Why? Succeeded in transforming the city’s beloved ‘double durian’ into one of the world’s busiest arts and culture centres.
Bare facts: Puah, 54, helmed The Esplanade for over a decade, and is now a year and a half into his appointment as CEO of the National Arts Council. He presses on in growing the industry as a whole through co-producing and commissioning new works, training skilled arts professionals and encouraging people to find their artistic voice.
In his own words: ‘I mapped out a 20-year plan in two phases to achieve our vision to be an arts centre for everyone.’
Read the rest of our interview with Benson Puah here.
2 Dr Pwee Keng Hock, collector
Why? Unlike most managers for whom the dollar takes priority, the co-founder of Utterly Art provides not only art for buyers but space for artists.
Bare facts: A scientist by training, Pwee has been collecting contemporary art from all around the region, mainly South-East Asia, for two decades – purely for pleasure. Utterly Art is set to celebrate its ten-year anniversary in the ION Gallery come May 2011, with a big group show that’s aptly titled ‘Hungry For More’.
In his words: ‘I have long passed the point of available wall space – isn’t that how you define a true collector, when you buy works beyond the available space to display them?’
3 Jason Wee, poet
Why? Widely known for his practice that straddles images and text, we respect the 32-year-old founder of Grey Projects for always biting off more than the rest of us would be able to collectively chew.
Bare facts: The Singapore-born artist spends half of his time in New York. He runs Grey Projects, an artist-directed alternative art space. The upcoming year finds the artist/writer putting together his first poetry manuscript, being part of the third iteration of the Art Incubator Residency, collaborating with partners in Spain and curating the next Singapore Survey show at Valentine Willie.
4 Noor Effendy Ibrahim, leader of the pack
Why? Anyone who dares to helm our artistic stalwart The Substation is someone to look out for.
Bare facts: Having taken over as artistic director from icons Lee Weng Choy and Audrey Wong in 2010, 37-year-old Effendy reportedly has the calendar at The Substation almost fully booked for 2011.
In his words: ‘This year is about re-engaging, reconnecting with communities through creative processes – discourse, presentation, negotiations. But the real challenge is in managing and satisfying emotions and expectations.’
5 Matthew Ngui, travelling man of art
Why? The artistic director of the Singapore Biennale 2011.
Bare facts: Ngui’s own works often explore themes of perception, and to a larger extent, raise questions about the way we view art as well as the world around us. He participated in the São Paulo (1996), Venice (2001) and Gwangju Biennales (2002) and the tenth Documenta in 1997. One of Ngui’s public art commissions is the ‘digital membrane’ made of LED lights that makes up the exterior of Orchard Central. Ngui lives and works in Australia and Singapore.
6 Tom Zaller, museum director
Why? A roving curator known for creating and producing blockbuster travel exhibitions such as ‘Titanic – The Artefact Exhibition’.
Bare facts: This 38-year-old is a veteran on the museum scene, having already worked it for 12 years. He first worked in Singapore when David Copperfield arrived in the 1990s, and went on to produce travelling exhibitions like the one at the world’s largest aquarium, Georgis Aquarium in Atlanta, USA. He is currently museum director of the ArtScience Museum at Marina Bay Sands, which will open in February.
In his words: ‘This museum is about the convergence of art and science in our world, and things that sometimes go unnoticed. The space is epic: the interiors of the “fingers” are unique gallery spaces with natural lighting from the fingertips illuminating the sculptural interior wall forms, [while] the roof allows rainwater to be harvested and channelled down through the centre of the structure to the reflecting pond at the lowest level of the building. Rainwater is recycled and redirected through the water feature to create a continuous cylindrical waterfall. You have to see it to believe it.’
7 Kenneth Tan, do-gooder
Why? This co-founder of Utterly Art and head of marketing for *SCAPE is not just a collector and marketer of art, but also one who believes in its social importance.
Bare facts: Tan dedicates time to organising charity auctions for institutions such as Christies and advocating art education through the Art Outreach Programme. The upcoming year will find him working with financial-service professionals to develop a programme that matches Singaporeans in need with services they require.
8 Ho Hui May, photographer and lecturer
Why? Following three successful consecutive showings in the UOB Painting of the Year Award (2003-2005), this Nanyang Technological University lecturer went on to be 2007’s overall winner and has been hot on the scene ever since.
Bare facts: Specialising in documentary photography, Ho has exhibited in Boston, San Francisco and Singapore. This year finds her participating in ‘Crossings’, a fringe event of blockbuster Art Stage; working on a photographic condo-signs project called ‘88’; looking out for artists such as painter Boo Sze Yang (see number 24 on our list), whose work did incredibly well at this year’s Affordable Art Fair; and keeping track of Ming Wong (see number 18 on our list), fresh from his success at the 2010 Venice Biennale.
9 Emmeline Yong, visual-arts pioneer
Why? Together with Dawn Teo, co-founded the Arab Street-based visual-arts centre Objectifs, the hugely successful Affordable Photo Fair and the Singapore Short Film Awards.
Bare facts: Working with Infinite Frameworks and Shooting Gallery Asia, Objectifs is South-East Asia’s leading short-film distributor.
10 Ida Ng, safe keeper
Those who value their art collection with their lives call on Ida Ng for help. As CEO of arts handling company Art Move, she has worked on projects like the Singapore Biennale and Art Fair, and counts museums, auction houses and private collectors as clients.
Click here to read our interview with Ida Ng
11 Ye Shufang, artistic foodie
Why? It’s always good news when creative types are involved in managing an arts institution in Singapore. Ye works as the National Art Gallery’s assistant director of education and outreach.
Bare facts: This former art educator and internationally exhibited artist is best known for turning edibles into art.
Artist to look out for: Amanda Heng, 2010’s Cultural Medallion winner: ‘I’d like to shine a continuing spotlight on Amanda… because it should have been shone on her years ago.’
12 Gwen Lee, champion of photographic art
Why? After six years in the museum industry, Lee founded 2902 Gallery, the largest photographic art gallery in South-East Asia, and went on to work as the director of Singapore International Photo Festival.
Bare facts: The Gallery is the first and only gallery to represent US-based Singaporean John Clang (see number 17 on our list), among many other regional artists. Lee is also one of the driving forces behind the Biennial, volunteer-run Singapore International Photography Festival. Both were started in 2008.
In her words: ‘The mentality at [the beginning was that] photography was meant to be viewed, not bought… Now, more artist photographers say: “This is my career.” Their sales of photography works become a chunk of their livelihood.’
13 Hazel Lim, multi-tasking lecturer
Why? The Lasalle lecturer is a skilled painter and book-maker, but above all understands the importance of critical thinking in art-making.
Bare facts: It will be an exciting year for this former sociology major, with a two-year development project under The Substation, a number of exhibitions citywide and the unveiling of her large-scale public work at Caldecott MRT station. In her words: ‘[In 2011] I would like to see Singapore look at spaces like Beijing’s 789 Art District to see how providing these kind of spaces [would benefit] the local creative community.’
14 Rebecca Chew, principal
Why? The first principal at SOTA (School of the Arts), she will be leading the next generation of artists to shape Singapore art 2.0.
Bare facts: SOTA is Singapore’s first national pre-tertiary specialised arts school set up in 2008 by the Ministry of Information, Communications and the Arts (MICA). They offer a six-year integrated arts and academic curriculum for youths aged 13-18. As a musician, she was nominated for the UNESCO prize for Bridging Peace and Culture.
In her words: ‘After six years, the children will know their own capabilities.’
15 Jackson Tan, design director
Why? One quarter of :phunk Studio, an art and design collective recently described as ‘champions of Singapore’s graphic scene’ by the UK’s Creative Review.
Bare facts: Sixteen years into their career, Tan’s art and design collective has since been picked up by Art Seasons gallery, exhibited in Taiwan, China and Japan, and collaborated with legendary Japanese artist Keiichi Tanaami. Tan is also the creative director of Black Design, a creative agency that was commissioned by DesignSingapore in 2005 to curate ‘20/20’, an exhibition recognising the finest talent in Singapore.
16 Jing Quek, photographer
Why? Singapore’s most exciting emerging photographer.
Bare facts: Quek uses real people instead of models for a humorous yet insightful look into often overlooked communities within Singapore society. He has shot numerous advertising campaigns, been published worldwide (including the pages of TOS), and exhibited internationally, representing Singapore in the Venice Biennale in 2010.
In his own words: ‘(It’s) hard for individuals or small collectives to affect overall policy or feel the ability to sustain themselves through their art in Singapore. Once in a while something interesting and exciting pops out of the grass roots…'
17 John Clang, contemporary photographer
Why? A master of conceptual photography, capable of inspiring awe as much as creating a sense of unease, Clang’s work questions the representation of reality.
Bare facts: Clang first exhibited his work as a member of the controversial (and now defunct) Singapore art group 5th Passage Artists. Acclaimed internationally for his commercial work, his client list includes notable names such as Godiva, Hermès, IBM, Levi’s, Nike and Timberland. In 2010, he became the first photographer to receive the Designer of the Year award at the annual President’s Design Award. Though he is based in New York, Clang is represented by Singapore’s 2902 Gallery.
18 Ming Wong, role-play filmmaker
Why? An artist known for recontextualising historical works in cinema as well as imitation and role-play, he applies these methods to examine concerns in his artistic career and personal life.
Bare facts: Life of Imitation was presented at the 53rd Venice Biennale in 2009, where it won the Special Jury Mention, making him the first Singaporean to receive this award. A film that revisits the golden age of Singapore cinema in the 1950s and ’60s, it reflects on an era of nation-building, economic struggle and rapid modernisation. Wong will be exhibiting at the Singapore Biennale 2011, where he’ll be presenting a new film set in Naples, based on the 1968 film Teorema.
19 Alan Oei, curator
Why? Founder of Salon Projects, a curatorial programme that develops art projects in nontraditional gallery spaces.
Bare facts: He curated the 2009 exhibition ‘Blackout’, which took place in a light-less suburban warehouse, challenging guests to navigate their way through the artworks in the dark. Oei was also responsible for ‘Open House!’, an exhibition that took art out of galleries and into people’s homes. Oei persuaded eight residents of shophouses along Niven Road to open their homes to the public, and house works by artists such as Jason Wee and Milenko Prvacki.
20 Jennifer Teo and Woon Tien Wei, talent nurturers
Why? Teo and Woon started Post-Museum to make contemporary art and culture more relevant to society. They strive to create a more symbiotic, synergistic way of working with the local community.
Bare facts: Post-Museum is the only continuously operational art space in Singapore that is not government-funded. Apart from the occasional grant from the National Arts Council, the museum rakes in funds from renting out four individual studio spaces above the quaint yet charming colonial-styled showroom in Little India.
Click here to read our story on Post-Museum's Jennifer Teo and Woon Tien Wei.
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