Why It Matters

Art of reaching out to the young

Phinehas Koh, helped by his father Mr Dennis Koh, pasting sticker dots on the furniture inside The Obliteration Room, at the National Gallery Singapore.ST PHOTO: MARCUS TAN

The National Gallery Singapore launched its inaugural Gallery Children's Biennale on May 20.

The exhibition, which runs till Oct 8, features 10 installations and artwork meant to engage the young. The artists include big names such as eccentric Japanese artist Yayoi Kusama, whose artwork, The Obliteration Room, invites visitors to fill a white room with colourful round stickers.

Parents have plenty of options when it comes to arts and cultural offerings for children, especially during the school holidays.

The National Heritage Board is currently running its Children's Season Singapore, which offers more than 120 programmes, and the National Arts Council will soon unveil its dedicated children's arts facility within Goodman Arts Centre.

But the country's first biennale (Italian for "every other year") for children is worth noting for several reasons.

The word "biennale" is strongly associated with the Venice Biennale, an international contemporary art exhibition. By calling its event the Children's Biennale, the gallery is sending a strong signal about how seriously it is taking young audiences.

This is important because exposure to the arts from a young age helps to develop curious and critical minds. Hopefully, these young audiences will also form the next generation of art lovers here, which is an important part of developing the country's arts scene.

Access, too, is important. The National Gallery's location within the Civic District makes it easy to reach via public transport, and there are nearby food and lifestyle options for those times when children become finicky.

It is also heartening that all 10 installations in the Gallery Children's Biennale are free for Singaporeans and permanent residents, making it easier on the pocket for parents.

Experiencing art should not be a luxury only some can afford. It is hoped that by removing some of the perceived barriers to museum-going, the doors to arts appreciation will be opened for the young.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 30, 2017, with the headline 'Art of reaching out to the young'. Print Edition | Subscribe