President Tony Tan arrives in France for state visit

President Tony Tan Keng Yam and his wife Mary, arriving in Paris on Sunday, on May 17, 2015, for a state visit to France. They are accompanied by French Secretary of State for Digital Affairs Axelle Lemaire (second from right). -- PHOTO: MCI
President Tony Tan Keng Yam and his wife Mary, arriving in Paris on Sunday, on May 17, 2015, for a state visit to France. They are accompanied by French Secretary of State for Digital Affairs Axelle Lemaire (second from right). -- PHOTO: MCI

PARIS - Singapore flags flew high in Paris alongside the red, white and blue Tricolore of France as President Tony Tan Keng Yam began his state visit there on Sunday.

They lined streets and buildings near the Hotel National des Invalides in Paris, where Dr Tan will attend a welcoming ceremony on Monday before calling on his French counterpart, President Francois Hollande, at the Elysee Palace.

Dr Tan - the first head of state from South-east Asia to make a state visit to France - landed in its capital early on Sunday morning.

The red carpet was rolled out for his arrival, with ceremonial guards standing at attention at Charles de Gaulle Airport.

Singapore's Ambassador to France Tan York Chor, France's Ambassador to Singapore Benjamin Dubertret and French Secretary of State for Digital Affairs Axelle Lemaire were there to receive Dr Tan and his wife Mary.

In the afternoon, Dr Tan visited Palais de Tokyo - the largest contemporary art space in Europe - to catch the last day of the Secret Archipelago exhibition.

It is curated by former Singapore Art Museum curator Khairuddin Hori, who is now deputy director of artistic programming at Palais de Tokyo, and includes the work of 14 Singapore artists.

Dr Tan was greeted at the start of his tour by a massive wall mural near the entrance of the building. The black-and-white piece by Singapore artist Farizwan Fajari, who goes by the moniker SpeakCryptic, depicts different versions of himself as he contemplates his own identity.

Mr Khairuddin, who calls the exhibition "a great curatorial adventure" said he hopes artists from Singapore will have more opportunities to exhibit their work internationally.

The exhibition is part of the three-month-long Singapore in France Festival - which is the largest showcase of Singapore arts and culture overseas, with more than 70 programmes unfolding in seven French cities.

An agreement was signed in 2013 between Singapore's National Heritage Board and Institut Francais, France's international agency for cultural policy, for the organisation of the festival, which will draw to a close at the end of next month.

On Monday night, President Hollande will host a state banquet in Dr Tan's honour.