'Gold' stairs: Art or vandalism?

After pictures of it went online on Monday, the flight of stairs covered with gold foil in a Jalan Rajah block spurred debate in the House yesterday.
After pictures of it went online on Monday, the flight of stairs covered with gold foil in a Jalan Rajah block spurred debate in the House yesterday.ST PHOTO: JONATHAN CHOO

A flight of stairs covered with gold foil that made the headlines this week was a talking point in the House yesterday. The artwork in a Jalan Rajah HDB block, created by 25-year-old Lasalle student Priyageetha Dia, was raised by Nominated MP Kok Heng Leun, who called it an example of "ground-up community art".

"Some residents have safety concerns about it, but others, including myself, think it is a brilliant piece of art," he said. Such artwork is "often spontaneous and interventionist" and "engages and enlivens the community in a positive manner", he added during the debate on the Culture, Community and Youth Ministry's budget.

"Should our policies not adjust, so as to allow more community engagement and participation in the arts?"

Replying, the ministry's Parliamentary Secretary Baey Yam Keng said he was "very encouraged" by Ms Dia's "creativity to enhance our living spaces", but added the town council has to address residents' concerns.

Jalan Besar Town Council said while it appreciated Ms Dia's "desire to enhance her surrounding space", her act was unauthorised under its by-laws. Pictures of the work have been online since Monday, and drawn debate about whether it is a work of art or vandalism.

In his reply, Mr Baey cited artist Jaxton Su, who last year painted a mural in Race Course Road with the support of the property owner and the National Arts Council (NAC). "We encourage young artists to work closely with precinct and space managers to enliven our community. NAC will be happy to facilitate this process."

Said Culture, Community and Youth Minister Grace Fu: "The first rule of any artist who wants to do community art is ask for permission from the property owner. That's basic courtesy." She added: "Both parties can sit down and see how to best meet the needs of both."

Yesterday, Ms Dia's mother Susela told The Straits Times her daughter will be taking down the gold foil from the staircase in the coming days.

Nabilah Said and Zhao Jiayi

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 10, 2017, with the headline ''Gold' stairs: Art or vandalism?'. Print Edition | Subscribe