Celebrating milestones in the development of visual arts at Singapore Art Week
Speech by Mr Edwin Tong, Minister for Culture, Community and Youth & Second Minister for Law, at the opening of Singapore Art Museum at Tanjong Pagar Distripark and S.E.A. Focus Vernissage
13 January 2022
A very good evening to everyone.
Last November, Edmund, Rosa and I visited a number of repurposed arts venues whilst we were in Paris. These include:
a.59 Rivoli which started out as an artist squat;
b.Le Centquatre which used to be a funeral home; and
c.L’Atelier des Lumieres which is housed in a former steel mill.
We were all very inspired by how the French artists and companies worked together with the city government coming together,
a.incorporating arts in an urban setting bringing life to art, into the city centre, into the middle of where people live;
b.created new arts spaces that were dynamic and constantly evolving.
These visits are some of the many moves and steps that we have taken to develop Singapore’s cultural infrastructure. Naturally, we discussed Singapore Art Museum (SAM)’s plans at Tanjong Pagar Distripark, or TPD.
The opening of SAM at TPD brings along with it significant milestones,
a.both for the development of visual arts in Singapore,
b.as well as for the presentation of art experiences in unexpected and everyday places, the disappearing museum concept where you see a lot more of the works and a bit less of the walls.
So I am very happy to see all of you here today.
Tanjong Pagar Distripark as a new art destination
Last year, I shared about our vision for TPD at Singapore Art Week (SAW), and I talked about how this ought to be
a.A space for artists and creatives to come together to talk about art, to ideate, collaborate and produce and exhibit their works, and also
b.A space for the public to feel a part of the artists’ space, not separate, but together and integrated, to discover new experiences, and find inspiration and of course, comfort in art. Especially in these difficult times during the pandemic and how we associate and find solace and comfort in art.
It is very encouraging to see that TPD has since seen organic groundswell of interest from arts businesses. In a year, TPD has welcomed three new businesses, with several more in the pipeline.
a.The National Arts Council (NAC) will build on this momentum and forge ahead with exploring further collaborations with our partners.
b.And I call on all stakeholders to share your ideas with us, come together, make it a melting pot, to develop the TPD into an exciting space. One that is both culturally vibrant, as well as innovative, enticing and attractive for people to come.
The opening of SAM at TPD will be a strong anchor in our collective efforts to develop the TPD into a vibrant arts space and a culture cluster – a space for new forms of art creation, presentation, and engagement with the audience, both existing as well as new ones.
SAM, as Singapore’s longest-standing art museum with a focus on contemporary art, has itself been instrumental in giving Singaporeans and our international visitors a place to visit and be inspired by the arts.
a.SAM indeed has been bringing art to Singaporeans from all walks of life, really bringing through the notion that art is for all – that it’s not just a place in the museum, but is part of our everyday lives, and integrated into our lived experience.
b.With projects such as the SAM Mini Mobile Museum, to bring National Collection-inspired works beyond the museum to our libraries,
c.Or by organising programmes for our seniors and frontline workers, to provide much-needed human connection and support with art during the COVID-19 pandemic.
SAM has also brought Singapore and overseas artists together
a.to exchange ideas, evolve their practices, learn new concepts, to be exposed to the diversity of Singapore’s arts scene.
b.SAM has also brought artists together through the SAM Residencies programme, which is reflected in the Present Realms exhibition that you would have seen.
Sitting alongside other art galleries, conservators and art logistics providers in the historic district of TPD, SAM at TPD will further strengthen the enclave as an attractive commercial art destination. I look forward to seeing more collaborative artistic projects, and thought-provoking presentations at TPD.
Celebrating the 10th edition of SAW
Let me say a little about the 10th edition of SAW as well. This year, we celebrate artistic legacies and new frontiers in what is now the 10th edition of SAW 2022. It is timely for us to reflect a little and look back on how the visual arts scene in Singapore has grown and evolved over the past years.
a.In the first edition of SAW back in 2013, there were only around 50 events. This year, despite still being in the middle of COVID-19, we are proud to see over 130 events happening across the island in spaces where Singaporeans live, work and play. Not your typical places, but really bringing art into the community, and with the community.
b.As a recognised platform, SAW encourages collaborations and connects Singapore and international artists across borders to exchange ideas and bring about greater creativity.
c.Since 2019, we have seeded and developed our own key platform to focus on Southeast Asia contemporary art - S.E.A. Focus organised by the STPI Creative Workshop & Gallery. Having gained the traction and support of key galleries in Southeast Asia and Singapore, S.E.A. Focus continues to foster deep appreciation and cultural exchanges of Southeast Asian contemporary art and artists. I thank the STPI team for leading S.E.A. Focus and growing it over the years. We look forward to the 4th edition of the S.E.A. Focus showcase this year, which is organised in collaboration with Art Basel.
d.We are confident that the public will enjoy themselves and have an enriching experience given the strong line-up of Southeast Asian artists and galleries here at TPD.
SAW 2022 is a milestone towards the SAW Vision, with an activated, engaged and united visual arts ecosystem that would enhance the experience for art collectors and art lovers alike from the region and beyond.
a.It continues to build on our vision for Singapore to be the visual arts hub for Southeast Asia. It started out as an aspiration. I think it is now a vision, and I think soon, we’ll make it a reality.
b.From evocative works of our pioneering modern artists, to the promising growth of our contemporary artists, we celebrate the diversity of Singapore’s visual arts at SAW 2022.
c.This year will also see 29 SAW Open Call projects of which four are sited in TPD. These special exhibitions happening during SAW are in addition to the quality exhibitions that the tenant galleries showcase on a regular basis.
Beyond SAW, our visual artists continue to push boundaries and take Singapore to greater heights.
a.Come April, we look forward to having Ute Meta Bauer and Shubigi Rao represent Singapore at the 59th edition of the International Art Exhibition of La Biennale di Venezia.
MCCY and NAC are committed to continue to support SAM at TPD, as well as other visual arts precincts and platforms such as SAW.
a.We will work closely together with the arts community and other stakeholders in the broader society,
b.to foster a truly shared sense of vision, purpose and direction, and bring our visual arts ecosystem forward.
To conclude, let me once again express my appreciation for everyone being here today,
a.and congratulations to SAM for opening your new space.
b.We also celebrate the 10th edition of SAW at TPD - many of you will enjoy new experiences and exchanges, and I'm sure it will be an experience to remember.
Thank you for having me here. I wish all of you an enjoyable evening. Thank you.