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Is Singapore Still a Cultural Wasteland in 2022? LKY NFTs Say Yes

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Let’s get one thing clear: I don’t know anything about how the NFT art market works. I’m a pretentious art wanker, not a pretentious NFT douche.

The only thing I’m really invested in is the art — or how Singapore is represented in the brave new world of Web 3. Our nation has often been mocked as a cultural desert. This was true in the era of imaginary communists and shorts-wearing police, but is it still true in the world of blockchain?

I journeyed into the OpenSea to find out.

Price: 1 ETH
Artist: gktechville
Collection: Meta-idols

This is just the first picture and I’ve already opened a tab for therapists near me.

Smooth baby skin and kardashian blowjob lips pasted on an old man’s face. Eyes that look like subway olives given life by Sauron. This portrait is a potluck of nightmare fuel. Just imagine this genderless, ageless montrosity emerging from the walls beneath Oxley mansion.

Rating: Buy / Hold / Sell / Burn / Exorcise

Price: 0.3 ETH
Artist: 54ECA7
Collection: CryptoArts AI Collection

I… actually do not hate this. But then again, I have a fetish for Francis Bacon, and the A.I. who produced this has clearly been weaned on a steady diet of postwar British depression. The weird thing on his head resembles a crown and the harsh lines that emerge seem to dominate the foreground like the bars of a prison.

Is this a man imprisoned by the weight of his own galaxy brain intellect? Is he crushed by the burden of his unfathomable power? Am I putting too much stock into a computer-generated image?

In any case, definitely undervalued compared to the rest of these pieces.

Rating: Buy / Hold / Sell / Burn / Exorcise

Price: 1 ETH
Artist: jerrold

Notes: Hand drawn by my lovely wife to commemorate the passing of Lee Kuan Yew

Not a bad amateur portrait of Lee Kuan Yew in his final years. Naive but sincere. When I was a corporal in the National Day Parade, there were already speculations he was too ill to attend although he eventually did. By the time I returned from my studies abroad, the man was dead.

Unfortunately, I have no way of verifying if this is an original. The author claims that his wife sketched this, but I have no way of verifying this so…

Rating: Buy / Hold / Sell / Burn / Exorcise

Price: 50 ETH
Artist: ChimoshiNFT
Collection: Famous Polygonians

For the price of a whopping 50 ETH, you can get this pixel art image of LKY giving you the weary side-eye. It’s as if he’s saying: “What now, Bilahari?”

Minimalism – whether it be Rothko or Serra – is supposed to evoke a sense of the sublime by stripping things bare. This NFT, however, does remarkably little work but somehow manages to achieve even less. The off-beige eyebags, however, are a nice touch.

Rating: Buy / Hold / Sell / Burn / Exorcise

Price: 0.2 ETH
Artist: manintheironmask
Collection: Dead Dics Club

Dead Dics Club is an NFT collective that creates pixel art of 20th century dictators. The collective’s objective is “to preserve the atrocities of politicians who vested themselves with unlimited power, violated human rights and plunged their country into the abyss of war,” presumably by selling their likeness on the internet for cash.

What I find interesting about this project is not the art, but its price, which varies from 0.01 ETH for obscure military generals to 1 ETH for infamous villains like Stalin or Pol Pot.

LKY is priced at 0.2 ETH, just above Robert Mugabe but below Suharto, Trujillo or … Honnecker?

Really? I object. Dictator or not, surely Lee Kuan Yew commands greater brand recall than Mongolian dictator Khorloogiin Choibalsan or Albanian president Enver Hoxha. Shameful.

Rating: Buy / Hold / Sell / Burn / Exorcise

Price: n/a
Artist: This_President
Collection: This President

As pop art portraits go, this one is remarkably proficient and totally boring. However, despite the mask and the Beats headphones, the subject’s expression is unmistakable LKY. And if you are indeed confused, there’s a helpful Singapore flag just in case American buyers think it’s Joe Biden on his skiing holiday.

Rating: Buy / Hold / Sell / Burn / Exorcise

Price: 0.015 ETH (expired)
Collection: Getty Images, minted by 5C9107

The crypto world is awash with grifters, but most of them have the decency to crop out the watermark after they steal. This “artist” is so lazy he basically just copy-pasted an already-iconic photograph from the first row of the first page of Google images. To quote our Minister Mentor: “What I fear is complacency. When things always become better, people tend to want more for less work”.

Rating: Buy / Hold / Sell / Burn / Hallo Polis

Price: 0.037 ETH
Artist: gktechville
Collection: Stars Art Gallery

I’m not sure what this Harvey Dent inspired portrait of LKY is trying to say. On the surface, he is smiling as if he had just crushed J.B. Jeyaretnam’s re-election dreams. Yet, his face is half embossed and half darkened film grain, as if the author is suggesting that our peerless supreme leader hid a dark side?

Still, I can’t help but stare. It’s like someone cracked an egg on his head.

Rating: Buy / Hold / Sell / Burn

Price: 0.541 ETH
Artist: Patriacio
Collection: Stars Art Gallery

Derek Zoolander might have created “Blue Steel”, but it was LKY who perfected that signature look. This NFT celebrates LKY’s little known early career as high fashion’s first-ever Asian runway model.

Rating: What is this? An NFT for ants?

(for reference purposes only)

Price: 0.02 ETH
Artist: 08D1A2
Collection: Untitled Collection #180777260

This promising young artist shows a skilful use of Adobe Photoshop’s layers function. He has also discovered the opacity slider, as well as the lens correction filter (Alt-Ctrl-F). If I had to wager a wild guess, the national flag over his face symbolises the late Minister Mentor’s centrality to our nation’s history.

Rating: Buy / Hold / Sell / Burn

A luxury we can’t not afford

If we learn anything from this entire Chucky doll museum, it’s this: Don’t neglect your country’s arts education and funding programmes, or else you suffer an eternity of botched digital taxidermies.

LKY once told a bunch of NUS students that “poetry is a luxury we cannot afford”. Unfortunately, he is wrong because art is good branding and branding is a luxury we cannot not afford.

As we move from an industrial-manufacturing economy to a services, ideas-driven economy, it might be wise to sink a few skill points into “art” – if only to ensure that future visions of Singapore don’t resemble the victims of a class-action botox lawsuit.

Take heart. Singapore’s LKY NFTs are bad, but at the very least, they’re no worse than Malaysia’s Mahathir NFTs

Mahathir Mohamad Chilling