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Modern Art Trends in the Household by Lim Tai Wei

The Psychedelic Seventies 1970s by Lim Tai Wei

The plastic revolution of the 1970s was perhaps the most dangerous adversary to porcelain or pottery wares. Plastic wares began to invade households as early as the late 1960s. By 1970s, the invasion was full-fledged. Plastic wares were long-lasting and modern in appearance and thus, they appealed to many users. They were also available in many different attractive colours and with the moulding techniques, they were also available in many sizes and shapes. Plastic wares were also perceived as hygienic and easy to clean. The plastic invasion was completed in the 1980s when plastic disposable wares were formally introduced to the hawker centres and they changed Singapore's culinary landscape since then.

Retro Fever. There has been a strong retro movement of late with established hotels, restaurants and other entertainment establishments using reproductions of old utencils previously found in kopi tiams or hawker centre or streetside stalls. Flea markets, provision shops and even big shopping centres are doing brisk business in selling these retro wares to young homemakers in this age of retro. There are also parallels with other Asian countries like Japan which had their own retro movements in the 1960s and 1970s with themes like nostalgic Japan?

The retro fever that is going on right now in Singapore is reflected by the popularity of things old in the flea markets as well as the large number of antique and other specialty shops selling rustic items. In fact, things old are so popular now that reproductions of old wares have surfaced. Pictures will be provided of such wares and differences in quality and designs between the original wares and the imitation items.

It has always been said that fashion come back round after a full circle. Pottery is also a good insight into the consumer tastes of Singaporeans with regards to utencils. Currently, with the retro fever, many of these utencils have become proud displays in Singaporean homes. Singapore has been experiencing a retro fever of late. Singapore's kitchen has not been spared either from this rehashing of past lifestyles. From the nostalgic Tiong Bahru housing estate to the use of kampong scene in advertisements, retro fever seems to be in full blast. Chinese pottery and other utencils found in Singapore's kitchens are no exception. Of late, many people have been buying old wares or reproduction of old wares in order to give their kitchen a more Asian or Oriental feel to it. Housewives and other young chic couples have been buying wares that have a 1950s or 1960s feel in order to give their homes a rustic or nostalgic feeling. The same goes for restaurants and coffeeshops in Singapore. For example, many such establishments have reverted back to using coffee cups with patterns, emblems or designs that were originally found in coffeeshops in the 1950s or 1960s. My interest in postwar Singapore pottery has no doubt been spurred on by this revival of things old. I found it fascinating to rediscover what Singapore was like through its Chinese pottery and other utencils found in the kitchen and decided to make it a personal project to discover and catalogue such wares.

Even within Singapore, people are keeping old things with greater vigour than ever in this retro fever period. Many antique collectors have mentioned that the ever popular Peranarakan wares are being recollected or rebought back by Peranarakan families as an attempt to recover their heritage. In many old ware shops, antique hunting streets like Sungei Road, Clarke Quay flea markets and back alleys in Chinatown, people have simply ceased selling old wares and revert to selling reproductions of old wares. Affluent Singaporeans have found no need to sell off what their grandfathers had passed down to them. In fact, value of the old wares have gone up considerably, even for postwar, common, minkuo or later Qing wares. For example, even wares that are not so old (such as some of the later Pernarakan wares) have been selling for hundreds of dollars. Relics and pottery from the cultural revolution have also been favourite collector's items even though they are hardly more than 20 years old. The 1998 auction of Mao Zedong's wares found high bidders with some bidders bidding as high as 50,000 dollars (Singapore) for a piece of genuine Mao ware. Though they are not exactly of super high quality and neither are they ancient in age, they reflect a desire to collect things which represent nostalgia and a recent part of history. The 7501 pottery series made for Mao himself found people bidding even actively for the spitton.




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