Arts and Culture
In a 2009 lecture, art historian T.K. Sabapathy discusses the lack of local facilities for studies in art history. He asks, how could the discipline progress in Singapore when it is not being recognised as a formal area of research in the local universities? This denial persists to this day, where art history is not a recognised major in any local university. Sabapathy’s question suggests that knowledge of art and art history is not something that everyone can have without a local academic facility. Yet most Singaporean artistic practitioners seem reasonably informed about local art history. Can we really say there is a lack if the art historical continues to persist? Alternatively, is the Western discipline of art history appropriate in the Singapore context?
This paper argues that what the case of Singapore could show is resistance to the constitution of a formal canon for art and the monumentalisation of specific artwork, exhibitions or events. It will do this through discussions of the role of the art critic and the location of artistic authenticity in Singaporean art from the 1990s to the present. This discussion will then be used to understand the constitution of an art historical consciousness and the becoming of a Singaporean artistic practitioner. Finally, it will suggest that these processes are inextricably linked, making artistic practice something that may be shared by all Singaporeans, sans formal disciplinary study.