Sunday, April 12, 2009



flying out of saigon yesterday i decided to stop over in singapore. i always say that singapore is the most boring country in the world and i think not many people will dispute that. it's probably the most colorless and sanitised place on earth but even then there are some little spots in singapore that is as rowdy and seedy as anywhere else. being so straight and sanitised may be boring but ironically that's the real goal of all good governments. singapore to governments is like readers digest to magazines or walt disney to movies. not good for books, or movies or anything else but exactly the thing we need for politics.

what should one do when one is in singapore? many just go there to shop. may be go and buy a pair of manolo blahnik shoes for the secrectary or mistress or two. but these days you can do these or anything else anywhere. but singapore is a very kiasu place. they will try to outdo each other in everything. even in sales. their newspapers are thick with advertisements on sales. and while leafing through the straits times i saw that they were having a warehouse book sale at expo hall 4B just one MRT stop away from the airport. being a book lover and a cheapskate even if i say so myself i can't pass any book sales or warehouse clearance and so i went there and ended up buying three books. a hardcover exhibition catalogue of BASQUIT, , The Coen Brothers a biography by Ronald Bergan and Islam and the West by Christopher J. Walker. all looked interesting in their own ways. Islam's relationship with the west has always fascinate me and coen brothers are very exciting film directors. and basquit was the only black painter that was truly embraced by the whites.

i first discovered basquiat when i once stumbled into a room of basquiat in MOMA new york where they had this little exhibition many years ago. i couldn't made head or tail out of it. and i still don't. contemporary art is one of the most fascinating and ridiculous thing in the world. all those boring bankers , heads of corporations and cement industrialists and the like try to look interesting by buying ridiculous art. you know, all those jeff koons, damien hirsts and the like. and lately contemporary chinese art. and probably also include the basqiats. at least in the eighties and nineties in case of basquiat for these days i rarely heard anybody talk or write about basquiat.

basquit is an interesting case. a black guy who at one point was homeless and a grafitti artist. he somehow became famous overnight and at one point became a protege of andy warhol and mixed around with the best of NYC art crowd only to spin out of control and died at the age of 27 of drug overdose. his paintngs were 'original' and idiosyncratic.

i never try to analyze paintings and one really shouldn't do so but even so, i had the feeling that this is another classic example of looking at art with ears rather than with eyes as a recent article in newsweek described it. this kind of looking at art is especially true with regards to contemporary art which is now all the rage with the modern chinese artists. some of these artists like yue minjun dished out just the variation of the same painting over and over again and the silly industrialists and bankers keep on buying them over and over again at astronomical price. from the same newsweek article again. are these art expensive because they good or are they good because they are expensive?

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