Record turnout at Singapore Biennale

Art installation Noah's Garden II by Chinese artist Deng Guoyuan, one of the artworks of An Atlas Of Mirrors, at the Singapore Art Museum.
Art installation Noah's Garden II by Chinese artist Deng Guoyuan, one of the artworks of An Atlas Of Mirrors, at the Singapore Art Museum.PHOTO: ST FILE

Educational and outreach programmes were popular at the fifth edition of the arts event, which closed on Sunday

The fifth edition of Singapore Biennale closed on Sunday with a record attendance of more than 614,000 visitors. The last edition in 2013 attracted 560,349 visitors.

The leading contemporary visual exhibition, organised by the Singapore Art Museum (SAM), ran for four months from October last year.

Visitorship figures were tallied based on the ticketed admissions at anchor venues Singapore Art Museum and SAM at 8Q, and indoor admissions to Biennale venues that included National Museum of Singapore, Asian Civilisations Museum and The Arts House.

The museum also noted the popularity of its educational and outreach programmes, such as sold-out artist tours and Biennale On Wheels, a self-guided tour of the exhibition on bicycles.

Titled An Atlas Of Mirrors, Singapore Biennale 2016 featured 58 artworks by 63 artists and arts collectives from 19 countries and territories in South-east, East and South Asia.

The works were selected by a curatorial team of 10 including SAM curators and independent curators from the region.

SAM's curatorial co-head Joyce Toh says the museum is "pleased that this edition has provided the opportunity for audiences from Singapore and abroad to better understand the intersecting interests of South-east, East and South Asia through art, and to form unique perspectives of the world from the vantage point of South-east Asia".

The National Arts Council, which commissioned the Biennale, also commends SAM for its "commitment to developing a contemporary art biennale with a strong theme and focus on South-east Asia and Singapore", says its chief executive, Mrs Rosa Daniel.

In January, two artists won awards from Japanese private company Benesse Holdings.

Thai artist Pannaphan Yodmanee won a cash prize of three million yen (S$37,000), the Benesse Prize, for her large-scale mixed-media mural, Aftermath.

Singapore sound artist Zulkifle Mahmod was awarded the first Soichiro Fukutake Prize - named after the founder of the Benesse Prize - for his installation, SONICreflection. The award has earned him a visit to Benesse's art site in Japan.

Visitors whom The Straits Times spoke to praise the ambitious exhibition, but also acknowledge its flaws.

"I thought that the Singapore Biennale showcased the great diversity of artists across our region," says full-time national serviceman Ryan Lee, 19, who visited multiple Biennale venues.

However, he feels that some larger works seemed constrained in the SAM galleries.

He says: "I long for a larger space so that regional artworks have more breathing space. I'm glad they focused on public spaces to showcase some of the works that couldn't fit in the gallery and I look forward to more of that in the next Biennale."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 04, 2017, with the headline 'Record turnout at Singapore Biennale'. Print Edition | Subscribe