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Saturday, July 14, 2007

"Thanks to TV and for the convenience of TV, you can only be one of two kinds of human beings, either a liberal or a conservative." - Kurt Vonnegut


Capping off a week of stupidity, yesterday night, I wanted to go for the Louvre Chalcography exhibition since entrance to the Singapore Art Museum is free on Fridays from 6-9pm (not least since I was told it wasn't very good and having no interest in the other exhibits), so I took a bus from work at 6:15pm or so.

After a long journey, I hit a massive jam around Apollo Centre. Fed up at being stuck in traffic, I got off 2 bus stops early (just after 7:30pm), only to realise that I had to walk very far and that due to a bus lane the bus was now free to zip to its destination. Given that the museum would close at 8:30-45pm (9pm on paper), I figured there was no point and went home, deciding to try again the next day since $4 was alright.

Today, I went down again (being misled by into taking a bus I suspect took a longer route than another one. There was a plaque outside the building noting that it used to be St Joseph's Institution, but this aside there was no information on what was after all a gazetted National Monument. I was expecting there to be plaques around the premises: "this is where students were caned when they were naughty", "this is where the Brothers sodomised the kids" etc.

Entering the museum, I was greeted by the guy at the ticket counter with a "Welcome to Singapore". Momentarily stunned, I averred that I was a local. Now, I have been 小姐-ed (xiao2 jie5-ed - mistaken for a girl) often enough in the past, but this is the first time I've been mistaken for a foreigner. Either he thought I was an American Indian (untied hair notwithstanding) or locals don't go to the art museum. But then if it's the former, why do people keep speaking in Chinese to me even when they only hear English coming out from my mouth?

The only reason I went was for the Chalcography of the Louvre special exhibition, though I'd heard that it was disappointing. Indeed it was - since unlimited prints can be made from plates, the exhibition was basically of prints that could be found in the Louvre gift shop, with 2 plates, a video describing the process and a projection of details of prints of heavenly spheres (shown to the first movement of the Moonlight Sonata) thrown in as sops. Ironically, the print of the Mona Lisa is bigger than the actual painting.

The permanent collection was even worse, since it was all modern 'art' (the earliest works were from the 1930s), ie mostly crap. Then again, my dislike of modern 'art' aside, it still wasn't very impressive (compared to the modern 'art' I've seen elsewhere); there was very little on display (though I'm told they've a lot more on storage), with too little put in too much space - there was more in the temporary exhibitions than the permanent galleries, which is the reverse of everywhere else.

Ironically, for the Singapore Art Museum, there wasn't much Singaporean art, with at least half the permanent collection consisting of works from the rest of Southeast Asia. A banner proclaimed that they had the world's largest public collection of works from Southeast Asia, so I conclude that Art is dead in Southeast Asia (or that corrupt officials are hording the rest).

Zeng Fanzhi's Communists version of the Last Supper was interesting though, but he should've made Jesus Chairman Mao to complete the effect. There was a 'painting' (I use the term loosely) of a wild boar by this Indonesian artist Affandi - haram!

Perhaps most damningly, the stuff sold in the gift shop not only looked better than that on display in the galleries (eg Some full-colour Louvre prints) but was also novel to me. Viz., there was only item in the gift shop which I had seen in the galleries. Now, the point of a gift shop (besides earning money for the museum) is to let visitors buy souvenirs of what they have seen in the museum, so I didn't know what they were trying to do. Then again, since what was on display sucked perhaps this was a good move on their part. The gift shop also had a female T-shirt promoting the D24 durian. Uhh.

All in all, the Singapore Art Museum sucked. The admission sticker read: "No experience is necessary" - to appreciate the exhibits, one didn't need art experience. It should've read: "No experience is desired" - one who had seen other art museums or who had knowledge of art would know just how much bad it was.

In other news, this thing which I'd seen in people's commencement pictures (IIRC) seems to previously have been at the Singapore Art Museum.
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