Singapore Biennale opens with a flourish

A guest viewing artist Deng Guoyuan's Noah's Garden II during the opening of the Singapore Biennale at the Singapore Art Museum last night. Titled An Atlas Of Mirrors, the fifth edition of the exhibition features 58 works by 63 artists and artist col
A guest viewing artist Deng Guoyuan's Noah's Garden II during the opening of the Singapore Biennale at the Singapore Art Museum last night. Titled An Atlas Of Mirrors, the fifth edition of the exhibition features 58 works by 63 artists and artist collectives.ST PHOTO: ONG WEE JIN

Last night, Malaysian artist Chia Chuyia knitted a garment out of leeks. Another, Ms Melati Suryodarmo from Indonesia, used her face as a stamp to ink rice paper. A third, Mr Sakarin Krue-On from Thailand, retold a traditional folk tale about a tiger hunt through theatre.

Thus opened the Singapore Biennale at the Singapore Art Museum, with guest of honour Tharman Shanmugaratnam, Deputy Prime Minister and Coordinating Minister for Economic and Social Policies.

The leading contemporary art exhibition, into its fifth edition, is organised by the museum and commissioned by the National Arts Council.

Titled An Atlas Of Mirrors, it exhibits works that map and reflect the complex social, political, geographical and historical relationships shared by people and places in Asia.

It features 58 works, including installations and video art, by 63 artists and artist collectives from 19 countries and territories in the region.

Five participating artists have also been shortlisted for the Benesse Prize art award, which comes with a cash reward of 3 million yen (S$40,000) and a commission to create a work to be exhibited at Benesse Art Site Naoshima, an acclaimed art project on the small Japanese islands of Naoshima, Teshima and Inujima.

The biennale is curated by a 10-member team comprising five curators from the museum, four independent curators from the region and the biennale's creative director, Dr Susie Lingham.

In his opening speech, Mr Tharman said: "I'm someone who coordinates economic and social policies, but I want to say that the reason why we are promoting the arts doesn't just start with our economic objectives... and it doesn't end with our economic outcomes."

He continued: "It is in fact a virtuous cycle of economic, technological and artistic ferment, a virtuous cycle that raises our quality of life.

"At the end of the day, that is our objective."

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 27, 2016, with the headline 'S'pore Biennale opens with a flourish'. Print Edition | Subscribe