Make better use of state funding for the arts

I refer to Lee Jian Xuan's article (Poet Asks Artists To Reconsider State Arts Funding, Life, Dec 8).

Singapore-born, New York-based poet Jee Leong Koh has said on social media that Singapore artists should not rely on state funding in art creation as this is a means of control by the state. He suggests that artists should instead use "private, overseas or minimal funding".

While I find Koh's idea appealing, it is idealistic. Furthermore, not being state funded is no guarantee of not being censored if an artist's work is deemed to be detrimental to state rhetoric or social mores.

I am more concerned about the extent of state funding at the level of the artist.

Take the visual arts. Nary a week goes by without an exhibition opening whose artist or gallery is not funded by the National Arts Council (NAC).

If it were not for state funding, many visual artists, especially the less established ones, would not be able to create "non-commercial" works or even create at all.

The flip side is that this allows mediocre artists and galleries to thrive, to the extent that the visual arts scene here is rife with art the standard of which leaves much to be desired.

That is the problem when natural selection is not allowed to take its course.

I am not suggesting that the NAC stops funding visual artists and galleries. All I am positing is that state funding for the arts should be thoroughly considered and its impact duly analysed so that taxpayers' money is used to best effect.

Lin Fangjie

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 12, 2015, with the headline 'Make better use of state funding for the arts'. Print Edition | Subscribe