Singapore Biennale



The Singapore Biennale is an international contemporary visual arts exhibition. It aims to promote Singapore art and culture to the world, boost the art and creative industries in Singapore, and provide a platform for locals to experience art.1 First held in September 2006,2 subsequent Biennales were usually held once every two years.3 As at 2016, five editions of the Biennale have been organised in Singapore.4

Background
The term “Biennale” was originally used in the 1930s as the name of an international art exhibition held in Venice, Italy. It literally means “biennial” or “taking place every other year”.5

The origin of the Singapore Biennale can be traced to the Renaissance City Project (RCP), which was announced in Parliament in 2000 by then Minister for Information and the Arts Lee Yock Suan. The RCP aimed to turn Singapore into a global arts city.6 In 2002, the Creative Industries Development Strategy report was released to chart the development of the arts and culture, design and media industries in Singapore. One of the recommendations in the report was to transform the Singapore Art Series into the Singapore Biennale, which would be the key visual arts event in Singapore featuring local and international artists.7 Based on this report, the Renaissance City Project 2.0, introduced in 2005, included the organisation of the inaugural Singapore Biennale the following year.8

Singapore Biennale 2006
The first Singapore Biennale was opened to the public from 4 September to 12 November 2006.9 It was organised by the National Arts Council in partnership with the National Heritage Board.10 The result of 18 months’ planning, the event had a budget of nearly S$8 million and ran for about 10 weeks. It was attended by about 883,000 people who viewed the works of 95 artists from 38 countries, exhibited in 19 venues around Singapore. Out of the 95 artists, 12 were from Singapore.11 It was also the anchor cultural event for Singapore 2006 – a series of high-profile international events held in Singapore, including the Annual Meetings of the Boards of Governors of the International Monetary Fund and World Bank Group.12


Showcasing local visual artists, the 2006 Singapore Biennale aimed to feature Singapore as an important global hub for visual arts. The theme, “Belief”, sought to examine and reflect the relationship between contemporary art and beliefs.13 The first artistic director of the Singapore Biennale was Fumio Nanjo, who was chosen for his experience in organising major international art events.14 As he was based in Japan, Nanjo flew to Singapore at least once a month to oversee the preparations for the event. He envisioned the Biennale to be an “entertaining” and “accessible” event.15

The maiden Singapore Biennale was officially opened on 1 September 2006 by Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong at the Padang. A variety of performances and presentations were put up during the launch party, which was attended by about 2,000 participants.16 The exhibitions were hosted in three principle venues: City Hall, Tanglin Camp and the National Museum of Singapore. A key feature of the Biennale was that artworks were exhibited in seven major religious sites in Singapore, such as the Kwan Im Thong Hood Cho Temple and the Sri Krishnan Temple. Many of these venues were chosen to reflect Singapore’s multiracial and multicultural society as well as the role of architecture in the construction of people’s beliefs.17

In total, 198 artworks were exhibited at these sites, including 111 newly commissioned artworks that were created with a local context and 87 existing artworks loaned from artists around the world.18 The artworks were in a variety of formats, including painting, photographs, mixed media, performance and architecture.19 “Encounters” – a series of discussion sessions – was organised to allow the public to interact with the arts community and the Biennale organisers and give feedback on the event. “Encounters” had begun a year before the Biennale opened, and continued after the opening.20

Singapore Biennale 2008

The second edition of the Singapore Biennale (SB 2008) was held from 11 September to 16 November 2008. Fumio Nanjo reprised his role as artistic director.21 SB 2008 was one of the programmes of Singapore Grand Prix Season, a series of events organised in conjunction of the Formula One race to attract more tourists to Singapore and provide entertainment for visitors.22


The theme of SB 2008 was “Wonder”, which sought to question conventions and perceptions.23 A total of 137 artworks by 66 artists from 36 countries were exhibited during the Biennale.24 Compared with the inaugural edition, the 2008 edition had a shorter duration of eight weeks and a lower budget of S$6 million. Attracting a total of 505,200 visitors,25 the was held at only three main exhibition venues – City Hall, Marina Bay and South Beach Development26 – compared with the 19 venues used in the previous edition. The chairman of SB 2008, Lee Suan Hiang, explained that SB 2008 had been scaled down to make it easier for the public to visit and experience the artworks.27

SB 2008 was officially opened on 9 September 2008 at South Beach Development by then Senior Minister Goh Chok Tong. At the opening, Goh said that the Biennale was an avenue to “show how the arts have become an integral part of Singapore’s development”.28 SB 2008’s programme also featured education and outreach activities such as the dialogue session “Encounters”; Kids Biennale, an educational arts programme for children aged seven to 12; and an educational resource for secondary and junior college students. Parallel programmes, such as a boutique art fair called Showcase Singapore, were also held.29

Singapore Biennale 2011
The third edition of the Singapore Biennale was held in 2011, from 12 March to 15 May. In contrast to the previous editions, SB 2011 was organised by the Singapore Art Museum and featured a local artistic director, Matthew Ngui. The five-week event, which cost S$6 million to organise, was attended by 912,897 people.30


Taking the theme of “Open House”, SB 2011 looked at the confines of public versus private.31 Sixty-three artists from 30 countries contributed 161 artworks for SB 2011. The artworks were mainly exhibited at the Singapore Art Museum, National Museum of Singapore and the Former Kallang Airport Building. The event was officially opened by then Minister for Information, Communications and the Arts Lui Tuck Yew.32 A key feature of SB 2011 was the Merlion Hotel, a temporary hotel built around the iconic Merlion statue by artist Tatzu Nishi.33

Singapore Biennale 2013
The fourth iteration of Singapore Biennale ran for about three months, from 26 October 2013 to 16 February 2014. Again organised by the Singapore Art Museum, SB 2013 was overseen by a programme advisory committee and project director, Tan Boon Hui.34 Compared with previous editions, SB 2013 did not have an artistic director; instead, there was a team of 27 curators.35


The theme of SB 2013 was “If The World Changed”, which examined the present environment and the environment one hoped to live in.36 Eighty-two artists from 13 countries contributed more than 100 artworks, which were exhibited in various venues in the Bras Basah area.37 While the Singapore Biennale had previously focused on contemporary art from all parts of the world,38 SB 2013 centred on artists from Southeast Asia – 93 percent of the works were by artists from the region.39 The event saw over 560,000 visitors.40

SB 2013 was opened on 25 October 2013 by Acting Minister for Culture, Community and Youth Lawrence Wong at the Singapore Art Museum.41 SB 2013 also included educational and outreach programmes such as talks, workshops and symposiums,42 as well as a series of programmes – My Biennale, My World – to interact with and engage the public.43

Singapore Biennale 2016
SB 2016 was held from 27 October 2016 to 26 February 2017. The fifth edition of the Singapore Biennale was also organised by the Singapore Art Museum and commissioned by the National Arts Council.44 SB 2016 was officially opened on 25 October 2016 by Deputy Prime Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam at the Singapore Art Museum.45


Taking the theme, “An Atlas of Mirrors”, SB2016 examined the challenges of Southeast Asia, and the new directions and discoveries of the region. SB 2016 was curated by a team of curators and led by a creative director, Susie Lingham.46 A total of 63 artists from 19 countries participated in SB 2016. Out of the 58 artworks exhibited, more than 80 percent were newly commissioned or adaptations.47 The Singapore Art Museum also worked with Benesse Holdings to present the Benesse Prize to one of the participating artists. Pannaphan Yodmanee from Thailand was eventually awarded the Benesse Prize from among five shortlisted candidates.48 SB 2016 ended on 26 February 2017, after running for four months.49



Authors
Lim Siew Kim & Goh Lee Kim



References
1. Slater, B., et al. (2007). Belief: Singapore Biennale 2006, 4th September to 12th November 2006. Singapore: Singapore Biennale Secretariat, p. 9. (Call no.: RSING 709.05 BEL)
2. National Arts Council. (2016, December 5). Singapore Biennale 2006 [Press release]. Retrieved 2017, January 20 from National Arts Council website: https://www.nac.gov.sg/media-resources/press-releases/SINGAPORE-BIENNALE-2006.html
3. Oon, C. (2004, December 25). Manhunt for art show. The Straits Times, p. 3. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
4. Singapore Art Museum. (2016, October 25). The fifth edition of the Singapore Biennale 2016 opens with an Atlas of Mirrors [Press release]. Retrieved 2017, January 20 from Singapore Art Museum website: https://www.singaporeartmuseum.sg/press_office/releases/2016/The_Fifth_Edition_of_the_Singapore_Biennale_2016_Opens_with_An_Atlas_of_Mirrors.pdf
5. Pearsall, J., & Hanks, P. (Eds.). (1998). The new Oxford dictionary of English. Oxford: Oxford University Press, pp. 170–171. (Call no.: R 423 NEW-[DIC]); Oxford University Press. (2017). Definition of biennale in English. Retrieved 2017, January 20 from Oxford Dictionaries website: https://en.oxforddictionaries.com/definition/biennale
6. Ministry of Information and the Arts. (2000). Renaissance City Report: Culture and the arts in Renaissance Singapore, p. 4. Retrieved 2017, January 20 from National Arts Council website: https://www.nac.gov.sg/aboutus/arts-culture-strategic-review.html
7. Workgroup on Creative Industries. (2002). Creative Industries Development Strategy, p. 18. Retrieved 2017, January 20 from Ministry of Trade and Industry website: https://www.mti.gov.sg/researchroom/documents/app.mti.gov.sg/data/pages/507/doc/17%20erc_services_creative_industries.pdf
8. Arts and Heritage Development Division. (2008). Renaissance City Plan III. Singapore: Ministry of Information, Communications and the Arts, p. 6. Retrieved 2017, January 20 from National Arts Council website: https://www.nac.gov.sg/aboutus/arts-culture-strategic-review.html
9. National Arts Council. (2016, December 5). Singapore Biennale 2006 [Press release]. Retrieved 2017, January 20 from National Arts Council website: https://www.nac.gov.sg/media-resources/press-releases/SINGAPORE-BIENNALE-2006.html
10. National Arts Council. (2016, December 5). Singapore Biennale 2006: Belief [Press release]. Retrieved 2017, January 20 from National Arts Council website: https://www.nac.gov.sg/media-resources/press-releases/Singapore-Biennale-2006-Belief.html
11. Slater, B., et al. (2007). Belief: Singapore Biennale 2006, 4th September to 12th November 2006. Singapore: Singapore Biennale Secretariat, p. 6. (Call no.: RSING 709.05 BEL)
12. National Arts Council. (2016, December 5). Singapore Biennale 2006 – Belief [Press release]. Retrieved 2017, March 20 from National Arts Council website: https://www.nac.gov.sg/media-resources/press-releases/Singapore-Biennale-2006-Belief.html
13. National Arts Council. (2016, December 5). Singapore Biennale 2006 – Belief [Press release]. Retrieved 2017, March 20 from National Arts Council website: https://www.nac.gov.sg/media-resources/press-releases/Singapore-Biennale-2006-Belief.html
14. National Arts Council. (2016, December 5). Fumio Nanjo helms SB 2006 [Press release]. Retrieved 2017, January 20 from National Arts Council website: https://www.nac.gov.sg/media-resources/press-releases/Fumio-Nanjo-Helms-SB-2006.html
15. Chow, C. (2005, December 7). The man who put art in toilets and stairwellsThe Straits Times, p. 2. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
16. Cheong, J. (2006, September 2). Glowing start to Biennale. The Straits Times, p. 1; (2006, September 2). Home is where the heart is as Singapore Biennale launches. Today, p. 6. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
17. National Arts Council. (2016, December 5). Singapore Biennale 2006: Belief [Press release]. Retrieved 2017, January 20 from National Arts Council website: https://www.nac.gov.sg/media-resources/press-releases/Singapore-Biennale-2006-Belief.html
18. National Arts Council. (2016, December 5). Singapore Biennale 2006 [Press release]. Retrieved 2017, January 20 from National Arts Council website: https://www.nac.gov.sg/media-resources/press-releases/SINGAPORE-BIENNALE-2006.html
19. National Arts Council. (2016, December 5). Singapore Biennale 2006: Belief [Press release]. Retrieved 2017, January 20 from National Arts Council website: https://www.nac.gov.sg/media-resources/press-releases/Singapore-Biennale-2006-Belief.html; Cheong, J. (2006, September 3). A-ha, so this is art. The Straits Times, p. 6. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
20. Slater, B. et al. (2007). Belief: Singapore Biennale 2006, 4th September to 12th November 2006. Singapore: Singapore Biennale Secretariat, p. 481. (Call no.: RSING 709.05 BEL)
21. National Arts Council. (2016, December 5). Singapore Biennale 2008 [Press release]. Retrieved 2017, January 20 from National Arts Council website: https://www.nac.gov.sg/media-resources/press-releases/SINGAPORE-BIENNALE-2008.html
22. Wong, T. (2008, June 24). Fortnight of festival fun for F1 race. The Straits Times, p. 1. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
23. National Arts Council. (2016, December 5). Singapore Biennale 2008 [Press release]. Retrieved 2017, January 20 from National Arts Council website: https://www.nac.gov.sg/media-resources/press-releases/SINGAPORE-BIENNALE-2008.html
24. National Arts Council. (2016, December 5). Singapore Biennale 2008 engaged audiences with accessible artworks [Press release]. Retrieved 2017, January 20 from National Arts Council website: https://www.nac.gov.sg/media-resources/press-releases/Singapore-Biennale-2008.html
25. Shetty, D. (2008, November 20). Biennale a crowd-puller. The Straits Times, p. 49. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
26. National Arts Council. (2016, December 5). Singapore Biennale 2008 [Press release]. Retrieved 2017, January 20 from National Arts Council website: https://www.nac.gov.sg/media-resources/press-releases/SINGAPORE-BIENNALE-2008.html
27. Shetty, D. (2008, March 27). Wonderland. The Straits Times, p. 55. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
28. Shetty, D. (2008, September 10). $6m art show kicks off with a big bang. The Straits Times, p. 33. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
29. National Arts Council. (2016, December 5). Singapore Biennale 2008 [Press release]. Retrieved 2017, January 20 from National Arts Council website: https://www.nac.gov.sg/media-resources/press-releases/SINGAPORE-BIENNALE-2008.html; Shetty, D. (2008, September 10). $6m art show kicks off with a big bang. The Straits Times, p. 33. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
30. Shetty, D. (2011, May 17). Biennale a big hit. The Straits Times, p. 6. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
31. Singapore Art Museum. (n.d.). Singapore Biennale 2011: Open House. Retrieved 2017, January 20 from National Heritage Board website: http://www.nhb.gov.sg/media/exhibition-online/biennale/
32. Shetty, D. (2011, March 13). Biennale takes off at Old Kallang Airport. The Straits Times, p. 17. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
33. Merlion to become a ‘temporary’ hotel. (2011, January 29). Today, p. 6; Building a room with an iconic view. (2011, February 25). The Straits Times, p. 8. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
34. Singapore Art Museum. (2013, October 24). Singapore Biennale 2013 explores world change through the contemporary art of Southeast Asia [Press release]. Retrieved 2017, January 20 from Singapore Art Museum website: https://www.singaporeartmuseum.sg/press_office/releases/2013/Singapore_Biennale_2013_Opening_18jul2013.pdf
35. Shetty, D. (2013, October 26). Kudos at Biennale opening. The Straits Times, p. 2. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
36. Singapore Art Museum. (2013, October 24). Singapore Biennale 2013 explores world change through the contemporary art of Southeast Asia [Press release]. Retrieved 2017, January 20 from Singapore Art Museum website: https://www.singaporeartmuseum.sg/press_office/releases/2013/Singapore_Biennale_2013_Opening_18jul2013.pdf
37. Shetty, D. (2013, October 26). Kudos at Biennale opening. The Straits Times, p. 2. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
38. Huang, L. (2013, December 17). Biennale boosts strong attendance at halfway point. The Straits Times, p. 2. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
39. Singapore Art Museum. (2013, October 24). Singapore Biennale 2013 explores world change through the contemporary art of Southeast Asia [Press release]. Retrieved 2017, January 20 from Singapore Art Museum website: https://www.singaporeartmuseum.sg/press_office/releases/2013/Singapore_Biennale_2013_Opening_18jul2013.pdf
40. Singapore Art Museum. (2014, February 18). Singapore Biennale 2013 attendance reveals growing appreciation for contemporary art in Singapore [Press release]. Retrieved 2017, January 20 from Singapore Art Museum website: https://www.singaporeartmuseum.sg/press_office/releases/2014/SB_2013_Closing_Press%20Release_Final.pdf
41. Shetty, D. (2013, October 26). Kudos at Biennale opening. The Straits Times, p. 2. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
42. Singapore Art Museum. (2013, October 24). Singapore Biennale 2013 explores world change through the contemporary art of Southeast Asia [Press release]. Retrieved 2017, January 20 from Singapore Art Museum website: https://www.singaporeartmuseum.sg/press_office/releases/2013/Singapore_Biennale_2013_Opening_18jul2013.pdf
43. Singapore Art Museum. (2013, May 9). First shortlist of artists for Singapore Biennale 2013 revealed [Press release]. Retrieved 2017, January 20 from Singapore Art Museum website: https://www.singaporeartmuseum.sg/press_office/releases/2013/SB2013_first_shortlist_of_artists_revealed_08may2013.pdf
44. Singapore Art Museum. (2016, October 25). The fifth edition of the Singapore Biennale 2016 opens with An Atlas of Mirrors [Press release]. Retrieved 2017, January 20 from Singapore Art Museum website: https://www.singaporeartmuseum.sg/press_office/releases/2016/The_Fifth_Edition_of_the_Singapore_Biennale_2016_Opens_with_An_Atlas_of_Mirrors.pdf
45. Huang, L. (2016, October 27). S’pore Biennale opens with a flourish. The Straits Times. Retrieved from ProQuest via NLB’s eResources website: http://eresources.nlb.gov.sg/
46. Singapore Art Museum. (2016, March 16). Singapore Art Museum announces Singapore Biennale 2016 title [Press release]. Retrieved 2017, January 20 from Singapore Art Museum website: https://www.singaporeartmuseum.sg/press_office/releases/2016/Media_Release_Singapore_Art_Museum_Announces_Singapore_Biennale_2016_Title_Media_Release_16_March_2016.pdf
47. Singapore Art Museum. (2016, October 25). The fifth edition of the Singapore Biennale 2016 opens with An Atlas of Mirrors [Press release]. Retrieved 2017, January 20 from Singapore Art Museum website: https://www.singaporeartmuseum.sg/press_office/releases/2016/The_Fifth_Edition_of_the_Singapore_Biennale_2016_Opens_with_An_Atlas_of_Mirrors.pdf
48. Singapore Art Museum. (2017, January 12). Pannaphan Yodmanee wins 11th Benesse Prize [Press release]. Retrieved 2017, January 20 from Singapore Art Museum website: https://www.singaporeartmuseum.sg/press_office/releases/2017/11th_Benesse_Prize_Soichiro_Fukutake_Prize_winners_announcement.pdf
49. Singapore Art Museum. (2016, October 25). The fifth edition of the Singapore Biennale 2016 opens with An Atlas of Mirrors [Press release]. Retrieved 2017, January 20 from Singapore Art Museum website: https://www.singaporeartmuseum.sg/press_office/releases/2016/The_Fifth_Edition_of_the_Singapore_Biennale_2016_Opens_with_An_Atlas_of_Mirrors.pdf



T
he information in this article is valid as at 2017 and correct as far as we can ascertain from our sources. It is not intended to be an exhaustive or complete history of the subject. Please contact the Library for further reading materials on the topic.

Subject
Art--Singapore--Exhibitions
Arts>>Visual Arts
Visual Arts
Arts