We cannot be humans without art

We cannot be humans without art

SINGAPORE - For the owner and director of eponymous art gallery Sundaram Tagore, it's not unusual that the Gillman Barracks' new life as an arts district is experiencing growing pains.

The 52-year-old, who owns galleries in New York and Hong Kong, opened an art gallery there just a year ago.

My Paper speaks to the globe-trotting art gallerist on how Singaporeans are developing a palate for art, and why that is enough for him to remain optimistic about the art scene here.

How do Singaporeans perceive art today?

The first time I participated in an art fair here was in 1993.

Most of the people who came in and saw the collection of Impressionist works from famous names like Renoir and Manet thought they had walked into a museum. I believe that, at that point, very few people interacted with art. They did not see art as relevant in their day-to-day existence.

That has changed dramatically today. Look at the number of art galleries here, the number of art exhibitions and museum presentations, the media's coverage of art, and people talking about art.

Singapore has definitely acquired an artistic patina. There are also a lot of very talented local artists, both emerging and established, like Jane Lee.

I think it's the result of a combination of people taking interest (in art) and the government taking the initiative... Singapore has done really well (economically) and has taken care of its infrastructure, but now people see that there is a need to focus on the spiritual and aesthetic aspects of living.

Gillman Barracks reopened with a bang a year ago, but things have quietened down since. Any thoughts on this?

It opened really well, and now it's going through some growing pains.

With every organisation or individual, it's only natural that there are struggles. You can't expect everything to be hunky-dory.

In a way, it's also because the Asian culture is, at the same time, both ancient and new. So many things are happening across Asia, and people go from one new thing to another very quickly. Attention span is short, and all we want is instant gratification.

In Europe, people usually spend a whole afternoon at a museum, either for pleasure or because they want to learn, or be in an introspective and reflective state. Very few Asians, whether in Hong Kong, Mumbai or Singapore, do that.

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