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Celebrating the visual arts in Singapore

Speech by Mr Edwin Tong, Minister for Culture, Community and Youth & Second Minister for Law, at the S.E.A. Focus Vernissage at Singapore Art Week 2021

Distinguished Guests,
STPI Executive Council,
Art Patrons and Friends,

  1. Good afternoon, and welcome to the 3rd edition of the S.E.A. Focus Vernissage, a highlight of the annual Singapore Art Week, or SAW.

    Importance of SAW to Singapore’s visual arts scene

  2. SAW is a celebration of the visual arts and its thriving ecosystem in Singapore – from art galleries to museums, art handlers and conservators, to curators and of course, our artists.

    a) Each brush stroke or installation captures the unique perspectives of our arts community.

    b) Each piece reflects a part of our cultural identity and shapes our understanding of the world.

    c) Each work contributes, in its own way, to lifting our spirits and expanding our understanding of possibilities.
  3. Especially in uncertain times like these, when COVID-19 continues to loom large around the world, art is essential in bringing us comfort, lifting our spirits, and inspiring all of us.

    a) It is therefore important that MCCY and the National Arts Council continue to support platforms like SAW.

    b) This reflects the Government’s commitment towards developing a vibrant and sustainable arts and culture landscape in Singapore.
  4. SAW has led the way in Phase 3, to demonstrate how large-scale events and the art sector in Singapore can effectively innovate and adapt to the new normal.

    a) This year’s programme includes over 100 events, tailored to audiences of all tastes and ages.

    b) There are collaborations between Singapore artists and international brands, exhibitions in our world-class museums and galleries, as well as art in public spaces, such as parks and bus stops.

    c) There is really something for everyone, as Art Takes Over our streets.
  5. The format for SAW 2021 also includes blended and digital components that allow audiences to experience art in the comfort of their own homes.

    a) SAW Digital will introduce immersive virtual experiences to audiences in Singapore and beyond. For example, The Incredible Magical Moving Sticker Exhibition by EYEYAH! is a fully digital commission that features fun and quirky digital stickers designed by 30 professional and emerging digital artists. Audiences can insert these stickers in their own photos and videos.

    b) The SAW Art Symposium is another new hybrid initiative that will bring regional partners and thought leaders together to discuss salient topics in art policy.

    c) There will also be contributions from the Sotheby’s Institute of Art, such as a panel discussion on Asian Art in the 21st Century – Narratives of History and Curating.

    S.E.A. Focus as a pivotal platform

  6. The S.E.A. Focus art fair remains a key highlight of this SAW edition.

    a) For our artists and galleries, we hope that S.E.A. Focus provides new exposure and opportunities to hone their skills in art market development.

    b) For art collectors, we hope that S.E.A. Focus is considered the seminal event to encounter artistic talents in Singapore and Southeast Asia.

    c) For Singapore, S.E.A. Focus is an opportunity to showcase   Southeast Asian art and champion it to the rest of the world.
  7. This year’s edition of S.E.A. Focus will feature a selection of works by 43 artists from Singapore and Southeast Asia, represented by 27 participating galleries – local as well as international.

    a) Among the artists featured are those who are already well-established, such as Ho Tzu Nyen from Singapore, Albert Yonathan Setyawan from Indonesia, Rirkrit Tiravanija from Thailand and Mandy El-Sayegh from Malaysia, who is showcasing in Singapore for the first time.

    b) S.E.A. Focus is also a platform for emerging artists to display their works.

    c) This year, we have Hà Ninh Pham from Vietnam and local young artists like Ashley Yeo, Jamie Tan and Jamie Teo.

    d) In addition, today’s S.E.A. Focus will feature a digital exhibition, hosted on Artsy, to complement the physical offerings and bring these to the over 20,000 art collectors who already use the platform.
  8. I am confident that the arts community in Singapore will continue to grow from strength to strength.

    a) MCCY remains committed to developing the sector and supporting major art events such as SAW and S.E.A. Focus.

    b) We will ensure that creativity and passion can flourish, and art fairs like this can continue apace, with the necessary Safe Management Measures.

    c) Let us not take for granted the difficult times that the rest of the world is going through, with the pandemic still raging unabated elsewhere. 

    d) It is testament to the good governance, solidarity as well as social responsibility exercised by all that we are able to organise today’s event.
  9. Singapore has, and will continue to develop our arts scene as an important player in the international art world.

    a) We aspire to be an incubator for artists to develop and find success.

    b) We remain open to talent from all around the world and willing to nurture the seeds of creativity on our soil.

    c) According to the Singapore Cultural Statistics, the total value-added of the visual arts sector in Singapore has grown by around 15.3% from 2012 to 2017.

    d) We want to grow this in the coming years.

    Developing Singapore’s cultural infrastructure

  10. This year’s edition of S.E.A. Focus is held in the distinctive Tanjong Pagar Distripark for the very first time.

    a) With its industrial vibe and large spaces, there is tremendous potential here as a dedicated space for creatives to experiment, to produce and to exhibit their works.

    b) In fact, today’s unique exhibition space, which was designed by Zarch Collaboratives and put together by STPI, is an example of what can be conceptualised and brought to bear in this location.

    c) It eschews the usual booth format of art fairs in favour of a more open and fluid concept. This is just one of the many possibilities that can be introduced here.
  11. This area is rich in heritage and also holds special memories for the arts community, as the inaugural Singapore Biennale in 2006 was held at the historic Tanjong Pagar Railway Station just next door.

    a) There are several arts organisations, from galleries to art storage and conservation providers, currently located here.
  12. Our cultural infrastructure – including possible art spaces such as these – can contribute greatly to our urban landscape and value-add to the lifestyle offerings for everyone in Singapore, as well as our friends from around the world.

    a) Therefore, NAC intends to launch a series of engagements and partner the arts community to co-create innovative new concepts and programmes in areas such as the Tanjong Pagar Distripark.

    b) NAC is also exploring new ideas and collaborations with existing tenants in the Distripark to grow its organic development as a cluster for multi-disciplinary arts as well as other ancillary services.

    c) NAC will identify suitable spaces within the Distripark for these innovations and ideas.

    d) These spaces will benefit both the arts sector as well as the wider public who will have exciting new destinations to look forward to.


  13. I hope that you will greatly enjoy the diversity of this year’s SAW.

    a) We have come this far only with the support of individual artists, cultural institutions, galleries, patrons and supporters like yourselves.

    b) These partnerships we have with you are the ‘masterpieces’ which define and anchor our arts landscape.

    c) We will continue to work closely together with all our friends and supporters of the arts to grow our visual arts sector.
  14. Last but certainly not least, let me express my appreciation to the STPI team for their hard work in organising S.E.A. Focus despite the many challenges and uncertainties in these times.
  15. I wish all of you a very pleasant afternoon. Thank you very much.

Last updated on 26 January 2021