Singapore’s ‘Samsui Woman’ Mural Controversy: Asia’s Prestigious 28 Fevrier Gallery Signs American Artist Sean Dunston

July 11, 2024 by No Comments

SINGAPORE, July 11, 2024 – (ACN Newswire via SeaPRwire.com) – In stringent rules-based Singapore, locals, who were quickly dubbed ‘Karens’, noticed that a 2-story high fresh mural depicting a ‘Samsui Woman’ was smoking a lit cigarette. International political controversy ensued. The Karens claimed that the mural went against Singapore’s public policy to discourage smoking, sparking a public debate that prompted government regulators to comment and possibly intervene.

The dispute over the mural catapulted its American artist, Sean Dunston, into infamy. Dunston welcomed the palaver, stating publicly that he embraced the discourse.

Now, Asia’s premier urban art gallery, 28 Février, helmed by Dominic Khoo, who also founded the alternative investment vehicle WatchFund, has signed Dunston to the gallery as their first artist of Q3 2024.

“Whatever happens to the decision rendered by the authorities and the Karens, we aim to preserve this piece of Singaporean culture with immediate effect,” remarks Khoo.

“The ‘Samsui Woman’ art is a tribute to the hardworking women who contributed significantly to Singapore’s development,” states Khoo. “I don’t see how you can deny them their day in the sun.”

The brouhaha has drawn the attention of the international arts community due to its provocative portrayal of a significant cultural figure. Aside from the smoking cigarette, the Karens argued, the mural may not accurately or respectfully represent the Samsui women. A resilient, determined group of Chinese immigrants, the Samsui women came to Singapore in the early 20th century, primarily from the Sanshui (Samsui) district in Guangdong province, China. They were known for their distinctive red headscarves and hard work in labour-intensive jobs, particularly in construction and as domestic helpers. They contributed greatly to the building of the city by playing a significant role in the development of Singapore’s infrastructure, thus shaping its history.

Khoo recognizes that these women and others hold significance in the fabric of Singapore society, and that, through art, Dunston has sought to convey what they represent to the nation.

It’s Khoo’s opinion that it is essential to preserve one’s culture. “Every Singaporean bears a duty to contribute to our cultural fabric. You don’t realize how powerful “soft power” is to a country.”  Khoo himself as photographer has thirteen works purchased by the National Heritage Board and stored in the National Archives. “It is imperative as Singaporeans we recognize the cultural value of Dunston’s work too, and as friends we must help him come out at the other end of this stronger.”

In this sense, he observes, the public outcry has had a Streisand Effect. “I’m not sure if the Karens know that by being Karens, they’re actually giving a lot of good attention to artists that we have taken for granted. For that, we thank you.”

The Samsui Woman’s mural artist, Sean Dunston concurs: “It’s an unexpected wild ride,” he says. “I set out simply to do what I love: respectfully creating the essence of beauty in the world. I’m grateful to everyone who engaged with my work, regardless of differing opinions, as this is what art is all about—creating emotions and thoughts—bringing back the pulse of life. Ultimately, we don’t see things as they are; we see things as we are.”

Share A Piece Of Singapore’s History With Dunston’s Pieces

In honour of the stand, 28 Février Gallery will celebrate Dunston by hosting a specially curated “Bastille Day” Opening Event for an exhibit of limited edition ‘Samsui Woman’ artworks painted by him. Khoo is inviting guests from around the world to attend, and private collectors may also express their interest by registering a request.

Pesh Eng, gallery maven says, “Expect the opening night to be revved up by supercars and graced with the presence of international collectors. Plus, Er Cai Fang, the co-founder of GelatiAmo, an establishment that churns fine Italian gelato from scratch, has cheekily designed a welcome snack for the event called ‘exploding sour grapes’, which she dedicates to ‘the rebellious pursuit of freedom, just for laughs.’”

28 Février Gallery is inviting art connoisseurs and collectors who may be interested in attending the Opening Night event or privately viewing the artworks to register their interest.

About Dominic Khoo

Dominic Khoo retired as a professional photographer at age 35. Dominic photographed over 150 international celebrities including Cate Blanchett, Tony Leung, and the Dalai Lama. In just seven years of practice he met several milestones including being nominated for Asia Pacific Photographer of the Year in 2011 alongside Annie Leibovitz, his idol. Notably he also produced the world’s most expensive photography coffee table book where 100% of the revenue, and not just proceeds, went to committee approved and vetted charities.

Dominic also has an intense passion for watches which has seen him transition from a watch collector, watch journalist and to a watch expert. Throughout his career he has managed watch brands, written about watches for top magazines, and trained at Antiquorum, where he appraised and auctioned watches internationally. He is the founder of WatchFund, the world’s largest watch investment vehicle, for which has been winning international peer-reviewed awards and accolades for the past 9 years.

Dominic has great influence in art and luxury. His gallery 28 Février hosts prestigious events for international guests and houses iconic works. He continues to endorse international brands and invest in cutting-edge technologies.

About 28 Février Gallery

28 Février Gallery, located at 6 Kay Siang Road, Singapore, is Asia’s international urban art gallery, showcasing a dynamic mix of paintings, sculptures, and installation pieces from all around the world. The gallery is integrated within the OOZI building, a historic pre-war British officer’s mansion. With a focus on having art that teaches people about other people’s perspectives, the gallery believes that there is art at any level, and that there are always things that we can learn from others. Visitors to the gallery have included French football legend Eric Cantona, and NBA superstar Dennis Rodman.

28 Février Gallery 6 Kay Siang Road, Singapore 248924 https://www.whereisthesite.com/

For more information and to schedule an appointment, please visit 28 Février’s website or contact: ops@28thfevrier.com 

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