In late May, Sheralynne Dollatella-Wong Jia, a sassy curator and art dealer, went to Gillman Barracks, an arts cluster home to many galleries, to promote the work of Roy Payamal, a pioneering Singaporean busker. Payamal was there for his first-ever painting exhibition. At the door Dollatella-Wong, dressed in bright orange, handed me a business card that listed some of her accomplishments: MA Art Business, e-flux Party Leader, and Dip. NFT Guru L3.
In her hour-long curatorial tour, Dollatella-Wong described to us Payamal’s shift from the organic freedom of the streets to the cloistered gallery space: “Can you enjoy an ephemeral performance the way you enjoy a painting? Must a painting be owned for money to be exchanged?”
Dollatella-Wong WhatsApped us PayNow QR codes. She invited us to tip Payamal for the experience of viewing his paintings the same way we might tip him for a street performance: “Similar to experiencing busking on the streets, no pressure. You can walk away having appreciated it. This is just an experiment.”
I stood in front of a painting I liked, immersed myself in it for a few minutes, and then, for the first time in my life, sent the painter a small tip for that experience. In our hyper-marketised economy, it was a rare moment to contemplate the value of unpriced intangibles: “Didn’t realise there’ll be an atas curator,” one of Payamal’s friends quipped, his wallet a bit lighter.
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