Singapore's rising prominence on the contemporary art scene has garnered attention from artists, collectors, and curators alike. Sotheby’s Museum Network sits down with Eugene Tan, resident expert and Director of National Gallery Singapore - home to the most comprehensive public collection of Southeast Asian art works - to discuss the institutions and places he recommends.
DR. EUGENE TAN, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR OF THE NATIONAL GALLERY SINGAPORE (2016) © 2016 Zakaria Zainal
“Singapore Art Week marks the start of a very exciting art calendar. Since Art Stage debuted in January 2011, our art scene has grown and grown into this event where all arts organisations, museums, dealers and galleries do something special across a whole range of very exciting events, such as our Light to Night Festival throughout the entire Civic District.
Institutions like Singapore Art Museum, Nanyang Technological University’s Centre for Contemporary Art and the National University of Singapore Museum consistently put up interesting shows. Galleries at Gillman Barracks, Chan + Hori, FOST Gallery and Yeo Workshop herald the emergence of our top young artists. Singapore didn’t used to be a place you’d associate with art, but in such independent spaces, you can see how, in changing conditions, these artists respond to the local environment as well as find inspiration in external ideas. The National Gallery will be looking at minimalism later in 2018 in the first major show in south-east Asia to examine the movement and the uneasy relationship it’s had with the region.
There’s an industrial area in the Tai Seng neighbourhood where a lot of artists have set up studios and are holding small exhibitions. This all happened organically – another sign that the art scene here is really growing through self-initiated activity.”
THE 2015 EXPANSION TO THE NATIONAL GALLERY SINGAPORE. COURTESY: NATIONAL GALLERY SINGAPORE
Eugene Tan is Director of the National Gallery Singapore, joining in 2013 and overseeing the opening of the gallery’s new building in 2015. He was previously the Programme Director (Special Projects) at the Singapore Economic Development Board (EDB), oversaw the development of Gillman Barracks, a visual arts hub in Singapore, and has held positions including Director of Exhibitions for Osage Gallery, Director of Contemporary Art at the Sotheby’s Institute of Art – Singapore, and Director of the Institute of Contemporary Arts Singapore. He has published and curated widely, organising the Singapore Pavilion at the 51st Venice Biennale (2005) and the inaugural Singapore Biennale (2006).
For more information on what not to miss in Singapore, see the City Guide.