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Smoking samsui woman mural to be retained in full, building owner fined for not seeking approval

LaksaNews

Myth
Member
SINGAPORE: The Chinatown mural featuring a samsui woman holding a cigarette – a subject of public debate in recent weeks – will be kept as it is without any modifications or changes to the artwork.

“This is in view of the fact that the mural is not an advertisement for tobacco, which is against the law, and is largely perceived as an art piece,” said the Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA) and Ministry of Health (MOH) in a joint statement on Wednesday (Jul 10).

The building owner has been fined S$2,000 (US$1,480) for carrying out unauthorised works on a conserved building, and for continuing with the works despite reminders to obtain approval.

However, the authorities noted that the mural did normalise smoking, which is against MOH’s policy.

“Had prior approval been sought, MOH would have raised concerns about the depiction of smoking to be featured in a prominent mural like this, and requested modification.

“We will therefore work with the building owner to find appropriate ways to mitigate any impact that the mural may have in promoting smoking, without modifying the mural itself,” read the joint statement.

In laying out their review and decision on the matter, URA and MOH said they took into consideration “diverse views from many members of the public”.

The authorities said the mural had generated “much public discussion”, with several expressing concern that it normalises smoking. Others also commented that this was an art piece and should be left as it is.

“Most members of the public do not see this as an advertisement for cigarettes,” said the joint statement.

“In general, it has been a constructive discussion, conducted in a tone that was calm and respectful. We thank members of the public for sharing their views,” said URA and MOH.

However, the authorities said the building owner did not comply with URA’s requirements on the conservation and protection of Singapore’s built heritage.

"As murals on conserved buildings are prominent visual markers that enhance the character of our conservation districts, URA requires all owners of conserved buildings to submit their mural proposals for approval.

"The mural proposal may be reviewed in consultation with community stakeholders and relevant government agencies, to ensure that the artwork relates well to their locale, considers cultural sensitivities and values, enhances the public space, and is welcomed by the local community.

"If necessary, we will work closely with the building owner on any required modifications. All proposals must be approved by URA before works commence."

In this case, the building owner began work on the mural on the conserved building at 297 South Bridge Road without approval from URA.

On Mar 22, URA informed the building owner’s representatives that approval had not yet been obtained for the mural and requested that a submission be made immediately.

URA then reminded the building owner’s representatives on Mar 25 of the need to obtain approval before continuing with the mural works.

“Despite this, mural works continued. An application for conservation permission was only submitted on Apr 11 after the mural was completed,” noted the joint statement.

The building owner was fined for failing to obtain conservation permission prior to the commencement of works.

The statement said that URA will continue to “work closely” with relevant agencies and stakeholders to ensure that its guidelines and processes for murals on conserved buildings not only provide space for creative expression, but also “safeguard the character of our conserved buildings and address the larger public interest”.

“Owners of conserved buildings are reminded to obtain the relevant approvals before commencing any works. Failure to do so will result in enforcement against offenders, including prosecution for egregious cases.”

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