Some 'bad apples' behind vandalism at The Mill, but should art have been more closely supervised?

Lai Chee Kien's brickwork installation Double Cauldron before it was damaged at The Mill. It has since been restored. -- PHOTO: KHOO EE HOON
Lai Chee Kien's brickwork installation Double Cauldron before it was damaged at The Mill. It has since been restored. -- PHOTO: KHOO EE HOON

SINGAPORE - Organisers say some "bad apples" are behind the vandalism of artworks at a bash held at the design hub, The Mill, in Bukit Merah industrial estate.

Three artworks were severely damaged after a dance party on Saturday night, part of a three-weekend event to bid goodbye to the three-storey former rice mill before it is demolished and rebuilt as a larger creative space.

The damaged works included photographs from Panagiotis Kotsidas and Miro Roman's An Urban Diptych, as well as a brickwork installation by Lai Chee Kien titled Double Cauldron, which was broken but has since been restored. Student Joseph Tan's light installation, The Sublime, his first-ever art exhibition, was in shambles after what appeared to have been the result of someone crashing through a partition.

While organisers and art insiders criticised the disrespect shown to commissioned artworks at the event, they agreed the works should have been more carefully supervised if an alcohol-fuelled party was going on around them.

The event at The Mill was ironically titled Destruction & Rebirth, in reference to the 54-year-old building's impending demolition in May. More than 60 artists, musicians and DJs participated in the free event, which kicked off last Saturday with several hundred people streaming in and out of the building to view art, listen to live music and check out a flea market and various pop-up stalls.

On the damage to the three artworks, The Mill's marketing manager, Ms Low Shu Min, 28, told The Straits Times: "We had placed a lot of trust in people and it is unfortunate this has happened."

She said that while there were signs pointing to the positioning of artworks, "on hindsight, all of us partners, organisers and artists involved in this free art event would certainly benefit from having more hands on deck, or art volunteers watching over their respective works".

Said arts consultant Tanya Michele Amador, 44: "I think that at an event such as this there is always a risk that something like this can happen. I feel it highlights the need for more education so that audiences better appreciate and respect the artists and their works."

Gallerist Valerie Cheah, 47, of Jada Art Gallery drew a comparison with the Art After Dark event at Gillman Barracks on Jan 23, when there was an outdoor party at the gallery cluster, and several galleries did not allow visitors to take their drinks inside. "We can all learn from events that got it right as we work towards more edgy and experimental arts events in the future."

The event at The Mill is funded by a National Arts Council grant of about $15,000. Paint manufacturer Dulux, furniture company Schiavello and paper supplier Mukim Fine Papers sponsored some of the art materials and furniture.

deepikas@sph.com.sg