Staircase artwork by Singaporean Priyageetha Dia depicts a reverse-Midas scenario

“And leaving gold in a public area–of course it would be bait. Not so much for thieves, but the ensuing discourse, already overdetermined, of whether it was authorised, legal, permissible, safe. MP’s and Town Council officials weighing in, sandpapering the gold with their pronouncements more than the slipper-soles of the residents who actually use the staircase.

(Why not wonder instead, how the artwork looked like in the morning, bathed in gentle sunlight? How this has resulted in placemaking and mythmaking–‘The Golden Staircase of Jalan Rajah’, with the royal sheen of that name? Why do we ask whether it will slow us down and not ask if we would slow down for it?)

… All that glitters must be controlled.”

Read the rest of Alfian Sa’at’s reflections on power’s response to young artist Priyageetha Dia’s controversial work gold-coating steps in her HDB housing block.

About the author(s)

Kathy Rowland is the Managing Editor of, a registered charity that she co-founded with Jenny Daneels in 2016. The site is dedicated to supporting and promoting arts criticism with a regional perspective in Southeast Asia. Kathy has worked in the arts for over 25 years, working in the areas of critical writing and arts advocacy, with a special interest in media platforms for the arts. She is the Project Lead for ArtsEquator’s Southeast Asian Arts and Culture Censorship Documentation Project, launched in 2021. She has written extensively on censorship of arts and culture in Malaysia. She was a member of the International Programme Advisory Committee of the 8th World Summit on Arts and Culture, 2019.

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