Those in the city’s arts community and local officials see eye to eye on Singapore’s return to Venice Biennale in 2015.
In March 2013, Singapore announced that it will resume participation in the Venice Biennale in 2015, in a reversal of a 2012 decision to suspend attendance at the event. Members of Singapore’s arts community welcome the news.
Speaking to the Singapore Parliament on 8 March 2013, Acting Minister for Culture, Community and Youth Lawrence Wong affirmed that the city-state is planning a to participate in the 56th Venice Biennale. The announcement reverses a previous decision by Singapore’s National Arts Council (NAC) to pull out of the Italian art show while it weighed up the cost benefits of participation.
Wong said of the hiatus, as reported in the Straits Times, “We have reviewed this, and decided that our participation in international platforms such as the Venice Biennale is important in profiling our artists internationally.”
The NAC’s decision to forgo the art show in 2013 and assess its overall participation in the Biennale, as previously reported in Art Radar, was spurred by uncertainty over the event’s relevance to visual arts development in Singapore, according to an NAC statement. Concerns over the cost of renting and operating a space at the Biennale were also mentioned by NAC officials.
Arts community praise return
Members of Singapore’s arts community welcomed the decision to rejoin the event, with artist and film-maker Ho Tzu Nyen, Singapore representative at the 2011 Biennale, telling Art Radar,
I am happy to hear about this reversal of the earlier, wrong decision to stop Singapore’s participation. I hope that this time there will be no more vacillations. I think it shows a certain commitment to engage with the discourse of contemporary art. But more importantly, it is a great platform for commissioning new artworks, and for exhibiting them to one of the widest possible audiences one can hope for.
Singapore’s artists in Venice
The city-state has taken part in the Venice Biennale six times, showing the work of fourteen artists and seven curators over a period of twelve years. In 2011, Ho represented Singapore with his film The Cloud of Unknowing, which went on to garner attention at the Locarno and Sundance film festivals. Describing the impact of participation in the Biennale on his work, Ho said,
I honestly think that the best thing brought about by my participation was the opportunity to create a new piece of work with a good budget. ‘The Cloud of Unknowing’ has been continuously exhibited up to now, almost two years since it was first shown at Venice. I like to think that this is because my collaborators and I had the chance to really develop our ideas and had the resources to execute our vision.
Artists who have represented Singapore at the Venice Biennale are:
- Matthew Ngui, Suzann Victor, Salleh Japar, Henri Chen (2001)
- Francis Ng, Heman Chong and Tan Swie Hian (2003)
- Lim Tzay Chuen (2005)
- Zul Mahmod, Jason Lim, Vincent Leow and Tang Da Wu (2007)
- Ming Wong (2009)
- Ho Tzu Nyen (2011)
June Yap, who curated Ho’s work in the 54th Biennale and is currently a curatorial resident on the Guggenheim New York’s UBS Map Global Art Initiative, emphasised the importance of Singapore’s continued participation in the event in the Straits Times, claiming that “the impact of artists being able to expand their horizons and practice is critical, not only in terms of international presence, but for artistic development within Singapore as well”.
- Art Stage Singapore 2013 a success? What galleries, collectors told Art Radar – January 2013 – Art Radar assesses the future of the Singaporean fair after the 2013 outing
- Guggenheim’s South and Southeast Asia exhibition looks at art without borders – artist list – January 2013 – round-up of the 22 artists brought together by Singapore-based curator June Yap
- Singapore Tyler Print Institute first Southeast Asian gallery to attend The Armory Show – February 2012 – STPI took the works of Heman Chong and Ho Tzu Nyen to its first ever Armory Show in 2012
- Asian Pavilions at the 54th Venice Biennale – first critic response – June 2011 – what the commentators thought of the Asian art on show at the 54th Venetian event
- The fences are down so look inside: Singapore Biennale 2011’s Old Kallang Airport – picture feast – May 2011 – find out what went on at Singapore’s biennale in 2011, the year that Ho Tzu Nyen represented the city in Venice
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