Cafe at National Gallery apologises for removing art

Cafe at National Gallery apologises for removing art

GALLERY & Co, a retail cafe in the newly opened National Gallery Singapore, has apologised for the abrupt closure of a local art exhibition by a pair of young artists on Saturday.

When Renndom Met Airany: A Visual Duologue by Renn and Aira Lim, about the siblings growing up together and inspiring each other, had to be taken down due to an "error" on Gallery & Co's part, the cafe said in a statement on Facebook yesterday afternoon.

The exhibition had gone up at the cafe last Tuesday - the day the National Gallery officially opened to the public - and had been due to run till Jan 24 next year.

"The National Gallery has a sound policy that no art exhibitions can be launched at its premises which are not curated or approved by them," the statement said.

Gallery & Co said the exhibition's concept had been approved by the National Gallery but the format of presentation - with the works hung on the walls - had not.

The cafe added that the closure could have been prevented if it had sought greater clarity on the National Gallery's guidelines from the start.

Gallery & Co combines a cafe and a retail space at National Gallery that curates specially designed products such as books and collectibles. It is co-owned by restauranteur Loh Lik Peng; Alwyn Chong, managing director of cosmetics and fragrance distributor Luxasia and Foreign Policy Design Group's Yah-Leng Yu and Arthur Chin.

The incident gained attention on social media after the artists' parents - Pann Lim and his wife Claire - posted Facebook updates on the sudden closure of the show and the reactions of their kids.


Mr Lim, who heads an advertising and design firm, also uploaded a video of a crying Aira but later took it down.

He said that Renn and Aira had been working every weekend since the exhibition was commissioned in August, with Renn also juggling his studies in his Primary School Leaving Examination year.

The family call themselves Holycrap after the initials of their names and bond by working on their own family magazines and art exhibitions.

Many people have criticised the handling of the matter. Wrote netizen Waikin Chan: "Shame on you, National Gallery Singapore! On this opening weekend, you were supposed to celebrate ART but instead you chose to exercise and reinforce authoritarianism."

In a statement to The Straits Times, a National Gallery spokesman said: "Gallery & Co did not communicate clearly to Holycrap that their agreement with the National Gallery does not permit them to stage exhibitions in their space, which is intended for retail and food and beverage."

The spokesman added that the National Gallery had "suggested to Gallery & Co to offer Holycrap the option to convert their presentation into a workshop for the artists, alongside the plan to sell the handmade books by Holycrap as merchandise".

"However, the parents of the artists have decided to remove the exhibition rather than take this option."

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