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Remembering the ’60s |

Arts and Culture

Remembering the ’60s

- Eric Catipon -
Writer Lillian Hellman says in Pentimento, "I would like to see what was there for me once, and what is there for me now." The line may have well been written to capture the idea behind The Sixties Now! You Me Here Now, an exhibit about the ’60s ongoing at the Singapore Art Museum.

The ’60s is a landmark decade for Singapore because midway through it, the island republic was born. Now, 37 years after the historic moment, an exhibit allows Singaporeans to look back and assess what the decade means to them.

The exhibit is like a play in three acts. The first features memorabilia from the ’60s, the next an exhibition of modern art and objects that pay homage to the decade. The finale is some sort of a recapitulation where ’60s themes are revisited and reinterpreted.

The exhibit is shown against a backdrop of vari-sized yellow-orange spots randomly affixed on the venue’s white walls and wooden floors.

These, we surmised, were devices adopted to deliver a ’60s pop appeal. But quite honestly, we did wish for a presentation with a bit more psychedelia. Blacklights, acid colors and reflectorized paint could have made for a veritable art trip.

At hindsight, restraint may have been the better option for such a choice allowed for better viewing and appreciation of the artworks and objects on display

Sixties Now!
opens with a display of familiar everyday objects, tangible mementos of the ’60s, grouped according to theme.

A shelf-full of identical electric fans from the ’60s deliver the opening salvo. These are from the collection of C.K. Tong who, according to the catalogue entry, has 1,000 of these small appliances. Even if not one of these is turned on, audiences are blown by their sheer number. Across from this is a similar shelf this time filled with toys of the era.

Of course, the ’60s is synonymous with Beatlemania and homage to the Fab Four comes by way of memorabilia loaned by fans to the SAM. The music theme repeats in a corner setup featuring a jukebox and album covers of famous artists of the era tacked to form a grid pattern on the wall.

A setting of ’60s Italian avant-garde furniture from collector Peter Tay is the centerpiece. It includes a blow chair and Pillola lamps designed by Cesare Cassati and Emmanuel Ponzio in 1968, the Up7 by Gaetan Pesce, a lamp designed by Gino Sarfatti, the Up5 Donna armchair and Up6 balloon lamp.

Transition from pre to post independence is symbolized by a SAG assistant curator’s recreation of the time when people started to move into public housing, thus signaling their adapting to a new way of life.

From here, viewers encounter an entire wall filled with quotations from famous personalities as well as key events of the decade.

Perhaps to symbolize Singapore’s moving up to its place in the world arena, the second phase of the exhibit is in the museum’s second level.

Here, contemporary artists interpret their impressions of the era via video, installation, kinetic and wall art.

Retro Mall, the show’s epilogue, showcases designs inspired by the ’60s. Featured here are lighting fixtures inspired by lava lamps, molded plastic furniture, and home accessories.

A Singaporean museum-goer we talked to said that the experience of going through the exhibit is akin to entering a time capsule to return to one’s roots and emerging with a better understanding of one’s self.
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‘Sixties Now! You Me Here Now’ runs till May 19 at the Singapore Art Museum. For more information, log on to

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