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Making Singapore the meeting, market and knowledge place for Southeast Asian Art

Speech by Ms Grace Fu, Minister for Culture, Community and Youth, at S.E.A. Focus Vernissage at Singapore Art Week 2020

Friends of the arts community,
Distinguished guests,
Ladies and Gentlemen,


Singapore’s visual arts ecosystem

  1. At the Ministry of Culture, Community and Youth (MCCY), we believe that visual arts play an important role in enriching the lives of Singaporeans. It helps us understand who we are as a people and a nation, and brings people from all walks of life together. Under Our SG Arts Plan, our vision is for Singapore to be home to diverse and distinctive arts that inspire our people, connect our communities, and position Singapore globally. Over the years, we have worked closely with national cultural institutions, the growing community of passionate arts practitioners, patrons and audiences, as well as corporate and private sector partners and patrons, to develop a vibrant and sustainable visual arts scene which can be enjoyed by local, regional and international audiences alike.

    Showcasing artists

  2. Our national cultural institutions – the Singapore Art Museum, STPI, and National Gallery Singapore – play an important role in showcasing the works of our local artists, as well as notable artists from the region and beyond. Our institutions have collectively developed the largest public collection of modern and contemporary Southeast Asian art in the world. Beyond exhibiting these works, we also bring art to the public by offering presentation opportunities for artists. This can be at major events, such as the current Singapore Art Week (SAW) and the Singapore Biennale, as well as through commissions by the Public Art Trust.
  3. Most recently, the Public Art Trust launched the Five Stones project by Twardzik Ching Chor Leng, as part of three public artworks to commemorate the Singapore Bicentennial. Five Stones is a playful reminder of our shared heritage as Singaporeans. Since its launch in November last year, these huge inflatable stones have made their way across several neighbourhoods in Singapore. Last weekend, through performative collaborations with Cultural Medallion recipient Amanda Heng, Young Artist Award winner Ezzam Rahman, and members of the public, some of these inflatable stones were moved to the city centre for SAW.  I hope you have a chance to view and interact with the artwork as you move around the city.

    Developing capabilities

  4. To develop the capabilities of our artists, education and training programmes are provided by LASALLE College of the Arts and Nanyang Academy of Fine Arts. Along with the Arts, Design and Media faculty of the Nanyang Technological University, a steady stream of arts practitioners have gone through their training programmes every year. To support them in the creation and presentation of new artwork, the NAC offers a suite of grant schemes for diverse artistic practice and programmes.
  5. We also develop and promote our arts and artists beyond Singapore. In 2019, NAC developed partnerships with institutions in Indonesia and the Philippines to offer regional residency opportunities. These programmes plug gaps in skills and knowledge, and provide our artistic communities opportunities to network and build meaningful relationships.
  6. International platforms such as our Singapore Pavilion in the Venice Biennale remain vital for our artists and curators to present their works to an international audience. Artists who represented Singapore at the Venice Biennale have benefited greatly from access to new exhibition platforms and audiences, and are presenting works internationally today.
  7. Some of our artists have also gone on to make their mark overseas, gaining international recognition for their artistic practice. Ho Tzu Nyen and Shubigi Rao were selected to curate the 7th Asian Art Biennale and 5th Kochi-Muziris Biennale respectively. Just last week, Amanda Heng was awarded the distinguished Benesse Prize and the chance for her work to be exhibited at Japan’s famous Benesse Art Site Naoshima. This recognition for our artists is a source of pride for Singapore and Singaporeans, and I congratulate them on their achievements!

    Growing new audiences

  8. Artists need audiences and patrons. To engage our audiences, we are bringing art to their doorsteps in different ways. SAW 2020, for example, is partnering nine community nodes such as Our Tampines Hub, SAFRA Toa Payoh, MacPherson and Taman Jurong Community Clubs. Audiences will be able to access artworks in their neighbourhood through workshops, art walks and community art showcases. NAC has partnered Meshminds Foundation to present the AR.T Trail, Singapore’s first public art walking trail powered by Spark AR from Facebook. The AR.T Trail harnesses the storytelling power of Augmented Reality (AR) so that visitors can immerse themselves in the stories of selected public artworks by Singapore artists.
  9. To grow new audiences, we are commissioning research to help us better understand visual arts audiences and non-audiences. This complements ongoing research of our cultural institutions, in curatorship and conservation. We hope that the knowledge will help us better tell the story of Singapore through art, and ensure that future generations of audiences appreciate our cultural heritage.
  10. A vibrant visual arts ecosystem needs the strong support of private individuals and collectors. Artworks from seven local and regional collectors are featured in the IMPART Collector’s show organised by Art Outreach, allowing public access to key works held in private collections. Another collector’s show at The Private Museum showcases works by emerging Singaporean artists, ensuring that art enthusiasts have the opportunity to discover exciting works from Singapore and the region.

    S.E.A. Focus 2020

  11. Now to S.E.A. Focus. This year’s edition of S.E.A Focus forms an important pillar of SAW. It seeks to foster a deeper understanding and appreciation of the contemporary art and artists of Southeast Asia, which is important to our visual arts ecosystem.
  12. S.E.A. Focus offers a range of activities to cater to diverse audiences, from an avid collector, art enthusiast, to a student in visual art. The fair provides a unique opportunity to engage intimately with a curated selection of artworks from some of the finest artists and galleries of the region. I was told that the interest in S.E.A. Focus is growing, with collectors coming from the region to see what it has to offer.
  13. S.E.A. Focus also offers a meeting point for artists and art thinkers to discuss regional art through SEAspotlight. Students and educators will have access to an Education Resource guide on the artworks and artists, and can sign-up for guided tours to engage and learn through the school engagement programme called SEACommunity. In summary, S.E.A. Focus is our little contribution to discover, appreciate and understand Southeast Asian art and artists better.


  14. S.E.A. Focus 2020 would not be possible without Helutrans and The Hour Glass, which have donated generously, and the support of our patrons and our arts community – from the galleries which are presenting works, to the private intermediaries which provide storage, art handling and conservation services – all have responded enthusiastically to our call for support. This includes our friends from the Philippines – Silverlens and The Drawing Room – who managed to travel safely to Singapore despite the Taal Volcano eruption. I hope your family and fellow countrymen back home remain safe. I would like to thank all of you for supporting S.E.A. Focus.
  15. And last but not least, I would like to congratulate the STPI team for working so hard to make S.E.A. Focus a success. Let us work together to make S.E.A. Focus and SAW the market place, the meeting place, the knowledge place for Southeast Asian Art; and to make Singapore art what Singapore is known for, globally.
Last updated on 17 January 2020