Time Out Singapore: Nadia Ng

Singapore’s largest art fair introduces a new element to their 2014 show, Gwen Pew find out more as she chats to Nadia Ng, director of Art Stage’s Curated Projects.

Nadia Ng, curator of the South-East Asia Platform at Art Stage 2014.

Nadia Ng, curator of the South-East Asia Platform at Art Stage 2014.

31 Dec 2013:

At last year’s Art Stage, there were only ‘pavilions’ for Singapore and Indonesia. What brought about the decision to establish the wider South-East Asia – and other country and regional – ‘platforms’ this year?

Art Stage is the only international art fair with a clear Asian identity, especially in South-East Asia. It is our mission to present art in context. The success of the Indonesian Pavilion in 2013 led to this new series of curated country platforms that we will premiere this year.

What is the idea behind it?

The platforms will offer a snapshot from individual countries or geographic regions of the Asia Pacific, filtered through the lens of experts in their respective countries. Many may not be familiar with what is current and what is considered ‘in the know’ across different parts of the region; we want to tap on specialists to explore and unearth these discoveries for visitors.

Talk us through the process of how you and the other country experts picked the works to display. What were the criteria?

The quality and maturity of an artistic concept and expression are the main criteria. Art Stage collaborates with leading curators from each country to guide the shortlisting and selection of artists. The South-East Asia Platform, for example, will feature 30 art projects from seven countries (Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, Philippines and Thailand). There are a number of new works specially developed for the platform, institution-worthy pieces and underrecognised artists who are debuting here.

How will the platforms be displayed?

The projects will be presented in a museum-like exhibition format – there will not be partition walls to separate the works but the presentation layout is carefully designed in order to offer a seamless experience to our visitors.

What can we expect from Singapore here? Who are the galleries and artists who are taking part?

In the South-East Asia Platform, there will be a ten-metre-long work by Jane Lee and a multi-media installation by Jolene Lai and Sarah Choo. Other local artists include Michael Lee, Chua Chye Teck, Chun Kaifeng, Jeremy Shama, Donna Ong and Robert Zhao Renhui. In the fair, you can also see works by Han Sai Por, Ng Joon Kiat and Ruben Pang.

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Time Out Singapore: Singapore Biennale 2013

Two curators tell Gwen Pew why art newbies should take the time to visit this year’s Singapore Biennale.

A work by local artist Ng Joon Kiat. Image courtesy of Osage Gallery.

A work in local artist Ng Joon Kiat’s ‘Maps’ series. Image courtesy of Osage Gallery.

5 Oct 2013: Founded in 2006 as a platform to stimulate dialogue between works by local and international artists, the Singapore Biennale quickly established its reputation as one of the largest art events on the country’s cultural calendar. Held every two years, this fourth edition returns with a bold theme of ‘If the World Changed’ this month, and while the quality of artworks remains stellar, a lot of changes and improvements have also been made to the structure of the exhibition.

‘This may be Singapore’s fourth biennale, but it’s a first in many ways,’ says Tan Siuli, a curator at the Singapore Art Museum. ‘For one, this is the first time we have done without an Artistic Director for the Biennale [and instead] have a team of 27 curators from around the region.’ Among the curators are a number of notable local faces, such as Charmaine Toh of Objectifs, Tamares Goh, programming officer at the Esplanade, and Seng Yu Jin of Lasalle and The National Art Gallery.

Each curator proposed a few artists to work with for the Biennale, which means there’s plenty for art lovers to feast their eyes on, from paintings to installations and photography to sculptures from over 100 artists around the world. One particular draw, says Tan, is the strong regional focus: ‘This edition has a very strong focus on South-East Asia [and features many] artists who are not on the usual international biennale circuit, so this is going to be a biennale of discoveries.’ Look out for works by President’s Young Talent winners Zhao Renhui and Liao Jiekai, plus largescale commissions by artists such as Suzann Victor, who will create a rainbow circle at the National Museum, and Nguyen Oanh Phi Phi, who will take over SAM’s chapel with a work of Vietnamese lacquer.

And even if you’ve never been to an exhibition before and don’t know anything about contemporary art, the curators promise that it’s still worth taking the time to go check out the Biennale. ‘To quote the Dalai Lama, “Once a year, go someplace you’ve never been before”,’ says Tan. ‘It is precisely the experience of exploring the unfamiliar that expands our mind and spirit; there is bound to be something to marvel at and something to fall in love with.’

Aware that contemporary art may be difficult for some to enjoy, curator Seng advises that one should ‘approach contemporary art with an open mind and critical attitude, and be prepared to end up with more questions than answers, as contemporary art engages with the viewer as an active and critical agent rather than a passive one.’

‘It is worth remembering that contemporary art is “contemporary” – it is very much a product of our time, and more often than not, [it] engages with the issues and ideas of our time,’ adds Tan. ‘Also, don’t expect to like everything. There are bound to be some artists and artworks that appeal to you more than others, so take that as a starting point – find out more about the artist, his or her practice and other works, and from there it is easy to find other artists whose works or styles are similar to what you like. This will gradually broaden your knowledge and appreciation of the contemporary art world.’

Furthermore, there will be a range of activities on the side for visitors to gain a broader understanding of the artists and artworks involved (see sidebar), so there are many ways to help art newbies take their first steps. ‘And don’t worry,’ concludes Tan reassuringly. ‘The Biennale won’t bite!’