Singapore Art Museum ceases search for museum director or chief executive

The Singapore Art Museum has experienced a leadership vacuum following the exits of both museum director Susie Lingham and chief executive Leng Tshua last year.
The Singapore Art Museum has experienced a leadership vacuum following the exits of both museum director Susie Lingham and chief executive Leng Tshua last year. PHOTO: ST FILE

The Singapore Art Museum (SAM) will run under the guidance of its Board Executive Committee and cease its search for a new museum director or chief executive.

The contemporary art museum, which organises the Singapore Biennale, has experienced a leadership vacuum following the exits of both museum director Susie Lingham and chief executive Leng Tshua last year.

A museum spokesman says that SAM has continued to run "smoothly" under the guidance and support of the SAM Board Executive Committee - which includes deputy chair Chong Siak Ching, also head of National Gallery Singapore - "with no interruption to programming and development plans".

"Hence during this time, there is no intention to search for a CEO or a museum director," she says, adding that the museum will "strengthen the team as and when necessary to ensure that SAM continues to deliver on its vision and mission".

These revelations come on the heels of its announcement last week about the appointment of independent curator June Yap as the museum's director of curatorial, programmes and publications.

Dr Yap, 44, will oversee content strategy and museum programming, while operational matters will be undertaken by other museum staff.

She will take up her new role on Friday (Sept 1).

According to the announcement last week, Dr Yap will report directly to Ms Chong, who is also head of the visual arts cluster in Singapore, comprising SAM, National Gallery Singapore and art gallery and creative workshop STPI.

Ms Chong has headed the visual arts cluster - which is under the Ministry of Culture, Community and Youth - since her appointment as head of the National Gallery in 2013. SAM has been part of the cluster since it was corporatised in 2013.

SAM is currently gearing up for a major $90 million revamp which will include the creation of double-volume spaces and enhanced facilities. This revamp is slated for completion in 2021.

Members of the visual arts industry were generally positive about the news of Dr Yap's appointment, given her experience in the visual arts scene both in Singapore and internationally, but some questioned the decision not to hire a new museum director or chief executive.

Khairuddin Hori, curatorial director and partner at gallery Chan + Hori Contemporary, wonders whether a museum can be professionally managed without these two roles and the "expertise that come with them".

"And if the museum has indeed done truly well without such key functionaries in place (in the past year), perhaps it is time we revisit this traditional structure, pursue and put in place one that is truly contemporary and further mark our position as leaders and first movers among contemporary art museums in Asia if not the world," he says.