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Feast for the eyes, fodder for selfies

The social media set has gone dotty over Kusuma's Instagram-worthy artworks


There is no doubt that the National Gallery Singapore's current exhibit - that of famed Japanese artist Yayoi Kusama's signature motif of dots - is a feast for the eyes and a boon for social media users looking for the latest hot spot to snap a picture in.

But what has set tongues wagging in the past week is whether the visitors appreciate the art or see it as perfect fodder for their online feeds.

Questions have also been raised on whether the institution had gone too far in hawking its visual wares in a bid to appeal to the younger set.

Last Tuesday, independent media company The Smart Local (TSL) published an online article titled "10 Artsy Photographs You Can Take at the Yayoi Kusama exhibit". In the advertorial, TSL promotes the officially sanctioned hashtag #SgLovesKusama, and extols the "new ways of immersing yourself in Kusama's artistry".

Throughout the article, TSL showcases the artworks and gives tips on how one can produce a photo that is "worthy for Instagram with little effort".

"Art is not a backdrop (for) your face," responded one Facebook user. "People need to appreciate art as it is rather than sticking their faces into it."



Another user said: "It is sad to see people turning it into one huge Instagram opportunity with no desire to find out who the artist is or the inspirations behind the artworks."

The same thing happened in the United States. In February, when her exhibition opened at the Hirshhorn Museum in Washington, the New York Times reported snaking queues of people waiting in line just to take a photograph for their Instagram or Snapchat accounts.

Indeed the museum, which saw average visitor numbers tripling and foot traffic at its highest in almost four decades, seemed to encourage such behaviour by promoting the hashtag #infinitekusama to its visitors.

(If you must know, #SgLovesKusama has 7,200 posts on Instagram while #infinitekusama has 38,500 posts.)

All this unfortunately led to one of Kusama's pumpkins inevitably getting smashed when a visitor taking a selfie tripped inside the mirrored room.

Museum curator Mika Yoshitake, who handled the Kusama exhibit, said while the best way to experience Kusama's work was without the "filter of a smartphone", the artist also intended the work to be part of a "communal experience, be it in person or online".

When the exhibit opened last month, Kusama herself told The Straits Times that her greatest wish was that people in Singapore love her works. It seems that visitors here have done just that, in the only way many of them know how - through that perfect selfie.

And there is certainly nothing more communal than jostling with a phone in front of your face next to a stranger doing something similar, only to view each other's painstaking efforts some time later through a common hashtag.

Just take care not to knock anything over.


  •  CR7: Cristiano Ronaldo arrived on a private jet for a stopover in Singapore on Friday morning to sign an endorsement deal and visit billionaire Peter Lim and his daughter, who had just given birth. He left on Friday evening.

  • #RIPCHESTER: Linkin Park frontman Chester Bennington was found dead in his Los Angeles home on Friday in an apparent suicide. Pop rock group One Republic tweeted: “Chester had 6 kids. If anyone out there thinks the world is better without you. You are so unspeakably wrong. Get help please.”

  • JOANNA DONG: The first episode of Sing! China Season 2 featuring the home-grown singer was the most popular non-music video on YouTube, said Google.


New Yorkers have taken to social media after multiple problems plagued their public transport system in recent weeks.

Derailments, fires, signal problems, delays and the shutting down of entire lines have been rife, forcing commuters to evacuate through darkened tunnels or wait till help arrives.

On Twitter, the train woes have been dubbed the #SummerofHell.

After local radio station WNYC encouraged commuters to "add a megaphone to your frustration" by tweeting their stories under the hashtag #WeTheCommuters, the snarky complaints came in thick and fast.

Given the hashtag's success, WNYC is now asking commuters for questions it can pose to the next MTA board meeting on Wednesday. A theme among many of the responses it has gathered is to have the elected officials use public transportation to and from work until the issues are resolved.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on July 23, 2017, with the headline 'Feast for the eyes, fodder for selfies'. Print Edition | Subscribe