Celebrating graffiti as art

To run till June 25, the Pressionism show has more than 100 graffiti artworks on display.
To run till June 25, the Pressionism show has more than 100 graffiti artworks on display.ST PHOTO: DESMOND WEE

Graffiti has often gotten a bad reputation, but the Singapore Pinacotheque de Paris hopes to change perceptions with its latest exhibition.

With more than 100 graffiti artworks on display, the exhibition presents graffiti as an art movement, from its early years in the 1970s in New York and Paris to the present day, with graffiti art thriving all around the world.

The show, titled Pressionism as a reference to the pressurised spray cans which are used to create the artwork, is running till June 25.

The works are from the collection of curator Alain-Dominique Gallizia, 60, an architect and lover of graffiti art who has amassed more than 500 works since 2010.

Not only is he a collector, but he is also a friend of some of the leading graffiti artists, including the late American artist Rammellzee, who often created works in his studio in Boulogne Billancourt in Paris.

  • BOOK IT / PRESSIONISM

  • WHERE: The Features Gallery, Singapore Pinacotheque de Paris, Fort Canning Arts Centre, Fort Canning Park, 5 Cox Terrace

    WHEN: Till June 25, 10am to 6pm daily (ticketing counter closes at 5pm)

    ADMISSION: For Singaporeans, permanent residents and work-pass holders: $18 (adults), $16 (senior citizens), $12 (students), free for children aged three to six; standard: $22 (adults), $21 (senior citizens), $15 (students) and $6.50 (children aged three to six)

    INFO: www.pinacotheque.com.sg

"All those who came into my atelier became my friends and some, like Rammellzee, took me affectionately and asked me to fight for the recognition of their art and talent," he says.

"I hope the Singapore audience understands the great opportunity to discover an art form that was almost hidden from them in museums and art fairs for nearly 40 years."

In his opening message for the exhibition, Mr Marc Restellini, founder of Singapore Pinacotheque de Paris, wrote that the museum "wishes to relate the origins of what is undoubtedly a major artistic upheaval in the last third of the 20th century".

Consisting mainly of graffiti works on canvas, the exhibition shows how these works have evolved over the years. For example, early works were made with a limited colour palette as spray cans did not come in many colours back then. They also started off featuring only words before the artists moved on to feature figures and more abstract characters.

Besides artworks by prominent graffiti artists such as Bando from France and T-Kid and Futura from the United States, the show includes sketches and videos to help bring out the history of the movement.

For instance, there are photographs that show early artists with their sketch books, meticulously planning their art before rendering them on a surface.

There are also heartwarming touches to the exhibition, such as a 2009 collaborative piece by American artists Toxic, Kool Koor and Rammellzee, during a time when the latter was thought to be at the end of his life.

"It's very important to have an exhibition like this in Singapore. This is what you call graffiti and street art. It's not vandalism on HDB buildings," says street artist Anthony Chong, 34, who is known as Antz. "We are artists who happen to use a different medium from other artists. We use spray paint and we have a different voice."

He, along with two other Singapore artists, Zero and TraseOne, have created works specially for a segment of the exhibition titled The Love Collection. It comprises new works by graffiti artists from all over the world based on the theme of love. The works will become part of Mr Gallizia's collection.

Muhammad Sufian Hamri or TraseOne, 36, is "deeply honoured" to be part of the show. He says: "There have been smaller group exhibitions with graffiti works, but they do not cover the history and major artist movements like this show.

"I looked up to these artists when I started about 16 years ago. It gives me goosebumps to be exhibited alongside them."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 02, 2016, with the headline 'Celebrating graffiti as art'. Print Edition | Subscribe