Concluding remarks

Kwok Kian Chow

This document is part of a joint project of the Singapore Art Museum and the Honours Core Curriculum, National University of Singapore. This image and accompanying text appears here with the kind permission of the Singapore Art Museum.

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Ann Talbot-Smith, Loke Wan Tho's secretary who continued to be active in the art circle after Loke's death, published an article made up of twenty questions in the Singapore Art Society's exhibition catalogue of 1969. Among the questions were:

The issues which Talbot-Smith highlighted can be read in the wider context of the development of the visual arts in Singapore since the beginning of the century. The creative energy of artists and their search for a cultural identity through art, be it the traditional Chinese identity of the United Artists Malaysia, the educational commitments of the Society of Chinese Artists, the regionalism of the Nanyang School, or the renewed regionalism of the Artists Village which attempted to revive the ritualistic and experiential nature of Southeast Asian art - all these point to the visual arts as an activity which should not be reduced to an embellishment of affluence.

"Socialism" was used by Talbot-Smith to describe the communitarian characteristic of Singapore society. Talbot-Smith saw the visual arts, an individualistic expression, as being propped between collectivism and individualism. Given the fundamental nature of art as an individualistic practice, the strenuous relationship between art and society will continue, the unfolding of which, as the history of art in Singapore has shown, will be educational and thought-provoking.

Art exists in all societies, but opportunities, stimulations and infrastructure should be planned for the further development of the visual arts, The development of art in Singapore appears to have evolved in cycles between aesthetic and commercial high points. This is all part and parcel of a development towards a multifarious art industry. As a humanistic enterprise, however, it would be unfortunate If it was the market which takes the lead, since the frontiers of aesthetic experimentation must be explored in the larger context of conceptual and spiritual experience removed from economic concerns.


Ann Talbot-Smith. "Twenty Questions", in Singapore Art Society, 1969.

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Last updated: May 2000