Esplanade pulls out artwork after 'obscenity' complaints

A visitor to the Esplanade looking at the artworks on the wall where Vincent Leow's controversial piece had been displayed, now an empty space between the two drawings at the extreme right of the wall.
A visitor to the Esplanade looking at the artworks on the wall where Vincent Leow's controversial piece had been displayed, now an empty space between the two drawings at the extreme right of the wall.ST PHOTO: LEE JIA WEN

The Esplanade has removed a drawing by local artist Vincent Leow, after some members of the public complained about obscenity.

The drawing shows what appears to be a naked human figure and a creature that resembles a rooster. It was part of an exhibition featuring Mr Leow's artwork that have been on display since April 13 on the Community Wall at the third level of the Esplanade, outside the library@esplanade.

When The Straits Times visited the Esplanade at 12.45pm yesterday, the drawing had already been removed.

The move came after a group called Singaporeans Defending Marriage and Family (SDMF) flagged the painting in a Facebook post on Tuesday, accusing The Esplanade of "promoting bestiality", and expressed concerns that the artwork might be seen by children who visit the area during the school holidays.

"Is Esplanade shamefully promoting Pink Dot's 'Freedom To Love'?", wrote the group, which is known to be critical of the local Pink Dot advocacy group for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) rights.

The SDMF group did not respond to requests for comment.

Early yesterday. Ms Yvonne Tham, Esplanade chief executive-designate, said that the drawing was removed after a discussion with Mr Leow.

"We have agreed to not continue displaying the drawing, given that the public space... does not allow opportunity for an advisory and is visited by a wide range of visitors, including families," Ms Tham said.

She added that the situation arose solely from the Esplanade's error of judgment in exercising its responsibility to both artist and audience for presenting work in the appropriate space and context.

In an earlier statement on Tuesday night, Ms Tham assured the public that the Esplanade had no intent to promote or advocate for any stance with the exhibition.

Mr Leow, who has sparked controversy in the past for his edgy art performances, did not respond to requests for comments by press time.

Visitors to The Esplanade were divided on whether the drawing should have been removed.

Ms Lysette Joy, 34, a nanny, said that the removal was justified, as the drawing was inappropriate and there should be a limit on the type of art displayed in a public area near children, but added that the drawing should just have been relocated.

A father of two daughters who gave his name only as Mr Zaini, and works in the delivery business, did not see a need to remove the artwork, as he felt it was educational and interesting.

"Parents should explain to their kids that this is art. When they go to school, they will learn about it (nudity) behind our backs anyway," said the 35-year-old.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 07, 2018, with the headline 'Esplanade pulls out artwork after 'obscenity' complaints'. Print Edition | Subscribe