’s associates remain missing, and are presumed to be in secret detention.
His assistant, Du Yanping, confirmed that Ai had returned home and reported with some satisfaction about her plump boss: “He got slimmer.”
Human Rights Watch applauded Ai’s release, adding its own caveats.
“The public announcement of his release signals that the Chinese government has had to respond to international pressure and that the cost/benefit ratio of continuing to detain him was no longer tenable,” Phelim Kine, an Asia researcher with the organization, said in a statement. “Sadly, other Chinese citizens less well-known than Ai Weiwei who have been forcibly disappeared since mid-February remain incommunicado, whereabouts unknown and at high risk of torture.”
Ai, a provocative artist and one of the designers of the Bird’s Nest stadium for the 2008 Beijing Olympics, in recent years had become one of the most acerbic critics of the Chinese Communist Party. Much of his latest work has revolved around the tragedy of thousands of children killed when shoddily built schools collapsed during the May 2008 earthquake in Sichuan province.
Image of the day: Scotsman Duncan Grant’s Matisse-esque self-portrait, produced c. 1920. The painting is currently in the collection of the National Galleries of Scotland.
Unfortunately, Grant is remembered these days less for his artistic output than for his involvement with the Bloomsbury set. He was the lover of both economist John Maynard Keynes and writer Lytton Strachey, and later became involved with Vanessa Bell – wife of art critic Clive Bell and sister of Virginia Woolf – even fathering a daughter by her. The child, Angelica Bell, turned out to be a chip off the ol’ block: she horrified her parents by marrying David “Bunny” Garnett, her father’s one-time paramour and son of the prolific translator of Russian novels, Constance Garnett. Bunny G was present at the birth of his future wife, and reportedly proclaimed: “I think of marrying it. When she is 20, I shall be 46 – will it be scandalous?”
Now there’s a self-fulfilling prophecy …