The Singapore Biennale returns in October with 10 curators and 60 artists

Telok Blangah, an installation piece by artist Ahmad Abu Bakar, at the 2013 edition of the Singapore Biennale.
Telok Blangah, an installation piece by artist Ahmad Abu Bakar, at the 2013 edition of the Singapore Biennale.PHOTO: ST FILE

The Singapore Biennale will return for its fifth edition on Oct 28 to explore relationships of history and culture within Asia. Organised by the Singapore Art Museum, its outgoing director, Dr Susie Lingham, will stay on as the exhibition's creative director.

The four-month-long contemporary art exhibition, which runs until Feb 26 next year, is commissioned by the National Arts Council. This is the second time the museum is organising the biennale. Titled An Atlas Of Mirrors, it will be put together by a team of 10 curators - six from the museum - and feature some 60 artists and art collectives from the region.

These details were announced at a press briefing today.

South-east Asia remains the point of convergence for artistic explorations at this biennale but the scope will also encompass East Asia and South Asia, which were marginally represented at the last biennale.

The four independent curators collaborating with the museum are Ms Suman Gopinath, an independent curator based in India; Ms Xiang Liping, head of exhibitions at the Shanghai contemporary art museum Power Station Of Art; Ms Nur Hanim Khairuddin, an artist and independent curator based in Malaysia; and Singapore artist-curator Michael Lee.

The museum's curators Joyce Toh and Tan Siuli will co-head the curatorial team, which also includes curators Louis Ho, Andrea Fam and John Tung from the museum. Their areas of art specialisation range from Thailand and Cambodia to Indonesia, Myanmar and the Philippines.

The preliminary list of artists participating in the biennale include established names such as Singapore's Han Sai Por, China's Qiu Zhijie, Indonesia's Titarubi as well as younger artists such as Rathin Barman from India and Nguyen Phuong Linh from Vietnam.

The primary venue for the exhibition will be the museum's premises in Bras Basah Road and Queen Street, and the works of art on show will include site-specific creations commissioned for this biennale. Works will also be on display elsewhere in the Bras Basah-Bugis precinct, including the National Museum of Singapore and the Singapore Botanic Gardens.

Preparations for the biennale began mid-last year and Dr Lingham, who announced her resignation from the museum in December, will stay on to ensure the project continues smoothly.

After she leaves the museum at the end of March, she will continue with the biennale in the role of creative director and oversee the exhibition ranging from its production to programming.

The number of curators and artists participating in this biennale is fewer than at the last, which opened in 2013 and featured 27 curators and 82 artists and art collectives.

Dr Lingham, who was involved in the last biennale, says the budget remains the same but the approach this time is "more focused and cohesive" and the smaller number of participants does not mean that this biennale will be a lesser show.

Curatorial co-head Ms Toh, who was involved in the last biennale as well, says: "Having 27 curators was a great experiment but it was hard to get a consistent conversation going."

Ms Gopinath, a first-time curator for the Singapore Biennale, says she is looking forward to the artistic exchange that the biennale will foster.

"It will be a chance for artists from India to show with artists from the region, and it will be interesting to see how they respond to the themes of the biennale."