50 movers and shakers of Singapore's art scene (part 2)

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TOS shines the spotlight on those responsible for building, brightening and shaking up the city’s art scene, and finds out what they have in store for us in 2011

First published on 3 Jan 2011. Updated on 22 Jan 2011.

Click here to read previous page.

21 Zulkifle Mahmod, sound-sculpture artist

Why? The nation’s first sound artist represented Singapore at the 52nd Venice Biennale in 2007; his work pioneered digital art and video installation.
Bare facts: At the Biennale he presented Sonic Dome, a 4m dome emitting a 30-minute sonic composition built from recorded audio from around Singapore and Venice. Using connotative architectural devices from both Singapore and Italy, this sculpture is just one of Mahmod’s investigations into art as a political statement. Mahmod is also the co-founder of Studio 19 and Pink Art, Singapore’s first sound collective with fellow artist Kai Lam in 2004.

22 Olivier Henry, photographer and gallery owner

Why? Henry’s latest contribution to our creative landscape is Vue Privée, a gallery featuring fine art photography.
Bare facts: The Frenchman moved to Singapore in 1998, quickly establishing himself as one of Singapore’s most respected photographers, and found success with his studio Milk Photographie. The gallery sold 39 works in two days at the Affordable Art Fair, including 14 of Henry’s own photos which featured MTV VJ Utt in a ‘Last Supper’ setting.

23 Krisstel Martin, gallerist

Why? Owner of Gallery Krisstel Martin
Bare facts: The gallery showcases works from both established and unsung contemporary South-East Asian artists. Some of the showcased young artists have gone on to achieve international recognition, such as Indonesian painter Yogi Setiawan.
In her words: ‘The Singaporean art scene is growing and developing steadily. I look forward to bringing in more local artists.’

24 Boo Sze Yang, painter

Why? Boo has exhibited at least once every year since 1993, in galleries in Singapore, the UK, South Korea and China, and shows no signs of slowing down.
Bare facts: This former lecturer at Nanyang Academy of Fine Art became a full-time art practitioner in 2009. He has won several awards over two decades and been awarded various grants, including ten conferred by the National Arts Council.
In his words: ‘The painting process is intensive, spontaneous, precarious and reactive. I make suggestions and create impressions; the viewer will have to complete the picture.’ www.booszeyang.com

Emi Eu Singapore Tyler Print Institute
25 Emi Eu, director and curator

Why? As director, Eu is responsible for the Singapore Tyler Print Institute’s overall collaborations with international as well as regional printmaking and papermaking artists.
Bare facts: The Institute’s aim is to push the technical and aesthetic boundaries of the crafts. Eu is also curator of exhibitions at Third Floor-Hermès, one of four Hermès-supported art spaces in the world.
In her words: ‘We’re an amphibian: we’re a gallery and a learning institution at the same time.’

26 Tan Boon Hui, commissioner

Why? Director of the Singapore Art Museum
Bare facts: Previously deputy director of programmes at the National Museum of Singapore, Tan was appointed in 2009 to oversee the development of the SAM and its burgeoning collection of South-East Asian works. Under his watchful eyes, Tang Da Wu conducted his first solo guerrilla-style show at SAM in April 2010. He will continue to commission local artists for shows and catalogues at SAM.

27 Jasmine Tay, contemporary-art champion

Why? Also founder of Jasmine Fine Arts, Tay opened Museum of Art & Design (MAD) in May 2010 to bring modern art to the masses.
Bare facts: MAD is an accessible art space and private museum located at Mandarin Gallery featuring previously inaccessible pieces of contemporary art that coincide with fashion, art, design and life. The museum often holds real-time demonstrations and workshops by emerging and established artists.
In her words: ‘Our place was actually planned for families – parents can look at the paintings and children can buy toys.’

28 Suherwan Abu, gallerist

Why? Founder of Taksu Gallery
Bare facts: This seasoned art collector started Taksu in 1989 in Kuala Lumpur. The gallery is now one of the region’s leading contemporary art dealers and specialists, and it doesn’t look like it’ll be slowing down any time soon. This month there will be a photo exhibition of Adolf Hitler’s apartment in the ‘New Chancellery’ in Berlin. Abu will also be bringing in 11 artists from seven countries – including Dexter Fernandez and Froilan Calayag from the Philippines, and Justin Lim from Malaysia – to exhibit paintings, sculptures and wall-based constructions at its upcoming ‘Rogue Wave!’ show at this month’s Art Stage Singapore at Marina Bay.

29 Kwok Kian Chow, visionary

Why? Director of the soon-to-open National Gallery, what will be the largest visual-arts centre in South-East Asia. Click here for our interview with Kwok Kian Chow.

30 Lorenzo Rudolf, event director

Why? This month, thousands of art collectors, dealers, gallerists, enthusiasts and hangers-on are set to converge on Marina Bay Sands for the hotly anticipated Art Stage Singapore. Will this new show lead the way in shaping South-East Asia’s art market?
Read more: Elaine Ee-Meyers talks to the fair’s director Lorenzo Rudolf to find out. Click here for the full interview with Lorenzo Rudolf.

31 Audrey Wong, member of parliament

Why? Was elected the first Nominated Member of Parliament (NMP) for Singapore’s Arts community.
Bare facts: Focuses on issues that range from censorship to artists’ rights, this former artistic director of The Substation has made it a point to take steps towards engendering change in policy, fostering communication between parties in the creative industry.
In her words: ‘If we want things to develop here, we have to jump in and do it ourselves, and not wait for someone else to do it for us.’ on.fb.me/eYjOjE

32 Marjorie Chu, the doyenne

Why? Founder of Raya Gallery (since renamed Art Forum) in 1971, Chu is a tireless champion of emerging regional artists, and one of the most revered, best-connected gallerists and collectors of contemporary South-East Asian art in Singapore.
Bare facts: A key player in the appreciation of modern South-East Asian art with a particular fondness for Filipino works, a founding member of the Art Gallery Association of Singapore, a fair director of ARTSingapore several times in the past decade and the author of critically anointed 2003 book Understanding Contemporary Southeast Asian Art. www.artforum.com.sg

33 Eugene Tan, critic and curator

Why?Founding director of the Institute of Contemporary Arts Singapore, the curatorial arm of Lasalle College of the Arts, now based in Hong Kong as exhibitions director of Osage Gallery.
Bare facts: One of the strongest voices in Asian art criticism, having written for Art Asia Pacific, Art Review, C-Arts, Flash Art, Metropolis M and Modern Painters. Founding president of the Singapore chapter of the International Art Critics Association. As curatorial head of Osage Gallery, which has outposts in Hong Kong, Beijing, Shanghai and Singapore, the 39-year-old is tipped to be one of the leading lights in shaping Asian art over the next ten years. www.osagegallery.com

34 Sabrina Sit, journalist

Why? Editor of one of Singapore’s leading visual arts monthlies, The Pocket Arts Guide (formerly Confabulation).
Bare facts: Launched in 2009, TPAG is an increasingly reliable and respected surveyor of the regional art scene with a bias for Singapore’s emerging gallerists and artists. Recent special guest editors include Benjamin Milton Hampe from newly opened Raffles Hotel’s Chan Hampe Galleries.
In her words: 'We went from hosting only one art fair [ARTSingapore] in the past nine years to three major art fairs [ARTSingapore, Affordable Art Fair and Art Stage] within the period of October 2010 to January 2011. The quality of commercial art galleries setting up shop is hugely encouraging. Hopefully in ten years time we will have a wider audience with a greater understanding and appreciation of the arts and less of the “Eh, my kid can paint that lor!’” Available for free citywide and online at www.thepocketartsguide.com.

35 Valentine Willie, gallerist and collector

Why? A collector of regional art for 30 years, and founder and chairman of one of the busiest exhibitors of regional contemporary art in town.
Bare facts: Opened the Singapore branch of his KL-based gallery Valentine Willie Fine Art in April 2008 and is considered one of the major figures in raising the profile of the region’s art. Represents scores of Asian artists, including Thai painter Natee Utarit, whose mid-career retrospective ‘Natee Utarit: After Painting’ is on show at Singapore Art Museum until 20 February. www.vwfa.net

36 Chen Shen Po, the activist

Why? Joined ART Singapore as fair manager in 2002 and widely considered a key player in developing Singapore’s image as a viable art market with her unabashedly grass-roots approach: knocking on gallery doors in Asia-Pacifi c, and convincing collectors and galleries to join the fair.
Bare facts: From only $1.2 million in sales in 2002, under Chen’s leadership, ART Singapore reached its acme in 2008, attracting 15,000 visitors and racking up an estimated $10 million in sales.
In her words: On new fairs coming to Singapore: ‘I feel flattered, actually. [It means] I’ve done a good job in building an art market and building a Singapore image that’s attractive now for all these foreign fairs to suddenly pay attention and go, “Hey, there’s a market here.”’www.artsingapore.net

37 Chia Wei Hou, teacher

Why? One of the most celebrated art teachers in Singapore, nurturing two UOB Painting of the Year winners – Bai Tian Yuan, 18, who won the $30,000 prize last year, and Alvin Ong, who won in 2005 when he was 16. Bare facts: Known for his modesty and reserve, Chia was not coy about defending his China-born student Bai Tian Yuan against controversial accusations that she did not deserve to win the UOB prize. The 2008 winner Joel Yuen Kong Chong had decried her photo-aided paintings as ‘devoid of life, energy and spontaneity’.
In his words: ‘There’s this mysterious thing called art that intrigues me. I’m passionate about it, I’m in love with it and I want to discover it with my students.’

38 Kumari Nahappan, artist

Why? One of Singapore’s most prolific conceptual artists is known internationally for her highly distinctive, vibrant open-air sculptures. Two of her most notable Singapore works are her giant bronze chilli peppers Pedas Pedas, installed at the National Museum in 2006, and Nutmeg (2009) at ION Orchard.
Bare facts: Exhibited her ‘Nature Borne Series’ at Tokyo’s Mori Art Museum in 2006; concluded her year-long solo showcase ‘Red Hot on a Trail of a Colour’ at Basel in 2010; set to be a huge feature at this month’s India Art Summit with a subsequent show at Apparrao Galleries, Bangalore in February.

39 Joshua Yang, Justin Loke & Fiona Koh, Art collective

Why?Boundary-shifting, homegrown trio of indie-minded, playful but contentious artists who work collectively as Vertical Submarine, a threesome widely revered for their satirical, off-kilter installations, paintings and sculptures that take a kind of post-punk poke at societal norms and bogus standards.
Bare facts: Winners of the Singapore President’s Young Talent Award of 2009 for their work ‘A View with a Room’ at 8Q SAM – which, incidentally, won the trio a Credit Suisse-sponsored Artist Residency at Pasagüero in Mexico City – plus their 2010 ‘Flirting Point’ and, more recently, their playful, Borgesinspired labyrinth ‘The Garden of Forking Paths’ at Grey Projects.
In their words: ‘We’re like part-time pranksters with full-time jobs’.www.verticalsubmarine.org

40 Mary Dinaburg & Howard Rutkowski, cross-cultural curators

Why? Founders of cross-cultural art advisory and curatorial firm Fortune Cookie Projects, best known for introducing hugely sought-after Western artists to the Asian market, and bringing more local talent to the West.
Bare facts: Successfully showcased major names such as Julian Schnabel , William Wegman and, more recently, New York graffiti titan Daze in March 2010.
In his words: Rutkowski on Singapore: ‘Visual art has long been the missing thread in Singapore’s cultural tapestry. This is rapidly changing and it’s due to the interest and activity of the private sector – collectors visiting art fairs and galleries abroad and art professionals bringing fairs, exhibitions and projects to the Lion City. To be real and lasting it cannot happen any other way. It must be organic.’

41 Jacklyn Soo & Sabrina Koh, the catalysts

Why?Caretakers and curators of local arts initiative SCYA (Singapore Contemporary Youth Artists) that aims to provide a fully functional, community and government-engaging forum for over 90 young, upcoming artists to showcase a mix of multimedia works and performance art.
Bare facts: Recognised for their efforts in pushing a thought-provoking, issues-driven curatorial agenda tackling identity, religion, sexuality, technology and AIDS awareness.www.contemporaryart.sg

42 Milenko Prvacki, free thinker

Read this:

43 Dr Alvin Koh, collector and gallerist

Why?Singapore-born former locum-turned-contemporary art virtuoso and director of commercial pop-art specialist Collectors Contemporary.
Bare facts: Brokers high-value work from artists including Andy Warhol, Robert Rauschenberg, Damien Hirst, Roy Lichtenstein, Keith Haring, David Hockney and James Rosenquist. Also houses Chris Levin’s famed 3-D portrait of Queen Elizabeth II, ‘Lightness of Being’.

44 Stephane Le Pelletier, gallerist

Why? Once describing art as ‘a weather-proof investment’, the charismatic Paris-born Asia-Pacific director of Opera Gallery oversees both the ION and the newly opened Marina Bay Sands galleries, known for their unparalleled collection of over $20 million worth of art from greats including Dalí, Picasso, Ernst and Matisse.
Bare facts: Since opening in 1994, Opera Gallery often sees spontaneous buys from thrifty high-rollers: in February 2009, a Thai tourist bought a $1.2 million Picasso after just five minutes in the gallery.

45 Camilla Hewitson, art-fair luminary

Why? Director of Singapore’s inaugural Affordable Art Fair, which took place in November last year.
Bare facts: Following successful launches in nine other major cities including London, New York, Amsterdam and Sydney, Singapore beat off regional competition to host the first ever Asian edition of the fair with over 50 galleries from 17 countries taking part.
In her own words: ‘The success of AAF has been built on debunking the myth that collecting art is only for the rich, reaching out to people from all walks of life in a new and engaging way’.


46 David Chan, artist

Why? One of Singapore’s most exciting and promising young artists, known for his lurid, part-comic, part-eerie human-animal hybrid paintings which are widely interpreted as a tragicomic take on society’s collective split personality, or ‘the schizophrenic nature of human interactions’.
Bare facts: Winner of the UOB Painting of the Year Award 2004 and the 2007 BMW Young Asian Artist series, set to be a popular draw at this month’s Art Stage. New, hotly anticipated solo exhibition ‘Alphakind’ opens later this year at Art Seasons.
In his words: ‘Ultimately, art is like cooking, it can be a combination of the weirdest ingredients, but as long as you enjoy the taste I suppose that matters the most.’

47 Amanda Heng, performance artist

Why? Born in 1951; one of the founders of Artists Village in 1988; staunch champion of women’s rights, persistently bringing gender equality and feminist issues to the fore with photography, installation and live art. Founded Women in Arts in 1999.
Bare facts: Won the coveted Cultural Medallion in 2010, only the second performance artist ever to win the award. A retrospective of her work is planned for October at the Singapore Art Museum. Set to feature new works at Art Stage.
In her words: On her upcoming solo show: ‘In Singapore, the public tends to see art as something exclusive, created by geniuses. I don’t usually do solo shows because my practice engages people who are not in the arts. I don’t want to be an isolated figure.’

48 Tolla Duke, attorney and curator

Why? Duke started Giveart.net, providing a platform where financially challenged arty folk can put together wish lists for pricey pieces and pass them to family and friends.
Bare facts: After arriving in Singapore in 2007, the London lawyer felt that the contemporary artists in South-East Asia were under-represented by commercial galleries. In addition to the virtual gallery, Duke also runs Give Art Gallery, an exhibition space nestled amongst the shophouses at Outram Park.

49 Joo Choon Lin, artist

Why? Born in 1984 and tipped for greatness, one of our city’s more precociously talented and ambitious up-and-comers, known for her surrealist, stop-motion animations and installations.
Bare facts: Took part in the Fukuoka Asian Art Trienniale 2009, the Aichi Triennale 2010, and set to showcase work at this month’s Art Stage. www.ringmastertoymaker.wordpress.com

50 Jane Lee, artist

Why? Innovative rising star championed by the likes of Osage honcho Eugene Tan for her boundary shifting, abstract paintings that attempt to explore the limitations of the medium.
Bare facts: Winner of the Singapore Art Prize in 2007, and one of the biggest names at the Singapore Art Biennale in 2008 with her grand, impacting wall mural ‘Raw Canvas’. Set to unveil something equally headline-courting at this month’s Art Stage.

By Time Out Singapore editors
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