Speech by Mr Edwin Tong, Minister For Culture, Community And Youth, & Second Minister For Law, At the Launch of Singapore Art Week (SAW) at S.E.A. Focus Vernissage on 5 Jan 2023
05 January 2023
A very good evening to everyone.
Welcome to the 11th edition of the Singapore Art Week or SAW, and 5th edition of the S.E.A. Focus Vernissage.
Our Vision for Singapore’s Visual Art Ecosystem
Last year at SAW's 10th anniversary, we looked back on how the visual arts scene has grown and evolved over the years.
SAW has grown into a platform that encourages
collaborations and connects Singapore and international
artists across borders to exchange ideas and bring about
With many events happening across the island, SAW has allowed us to bring the arts into spaces where Singaporeans live, work and play.
I spoke about the SAW Vision – an activated, engaged and united visual arts ecosystem that would enhance the experience for art collectors and art lovers from the region and beyond. SAW continues to bring together key players from the visual arts ecosystem.
This includes everyone here tonight, from our public agencies, private organisations, cultural institutions, and the wider arts community.
We are confident that your participation in SAW will help develop Singapore into the visual arts hub for Southeast Asia.
We have laid the infrastructural foundation for our visual arts ecosystem, even as we continue to grow and develop these spaces. There are two important commercial arts precincts today: Tanjong Pagar Distripark or TPD, and the Gillman Barracks.
Our vision for TPD is for it to be:
A space for artists and creatives to ideate, to produce, and to exhibit their works,
A space for the public to discover new experiences, and find inspiration and comfort in art.
Last year, the Singapore Art Museum (SAM) opened its new space at TPD, and the arts community and the public have benefitted from the various arts offerings here.
For example, SAM held exhibitions such as “Superfluous Things: Paper” and “Lonely Vectors” at TPD, and had public artworks sited in the public areas of TPD.
This year, TPD will feature new exhibitions and experiences.
During SAW, TPD will continue to host the Singapore Biennale, as well as a new exhibition by Singapore artist Joo Choon Lin. Titled “Dance in the Destruction Dance”, the multi-sensory exhibition that explores how everyday objects can constantly shape shift, and carry an array of meanings.
Over at Gillman Barracks, we have galleries that are celebrating how they have spent at least 10 years in Singapore. They are:
FOST Gallery, Mizuma Gallery, Mucciaccia Gallery, Ota Fine Art, ShanghART, Sundaram Tagore, and Yeo Workshop.
During SAW, there will be brand new exhibitions put up by the tenant galleries, alongside a showcase of the private collection owned by philanthropist and Chair of the Sustain the Arts Fund, Mr Pierre Lorinet.
Gillman Barracks will also host exhibitions by restaurant group Appetite, showcasing the works of digital artists.
The vibrant activities at both locations during SAW demonstrate how two commercial precincts can thrive alongside each other.
It is testament to the growth of our commercial visual arts sector, which is supported by public agencies like the National Arts Council (NAC), the Singapore Land Authority and the Urban Redevelopment Authority.
The visual arts sector has come a long way in Singapore. Today, we have a vibrant and diverse landscape of galleries, practitioners, and arts groups.
The Government remains committed to supporting the arts, in partnership with the community.
We will also continue to work closely with partners like yourselves to develop a globally relevant and resilient visual arts ecosystem – one that is an important part of our creative economy and is future-ready.
Singapore Art Museum – S.E.A. Focus Art Fund
We also want to connect arts communities from around the world, and to promote art from the region to the rest of the world.
And we welcome private organisations and patrons to join us on this effort.
Today, I am happy to announce the launch of the Singapore Art Museum and S.E.A. Focus Art Fund.
This was made possible by Mr Alan Lo and Ms Yenn Wong, who have committed US$25,000 annually for the next 3 years.
The husband-and-wife duo are based in Hong Kong, and are fervent patrons of the arts.
Alan is a keen art collector who serves on a wide range of arts and culture non-profit organisations and museum committees, including the Hong Kong Arts Development Council, the TATE Asia Pacific Acquisitions Committee, and Design Trust.
I was in Hong Kong last month for the Asia Cultural Co-operation Forum 2022, which aims to foster cultural cooperation and exchange among countries in the region.
I am therefore heartened to see examples of such cooperation through Alan and Yenn’s generous donation.
Every year, a panel of jury comprising curators, collectors and the institutions’ representatives will select artworks from S.E.A. Focus’ annual exhibition to be acquired for SAM’s collection.
We hope this would not only recognise the iconic works of contemporary Southeast Asian art presented at S.E.A. Focus,
But also encourage the galleries to work closely with their artists to create outstanding works.
Building a Visual Arts Ecosystem alongside Our SG Arts Plan
Our vision for SAW is developed alongside an even bigger vision for the future of arts in Singapore.
NAC will soon be launching their Our SG Arts Plan (2023-2027), which charts the future direction for the arts here. After engaging over 1,000 stakeholders, the arts community have identified a few common themes:
Contributing to a Creative Economy;
Forging a Connected Society; and
Building a Distinctive City out of Singapore.
We have a good mix of arts professionals today, who continue to push boundaries, take on new ideas and continually hone their craft to create something distinctive and uniquely our own.
“Pulp III” is one such example. I visited the Singapore Pavilion at the Venice Biennale last year, where artist Shubigi Rao and curator Ute Meta Bauer presented their work.
It has returned to our shores at the Artscience Museum as an installation and a full-length feature film.
I highly encourage everyone to visit this thoughtful exhibition.
Our Singapore artists also took on a playful slant to their works at SAW this year.
For example, artists at the Waterloo Centre, will be shrinking artworks to be placed in a gachapon machine for visitors to buy.
Some artists will also be leading visitors to interesting places to experience life through their eyes, while others will be organising parties at a void deck.
Given the array of programmes this year, I am confident that SAW will continue to build on our vision for Singapore to be the visual arts hub for Southeast Asia.
Let me conclude by expressing my appreciation for everyone here for championing the arts in Singapore.
I wish all of you an enjoyable evening. Thank you.