I have written an article about the recent Affordable Art Fair 2013 Singapore in Poached Mag. You can read the article here, if you want to. I feel this need to express a less objective and personal view. Don’t worry; the Art Fair was really affordable considering there were no pieces above the S$10,000 mark. What surprised me was the amount of foreigners who were there.
The lack of an Asian audience surprised me. Where were they?
I am an Art buff but by no means am I an expert in them. I appreciate art and would willingly discuss Art with you if it is done humbly and unassumingly. I have noticed that Art is closely associated with high culture in Asia. It is never about innate interest, curiosity and perpetual wonder in beauty but rather, associated with social status which shows the world that you can afford to play in this scene. I understand that we did not grow up soaking in art. Our culture emphasizes other elements rather than that of art appreciation.
This probably explains why the audience of the Art Fair was predominantly White. Does this mean they have higher spending power? Probably. Does this mean they are elitist? Probably not. Chances are, they grew up surrounded by art. After all, museum-visiting is part of their public school syllabus. I have seen classes of primary school kids in the National Gallery of London (even in Spain, Germany and France) following their teachers around galleries, discussing classical paintings and the allegories painted in them. I remember distinctively this picture of a Spanish man wearing red tights and a red cape – there is no portrayal of death in here, but the little wonderful kids knew that death was imminent due to the color red which symbolizes either passion or death (blood is red, you see). I smiled to myself then.
I have seen countless White parents guiding their children in galleries and asking simple questions like, “What do you see?”, “What else?”, “What do you think it means?” This culture which has been ingratiated into their lives since young has a long term effect, of course.
I never had such an education in Malaysia. I requested for art related books and art lessons from my mum which she happily obliged; she brought me to museums because I insisted. Even in recent trips, my parents sat outside the museums and chattered away while they waited for me, disinterested and dispassionate about the past. Once, I had this huge argument with my now ex-boyfriend regarding my dream to pursue History as a degree. He argued that it was a useless degree which served no purpose to the real world – the relics of the past are irrelevant to us. Well, no wonder the term ex is there.
This entire situation is sad. Our desires to create a better, lucrative and more rewarding tomorrow have caused us to sacrifice certain finer details in life. When is the last time we took the time to appreciate our culture, heritage and history? When do we ever look at classical architecture and politely soak in the magic our forefathers had created? The art of calligraphy and Chinese painting are a mystery to most of us – do we even understand the symbolisms placed meticulously in them?
Yes. Everyone wants to make it in life. Success is in the forefront of any motivation. But sometimes, we have to remember that there is a bigger picture. Sometimes, there are beauty in moments, in art, and in culture which we have forgotten so dextrously as we plump up our bank accounts with immaterial ideas to obtain the material. I am not saying all Asians should now cultivate the habit of appreciating art. No. That would only result in something laughable – everyone has different interests after all. What I am saying is – slow down a bit. Take some time to think about the things that matter to you.
What I have learnt after this short period of working (and yes, I have ascertained my workaholic tendency – say no more) is that the regular 9-5 job is indeed stifling. It limits your time and energy; it disallows you to think outside the box and restricts your pursuit of wanton(or not) needs. We become so absorbed with the menial tasks handed over us and the promise of $$$ that we cease to think for ourselves, for others, for life in general. So yes, take time to think. Relearn the things you have forgotten as you were growing up, develop new interests and passions – life has been a blessing, and it still very much is a blessing.
We should make use of that and make differences in our own little ways. Little impacts go a long way. I have always believed the tiniest ripples have the biggest effects in this universe – so yes, go out there and make some ripples.