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.

A video still from Ho Tzu Nyen's 'The Cloud of Unknowing', which featured in the Singapore Pavilion at the Venice Biennale 2011. Image courtesy National Arts Council Singapore.

A video still from Ho Tzu Nyen’s ‘The Cloud of Unknowing’, which featured in the Singapore Pavilion at the Venice Biennale 2011. Image courtesy National Arts Council Singapore.

Venice confirmed

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.

Ho Tzu Nyen, 'The Cloud of Unknowing', 2011, still from video. Image courtesy National Arts Council Singapore

Ho Tzu Nyen, ‘The Cloud of Unknowing’, 2011, still from video. Image courtesy National Arts Council Singapore

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:

Curators include Joanne Lee and Ahmad Mashadi (2001); Low Sze Wee (2003); Eugene Tan (2005); Lindy Poh (2007); and Tang Fu Kuen (2009).

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”.


Related Topics: Singaporean artists, biennales, art events in Venice

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By Brittney

Brittney is a writer, curator and contemporary art gallerist. Born in Singapore and based in New York City, Brittney maintains a deep interest in the contemporary art landscape of Southeast Asia. This is combined with an equally strong interest in contemporary art from the Asian diasporas, alongside the issues of identity, transmigration and global relations.

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