Singapore Biennale

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Singapore Biennale at City Hall.
This cardboard furniture, originally designed for the Biennale Opening Party VIP tentage (used by VIPs including Lee Hsien Loong) was designed by Jonathan Choe and Robin Wau. It was later exhibited at Tanglin Camp, City Hall, and Shigeru Ban's Cardboard Pavilion at Singapore Management University.

The Singapore Biennale (Chinese: 新加坡双年展) is a contemporary art biennale in Singapore. The first Singapore Biennale operated as one of a lineup of Singapore 2006 events. Fumio Nanjo, Director of Tokyo's Mori Art Museum, has been reappointed Artistic Director of the Singapore Biennale 2008. Working with Mr Nanjo on Singapore Biennale 2008 are two curators: independent curator Joselina Cruz, formerly a curator at the Singapore Art Museum and the Lopez Museum in Manila; and Matthew Ngui, one of Singapore's leading artists in contemporary art.

The first Singapore Biennale employed the theme of "Belief", commencing on 4 September 2006 and ended on 12 November. The event was held in various locations throughout Singapore. It featured 195 artworks, from 95 artists and collectives from 38 different countries. The event was part of the Singapore 2006 events which included the 2006 Annual Meetings of the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank Group held at the Suntec Singapore International Convention and Exhibition Centre. The event was organised by the National Arts Council (which also organised the annual Singapore Arts Festival) in conjunction with the National Heritage Board.

The biennale featured different types of contemporary art including drawings, paintings, installations, new media, performances, photography, video, publishing, sound, wall painting, and furniture. Artists of note included Ilya and Emilia Kabakov, Fujiko Nakaya, Jenny Holzer, Mariko Mori, Shigeru Ban, Yayoi Kusama, Jenny Holzer and Takashi Kuribayashi.

The Curatorial Team for the Singapore Biennale was headed by renowned curator Fumio Nanjo. The other curators involved in the "Belief" exhibition were Roger McDonald (Japan), Sharmini Pereira (Sri Lanka/United Kingdom) and Eugene Tan (Singapore).

Exhibition venues[edit]

The event included exhibits displayed in various venues, which were:

The City Hall was restored temporarily for the event was also used from 11 September to 20 September as a registration centre for the International Monetary Fund and World Bank meetings (Biennale exhibits in City Hall were closed during this period.

7 of the sites are religious spaces, tying back in to the Biennale theme: Belief. These sites represent Singapore's main religions and the artworks the sites each reflect the nature of the religious belief itself. Most of the works were site-specific, such as Indian artist, Ashok Sukumaran's "Everything is Contestable" light installation at the Armenian Church. Another remarkable artwork was Chinese artist, Jennifer Wen Ma's "Alms" which was a video displayed at three different sites, namely Maghain Aboth Synagogue, Saint Joseph's Church and Masjid Sultan. It reflected the emphasis on acts of altruism in the all three religious beliefs. The nature of these sites and artworks was intended to blur distinction between a holy site and an art gallery, all in a reverent manner.

Most venues were modified for use for the Singapore Biennale by the architecture firms Kennel LLP or Lekker Design.

Major events[edit]

  • 1st Singapore Biennale - 1 September 2006 Opening Party The opening party was held at the Padang and highlighted a fashion show by students from LASALLE-SIA College of the Arts, Raffles Design Institute, Temasek Polytechnic and Japanese artist, Yayoi Kusama, a projection on City Hall by Jenny Holzer, and a motion-controlled balloon sculpture by Usman Haque. The main party area was open to the public, and hosted by popular nightclub in Singapore, Ministry of Sound. The VIP tent was open to all artists, organizers, and invited guests including Lee Hsien Loong, the Prime Minister of Singapore. Exclusive events included a performance by the Tang Quartet inside a latex tent by artist Ana Prvacki. This performance was enjoyed by the Prime Minister of Singapore on cardboard furniture designed exclusively for the Singapore Biennale by designers Jonathan Choe and Robin Wau. This furniture was based on a modular, flexible concept and changes function depending on position.
  • 2nd Singapore Biennale - Held in 2008 - The second Singapore Biennale, held over 8 weeks in 2008, was again helmed by Fumio Nanjo, this time working with the curatorial team of Joselina Cruz and Matthew Ngui. Under the theme of 'Wonder', the Biennale invited people to be 'surprised and tantalised' by contemporary art. Foregrounding beauty and aesthetic experience, the exhibition also used the other meaning of the title to encourage questioning and debate. 66 artists from 36 countries participated in the exhibition, which attracted over 500,000 visitors.
  • 3rd Singapore Biennale - Held in 2011 - Led by Matthew Ngui as Artistic Director and curators - Russell Storer and Trevor Smith, featured 60 artists from 30 countries. Held over nine weeks, the Biennale was titled Open House, examining multiple perspectives and myriad creative approaches to questions of how we move across borders, see other points of view, and form connections with others.
  • In 2013, the Binneale is back titled 'If the World Changed' with works from Suzann Victor, Ang Sookoon, Royston Tan, Chi Too, Leslie de Chavez, Lee Wen, Zulkifli Yusoff.

Integration with the Singapore Art Show[edit]

The Singapore Biennale is part of a framework of two bi-annual visual arts platforms which together provide a diverse showcase of visual arts in the country. The other event is the Singapore Art Show which serves as a platform for local visual artists.

These two biennials, organised on alternate years, nurture Singaporean talent and engage audiences both nationally and internationally.


In 2011, following a private preview, the Singapore Art Museum removed Japanese-British artist Simon Fujiwara’s work, Welcome to the Hotel Munber (2010), which featured homoerotic content, despite appropriate advisory notices put up by the museum itself as organiser, venue provider and manager of the Biennale.[1] This censorship was committed without any consultation with or notification of the artist.[2]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Lingham, Susie (November 2011). "ART AND CENSORSHIP IN SINGAPORE: CATCH 22?". ArtAsiaPacific. Retrieved 15 September 2014. 
  2. ^ Ng, Yi-Sheng (25 March 2011). "Simon Fujiwara: Censored at the Singapore Biennale 2011". Fridae. Retrieved 15 September 2014. 

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