Siblings' artworks at National Gallery Singapore taken down

Siblings Aira (far left) and Renn Lim taking down an artwork from their exhibition at the National Gallery Singapore's Gallery & Co cafe.
Siblings Aira (left) and Renn Lim taking down an artwork from their exhibition at the National Gallery Singapore's Gallery & Co cafe. PHOTO: PANN LIM/FACEBOOK

Gallery & Co, a retail cafe in the newly-opened National Gallery Singapore, has apologised for the abrupt closure of a local art exhibition by a pair of young artists on Saturday.

When Renndom Met Airany: A Visual Duologue by Renn and Aira Lim, about the siblings growing up together and inspiring each other, had to be taken down due to an "error" on Gallery & Co's part, the cafe said in a statement on Facebook yesterday afternoon.

The exhibition had gone up at the cafe on Nov 24 - the day the National Gallery Singapore officially opened to the public - and had been due to run till Jan 24 next year.

"The National Gallery Singapore has a sound policy that no art exhibitions can be launched at its premises which are not curated or approved by them," the statement said.

Gallery & Co clarified that while the exhibition's concept had been approved by the National Gallery Singapore, the format of presentation - with the works hung on the walls - had not been approved.

The statement added that the closure could have been prevented if Gallery & Co had sought greater clarity on the National Gallery Singapore's guidelines from the start.

Gallery & Co combines a cafe and a retail space at National Gallery Singapore that curates specially designed products such as books and collectibles.

It is co-owned by restaurateur Loh Lik Peng; Mr Alwyn Chong, managing director of cosmetics and fragrance distributor Luxasia; and Foreign Policy Design Group's Yah-Leng Yu and Arthur Chin.

The incident has been gaining attention on social media after the artists' parents - Mr Pann Lim and his wife Claire - posted long Facebook updates on the sudden closure of the show and the reactions of their children.

Mr Lim, who heads advertising and design firm Kinetic, also uploaded a video of a crying Aira but later took it down.

He revealed that Renn and Aira had been working every weekend since the exhibition was commissioned in August, with Renn also juggling his studies in his Primary School Leaving Examination year.

The family of four, who call themselves Holycrap after the initials of their names, bond by working on their own family magazines and art exhibitions.

They have been putting up annual art exhibitions since 2011 and launched their family magazine, Rubbish Famzine, two years ago.

In a statement to The Straits Times, a National Gallery spokesman said: "Gallery & Co did not communicate clearly to Holycrap that their agreement with the National Gallery does not permit them to stage exhibitions in their space which is intended for retail and F&B."

The spokesman added that the National Gallery had "suggested to Gallery & Co to offer Holycrap the option to convert their presentation into a workshop for the artists alongside the plan to sell the hand-made books by Holycrap as merchandise".

"However, the parents of the artists have decided to remove the exhibition rather than take this option."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 30, 2015, with the headline 'Siblings' artworks at National Gallery Singapore taken down'. Print Edition | Subscribe