Bringing children to a contemporary art exhibition may not, on paper, sound like the best idea from a parent’s point of view. What if they touch and break stuff? Or if they get bored and start howling for attention? Or, worse still, what if they mistake that funky sculpture for something edible and eat it?
Well, the Singapore Art Museum (SAM) wants to put those fears to rest. It’s encouraging parents to start fostering in their kids a love for the arts by creating an exhibition specifically with little ones in mind. Back for its fifth edition, Imaginarium features new works that children can have fun exploring. Rachel Ng, the lead curator of the exhibition and assistant curator of SAM, tells us more.
How do you ensure that the works are accessible to kids?
The accompanying text is slightly shorter and in simple language so that it’s more digestible for children. But we have steered clear from simplifying the concept of the work. Each caption is prefaced by a ‘big question’ to prompt the children to examine the larger issues the work raises and their own feelings about it.
I feel that the best way to foster an interest in art is if you can communicate the underlying intent of the artist and the message of the artwork – what is it trying to express, why was it made, and how does it then relate to you and the world you live in?
Was there ever a concern that child-friendly art would be perceived as lower quality?
There is the tendency to equate accessibility with lesser conceptual depth, and hence ‘lower quality’. This is a very limiting point of view, because without consideration for accessibility, you risk alienating certain audience members.
I believe that art is for everyone, and this goes to the heart of what Imaginarium is about: to let everyone discover what art can be, and the joy of that encounter. [In Imaginarium], there is a mix of established and emerging artists from a wide range of practices: photography, drawing, installation, mixed media and even conceptual.
Why should kids be exposed to contemporary art?
It deals with the way we live, the issues affecting society and the world at large, and our place in the world. It is a richly textured medium through which serious issues and questions can be raised to children. This is important for building a well-informed future generation.
How were the artists chosen?
We wanted a diversity of ideas and aesthetics to create a tiered experience for visitors. For example, there is a mix of contemplative and interactive, immersive works. We also selected a few emerging artists, as Imaginarium is a great platform to expose the public to newer, exciting forms of art.