Esplanade names Yvonne Tham new CEO from Aug 1

Yvonne Tham will be appointed CEO-designate on April 1 and CEO on Aug 1.
Yvonne Tham will be appointed CEO-designate on April 1 and CEO on Aug 1.PHOTO: NATIONAL ARTS COUNCIL

SINGAPORE - The Esplanade Co's assistant chief executive officer Yvonne Tham is moving into the top role, as current CEO Benson Puah steps down after 20 years at the helm.

Ms Tham will be appointed CEO-designate on April 1 and CEO on Aug 1, according to a press release from the Esplanade Co on Tuesday (March 20). The Esplanade Co is a registered charity and not-for-profit organisation which operates the performing arts complex Esplanade - Theatres on the Bay.

The Esplanade presents about 3,000 performances a year, 70 per cent of which are not ticketed. The complex includes indoor venues such as the 1,600-seat Esplanade Concert Hall; the 2,000-seat Esplanade Theatre and two studio spaces that seat about 200 each, plus the Outdoor Theatre facing the Marina Bay Waterfront.

Mr Puah, 61, has been the face of The Esplanade Co since July 1998, the year construction began on the superstructure. During his term, the Esplanade established its annual calendar of programmes with performing arts staples such as the da:ns festival as well as 10 editions of the Mosaic Music Festival to celebrate local musicians. Other ongoing annual features include Huayi - Chinese Festival Of Arts, Pesta Raya and Kalaa Utsavam, as well as The Studios platform for local theatre groups to stage work.

He told The Straits Times that he has not made any decisions yet about his future plans "but I would of course want to take a long break to spend time with family".

"Also, I haven't really had much time to think about my plans as my focus is entirely on Esplanade to ensure that I do all I can to support and enable Yvonne and the team as they lead Esplanade to the next stage of growth," he added. "Yvonne and I have worked together for many years. She has my absolute trust, confidence and support."

Ms Tham, 43, came on board in June 2014 as assistant CEO of the company. She has extensive experience in arts and culture policy and management.

She was deputy CEO at the National Arts Council from 2010 to 2014 and before that, director of the arts and heritage division of the-then Ministry of Information, Communications and the Arts (now the Ministry of Culture, Community and Youth).

From 2002 to 2009, she was involved in developing policies such as the Renaissance City plans, which provided blueprints for the development of the arts, culture and heritage sector in Singapore. She was also involved in the setting up of the School Of The Arts, the Design Singapore Council and the National Gallery.

She read English at the University of Cambridge, where she also completed her M.Phil in American literature. She has a master's in art business from the Sotheby's Institute of Art.

The Esplanade is expanding as Ms Tham takes over, with a new 550-seat waterfront theatre slated to be built by 2021.

The Esplanade Co's chairman Lee Tzu Yang said: "We are confident that Yvonne will build upon the firm foundation that Esplanade has established in the past 15 years and lead our arts centre in its next phase of growth, fulfilling its mission to inspire audiences and enrich lives through the arts.

"We would like to thank Benson for his visionary leadership and immense contributions to Esplanade over the past 20 years, in making the arts accessible to everyone through a diverse calendar of programmes and establishing a strong international network.

Through this time, Esplanade has also catalysed artistic development and content creation and set the bar high for venue management and technical theatre. Under Benson's direction, Esplanade has made a meaningful difference to Singapore's arts scene and our people and we have no doubt that Yvonne will build on these achievements."