National Gallery Axes Exhibit: How Far Should Galleries Go To Police Creativity?

Pann Lim, creative director behind Kinetic, is an inspirational parent. Together with his wife, they set up an art collective, Holy Crap, that features art works created by their two children (Aira, 9 and Renn, 11).

It was thus disappointing for us to learn that their recent “When Renndon Met Airany” exhibition is to be removed from the space of cafe-retail outlet Gallery & Co with immediate effect. As Gallery & Co’s space was within the National Gallery, there was an expectation that whatever works of art must be curated beforehand, by National Gallery Singapore, despite Gallery & Co functioning independently as a cafeteria.

The sadness expressed by Aira and Renn after putting immense effort into their work since July (and Renn even having to juggle his PSLE studies), was keenly felt by many other members of the public.

Gallery & Co has sought approval of the content and concept of the exhibition, but the format of the presentation was not discussed. The National Gallery Singapore, upon realizing that the format was done ‘exhibition style’ four days after the exhibition was launched at Gallery & Co, demanded that 16 out of 19 pieces be removed. Here is the official statement from Gallery & Co:

It is with much regret and sadness that we have to announce the closing of “When Renndom Met Airany” as of yesterday.

We would like to acknowledge the hard work, dedication and passion Holycrap has poured into this project – their work as a family art collective is truly inspirational, and there is no doubt that they will continue to bring joy to all who encounter them and the mission they embody. & Co. has been very fortunate to have had the opportunity to collaborate with them.

To explain a bit more, the Gallery has a sound policy that no art exhibitions can be launched in its premises which are not curated or approved by them. While the content and concept behind “When Renndom Met Airany” resonated with them and was approved, the format of presentation – with art hung “exhibition style” on the walls – was not cleared with them – a fatal error on & Co.‘s part, and as such, the showcase was found to have crossed certain boundaries and was disallowed.

It has been very painful for & Co. to watch our friends, Pann, Claire and most of all, the kids, going through this ordeal; being fully aware that it could have been prevented, had we sought greater clarity in terms of guidelines from the start. We take full responsibility for the stress and heartache which the family has suffered as a result. It has been an unmitigated nightmare for us to witness the complete backfiring our intention to give indie art gems celebrated within the creative community a platform to reach out to a wider audience, a core objective of this partnership with the National Gallery Singapore.

We would like to thank Pann and Claire for graciously acknowledging the team’s efforts to find a compromise solution to bridge the gap with the Gallery, although this could not be found finally. Pann and Claire, we cannot thank you enough for your graciousness, generosity of spirit, and huge hearts. You are the coolest parents we have ever met, and we applaud you for imparting these values to your lovely children. We will always continue to support and promote the local creative community in all that we do, with greater clarity on how to work with the Gallery from now onwards.

To everyone who managed to catch the display this past week and bought Holycrap’s art book, thank you so much for your positive response.

For those who would like to support Holycrap’s work, limited copies of the art book “When Renndom Met Airany” are still available at Gallery & Co.

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