For the House; Against the House: Life Imitates Art

14 - 23 January 2022, Gillman Barracks, Art Experience

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"Life imitates Art far more than Art imitates Life" — Oscar Wilde, “The Decay of Lying” (1889)

In the year 1959, Singapore had just gained full internal self-governance. The Ministry of Culture was then established to focus on the “creation of a sense of national identity”. How far have we come in achieving this goal today?

The common refrain art imitates life bears serious implications for the use of art in nation-building. If such a statement holds true, art would simply reflect the non-presence of a Singaporean identity. Art must introduce something into the realm of everyday life, one that is not already present in lived experiences, so as to effect a change. For art to have any impact on life itself, life must necessarily imitate art.

For the House; Against the House looks at the evolution of Singapore's arts and cultural landscape through a unique debate format where art illustrates the arguments. Let curator John Tung take you through the propositions and oppositions as artworks from private collections and new commissions chart Singapore’s path towards a "cultural renaissance". You get the final vote on the role art has had to play in shaping our national identity today.

This event was part of Singapore Art Week 2022 and supported by the National Arts Council (NAC). 

The exhibition comprised of three sections. Click on the respective titles to learn more about the artists and their works!

Shaping the Ways of Seeing

  • Agan Harahap (Indonesia)
  • Jimmy Ong (Singapore)

The Gouws Collection
  • Eddy Susanto (Indonesia)
  • Yee I-Lann (Malaysia)
A Divergence of Realities


  • Anthony Chin (Singapore)
  • Dennis Tan (Singapore)
  • Fyerool Darma (Singapore)

JH & KH Collection
  • Chen Wen Hsi (Singapore)
  • Chuah Thean Teng (Malaysia)
  • Tew Nai Tong (Malaysia)
A Chronicle of Pasts and Vision of Futures

  • Dusadee Huntrakul (Thailand)
  • Kentaro Hiroki (Japan/Thailand)
  • Nila Choo (Singapore)

The Gouws Collection
  • Ian Woo (Singapore)
  • Kanchana Gupta (India/Singapore)
  • Lavender Chang (Singapore)

JH & KH Collection

For Jan Hau and Katrina, the love for collecting has always been in them. Toys, stamps, seashells, and little trinkets are displayed alongside their apartment walls filled with artworks. “It’s like when you were a kid, you couldn’t afford to collect these things. So now, as an adult…,” Jan Hau related. The enjoyment stems from the desire to hold onto history and stories. Each artwork, and sometimes even the frame they come in, connects to Singapore and speaks of who we are. They would look out for modern works by local artists located overseas. “You wonder how they ended up there. There's so much to trace. There's so much to learn,” they shared.
The Gouws Collection

The beginnings of the Gouws collection traces back to the very first art piece that the couple bought in their 20s — a set of Renoir coasters from the now defunct MPH books along Armenian Street. Despite not having the financial means to purchase artworks, that did not deter the Gouws from the love of collecting. They even went on to mount the coasters with a wooden frame, and proudly featured it in their first home. “Art should not serve a decorative purpose, but to live with and to teach,” they said. As a lover of the arts, the Gouws believe that every single piece of work acquired should be featured at some point in their home.
John Tung (Curator)

John Tung is an independent curator and exhibition-maker. To date, he has overseen more than 50 artwork commissions and site-specific artwork adaptations ranging in scale from the minute to monumental. Three of the artwork commissions he curated have been finalists for the prestigious Benesse Prize, of which one was a winner.

Designers: Factory
Image credits: Factory and Alvieisalive

Art Experience

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