Speech by Mr Baey Yam Keng, Senior Parliamentary Secretary for Culture, Community and Youth & Transport, at the opening of the Singapore Pavilion (58th Venice Biennale)
09 May 2019
Ladies and Gentlemen.
Good afternoon. Thank you for joining us at the opening of the Singapore Pavilion at the 58th Venice Biennale. I would like to invite everyone to put our hands together to congratulate Song-Ming Ang, Michelle Ho, and the entire team, behind Music for Everyone: Variations on a Theme!
Growing our artists through internationalisation
In 2015, the National Arts Council Singapore decided to secure this exhibition site for 20 years. It shows our long-term commitment to present our artists at the Venice Biennale. As one of the most established international platforms for contemporary art, the Venice Biennale allows our artists and technical specialists to not only showcase their work, but also exchange ideas and collaborate with their peers from around the world.
Indeed, many artists who previously represented Singapore in the Venice Biennale continue to present their work internationally. These artists include Ming Wong, Heman Chong, Zulkifle Mahmod, and Ho Tzu Nyen, just to name a few. We will continue to support our artists in presenting quality art at top international platforms. We want them to benefit from access to new markets, while sharing a taste of our Singapore arts and culture with a global audience.
Music for Everyone: Variations on a Theme
This year, we are very proud to be presenting Music for Everyone: Variations on a Theme by Song-Ming Ang. Song-Ming’s artistic practice connects both the visual and aural worlds. It brings communities together – building rapport and connections through a shared sense of space and experience.
You would have seen the posters and banners when you step into the pavilion. They take us back to Singapore in the 70s and 80s. Our then-Ministry of Culture had put in place a series of concerts aimed to introduce music events to the man-on-the-street. It is fascinating to see how historical archives are given new life through this exhibition.
Most of us would probably also recognise the recorder – an instrument I’m sure many of us are familiar with or can play. Today, it is still taught in primary schools in Singapore, as well as in many other countries as one of the earliest introductions to music. Thank you, Song-Ming, for evoking our memories and stirring our emotions through this humble instrument that has connected generations of Singaporeans through music.
The arts scene in Singapore
Apart from Song-Ming’s work in the Singapore Pavilion, I am glad that other Singaporean artists are also participating in exhibitions around Venice – Kumari Nahappan, Urich Lau, and Adeline Kueh. There is also curator Erika Tan, who is working on a piece that continues from the previous edition of Venice Biennale; and she has roped in partners like artist-musician Bani Haykal, artist Lynn Lu and curator Annie Jael Kwan. I would like to encourage all of us here to find time to check out their work, and enjoy the range of Singapore’s artistic talents on show in Venice.
The international presence of Singapore’s home grown talents reflects the vibrancy and dynamism of our visual arts scene. Earlier this year, we had a successful seventh edition of the annual Singapore Art Week, which brought together over 100 events in Singapore. This islandwide celebration showcased an immersive range of visual arts experiences such as new commissions, exhibitions, film programmes, and public art installations all around the island.
Our 6th Singapore Biennale will take place later this year. Entitled Every Step in the Right Direction, this contemporary art biennale is another highlight of Singapore’s cultural calendar. Under the artistic direction of Patrick Flores, I’m sure the 2019 Singapore Biennale will present artworks that inspire meaningful exchanges and conversations.
Adding to the buzz from our signature events are programmes by our galleries and museums. STPI Creative Workshop and Gallery, for example, has made a name for itself as a cutting-edge artistic crucible in print and paper works. National Gallery Singapore houses the largest public collection of modern Southeast Asian art. The Singapore Art Museum is currently undergoing a revamp that will keep it at the forefront of the contemporary art scene with enhanced facilities that will accommodate technologically demanding works. Together with many other private players, these institutions make up a robust and exciting art scene for Singapore.
And the work that we see before us certainly adds to our exciting arts ecosystem. As Song-Ming told me yesterday, “Music for Everyone: Variations on a Theme” is a team effort that uses music as a platform to explore ideas. I would like to thank our artist representing Singapore, Song-Ming, and our curator, Michelle, once again. And thanks must also go to Swee Leng, the project manager; B. X., the producer of the film and her team; students in Singapore who acted in the film, and all those back home who have helped to make this a reality. And not forgetting our Pavilion Ambassadors, who will continue to share the Singapore Pavilion’s story till the end of the 58th Venice Biennale, our Italian partners too, have worked hard to make what you see possible.
To our guests here this afternoon, thank you for joining us in the celebrations. It gives me great pleasure to launch the Singapore Pavilion at the 58th Venice Biennale, and to announce that the exhibition will return to Singapore next year, so that many Singaporeans will be able to look forward to this and see the work of our home-grown talent.