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15 Women at The Top of The Singaporean Art Scene
Meet the women dominating this young and vibrant art scene
Art Stuff 22 Nov 2019

Undeniably, the Singaporean art scene is having a moment. More than just a white-collar financial hub, the South-East Asian city-state also has plenty to offer in terms of a diverse and vibrant creative environment, despite some recent setbacks. Local artists, academics, curators, collectors and entrepreneurs have set their visions for the potential of Singapore into action, instigating what might be considered the coming of age of the arts in the young nation. In celebration of this special time, including the Singapore Biennale this month, we are taking a look at the top women moving and shaking and making things happen for art in Singapore.

Ning Chong, Founder of The Culture Story, @ning.chong @the.culture.story

Ning Chong - theculturestory.co
Ning is a powerhouse in the Singaporean art world, a status she’s earned through over a decade of hard work in her homeland. After graduating from the London School of Economics and gaining experience in a variety of top tier auction houses and galleries abroad, she came back to Singapore to be a part of the growing arts industry. She landed a prestigious role at the National Arts Council managing policy and industry development for the visual arts sector. Since then, Ning has gone on to set up her own art advisory, The Culture Story, with the aim of forging new conversations and partnerships between public institutions and the private sector. Oh, and let’s not forget, she’s been an avid collector since her youth.
 
Talenia Phua Gajardo, Founder of The Artling and Luxglove, @ _talenia @theartling @luxglove
Talenia Phua Gajardo - TheArtGorgeous

Former architect, e-commerce entrepreneur, art lover and purveyor of luxury goods, Talenia is revolutionising contemporary Asian art. Through her click-and-buy platform, The Artling, she’s brought Asian art online, making it more accessible than ever before. Her site promotes a curated selection of Asian art to a global audience, representing both galleries and artists from the region. Via The Artling, she also provides art consultancy services and hosts events in Singapore to further develop the art collecting industry. Additionally, Talenia has founded Luxglove, an online marketplace for trading luxury items and collectibles, which meanwhile got acquired successfully. She is a true change-maker of the Singaporean art scene. No wonder she made it on to our list of the Top 200 Art World Influencers earlier this year.
 
Ute Meta Bauer, Curator and Art Professor at Nanyang Technological University
Ute Meta Bauer - sharjahart.org

Through her work, Ute has been instrumental in shaping the discourse on art in Singapore and Southeast Asia. She’s made waves by challenging the dominant Western narrative on modern and contemporary art. She is the founding director of the research institution, the Centre for Contemporary Art (CCA), at the Singaporean Nanyang Technological University (NTU), where she also teaches in the School of Art, Media and Design. Aside from her academic achievements, she is a highly regarded curator, known for connecting contemporary art, film, video and sound through transdisciplinary formats. Most notably, she co-curated Documenta11 (2002) and the US Pavilion for the 56th Venice Biennale (2015) featuring artist Joan Jonas. Coming up in 2021, expect more big things from Ute as co-curator for the Sharjah Biennial 15.
 
Fiona Xie, Actress, Curator and Art Lover, @xplacidacidx
Fiona Xie - Instagram
Gracing the pages of our latest print issue, Fiona is not only at the top of the Singaporean art scene, but she’s also in the global Top 200 Art World Influencers. She recently came to international fame as one of the very few Singaporean actresses to make it to Hollywood starring as Kitty Pong in the 2018 smash hit “Crazy Rich Asians.” With a keen interest in art and A-List celeb status, Fiona’s a staple at all the major art gallery openings around the world. Luckily for us, she shows off her passion on her highly curated and beautifully crafted Instagram. When she’s not on set shooting films, she’s busy curating and procuring artwork for private viewings for family and friends.
 
June Yap, Curator
June Yap - artsequator .com
June Yap has earned herself the title of Singapore’s most sought after curator. Her modus operandi is “build it, and they will come,” meaning she produces exhibitions that are so good, people flock to see her work, rather than curating for the public. Due to her talent and tireless work ethic, she was selected to be the director of Curatorial, Programmes and Publications at the Singapore Art Museum (SAM), a role which has undoubtedly involved much work on the recent rejuvenation of SAM. Prior to that, she spent two years at New York’s Guggenheim Museum at the UBS MAP Curator (South and Southeast Asia). She also curated the Singapore pavilion at the 54th Venice Biennale (2011), which featured work by Singaporean artist Ho Tzu Nyen. Throughout all her endeavours, June places South East Asian art in the spotlight, continuing to promote the scene to the fullest extent of her powers.
 
Janice Wong, Pastry Chef and Edible Artist, @janicewong2am
Janice Wong - janicewong.press

One of the most unconventional artists on the scene, Janice’s medium is confectionery. Expanding on her award-winning pastry chef skills and following her ethos of “pure imagination,” she conceives food as visual art. Janice has a two-pronged approach to her practice. First, she creates edible installations where she invites the audience to taste her creations. She exhibits tablescapes and even entire rooms made out of confectionary, the likes of which have made their way to museums all over the world as well as taking centre stage at luxury brand pop-ups. Second, she has launched her own range of edible art supplies under her eponymous brand, Janice Wong. She encourages people of all ages to get creative with her chocolate paint and chocolate crayons. Janice is a true innovator of the Singaporean art world.
 
Sue-Shan Quek, Founder of Telok Ayer Arts Club, @sueshanquek @telokayerartsclub
Sue-Shan Quek - telokayerartsclub.sg

Sitting right in that sweet spot in the middle of the proverbial “Art vs Dining” Venn diagram is Sue-Shan. Through her latest F&B venture, Telok Ayer Arts Club, she’s brought together dining, drinks, music and art seamlessly in the middle of Singapore’s central business district. At the core of her business is her communal spirit and desire to bring the public closer to art. She curates a varied cultural calendar for her restaurant to do just this, making space for more people to get involved and explore the Singaporean art scene.
 
Audrey Yeo, Founder of Yeo Workshop and Singapore Arts Club, @yeo_workshop
Audrey Yeo - Yeo Workshop via cobosocial
Audrey is perhaps the woman with the most passion for Singaporean art on this list; it’s been the driving force behind her gallery, Yeo Workshop, which specialises in promoting local artists and connecting local audiences with art. In running her gallery, she takes a long-term perspective and so, for her, the business is not entirely commercial, but rather a means to better developing the industry at large. Yeo Workshop also plays host to Audrey’s Singapore Arts Club, which regularly puts on talks by local Singaporean artists. She also took on the challenge of project director for the Singaporean art expo S.E.A. Focus in January of this year, further cementing her role as champion of the local art scene.
 
Emi Eu, Director of the Singapore Tyler Print Institute (STPI), @stpi_gallery
Emi Eu - STPI via cobosocial

Originally from South Korea, Emi made her way to Singapore after being educated in New York and working in galleries in Venice. She has since become the director of the Singapore Tyler Print Institute (STPI). The STPI holds a special place in the Singaporean art world, combining a highly regarded artist residency programme, a museum for exhibitions and a gallery to represent local artists with an emphasis on print and paper works. Under Emi’s guidance, STPI has become a dominant institution in contemporary Asian art, elevating Singapore’s status as a global art destination.
 
Adele Tan, Senior Curator at the National Gallery Singapore
Adele Tan - object lessons space
Although Adele may be somewhat of a quiet achiever, her impact on the Singaporean art world has been profound. Equipped with a PhD in art history, she’s a senior curator the Nation Gallery Singapore and specialises in performative practices, photography and new media in the field of contemporary South-East Asian and Chinese art. In this role she has been responsible for some incredible shows, including co-curating the recent boundary-pushing exhibition “Awakenings: Art in Society in Asia 1960s–1990s.” She continues to add to the conversation of South-East Asian art as a member of the International Association of Art Critics (AICA) Singapore.
 
Tan Zi Xi, Artist, @messymsxi
messymsxi_theartgorgeous

Zi Xi a.k.a. MessyMsxi is a Singaporean illustrator who revels in the inherently messy and spontaneous side of creativity. She has a wry sense of humour and often finds inspiration in misadventure. She is also an artist with a strong social conscious. Zi Xi is acutely aware of the impact people have on the environment and is on a mission to tackle ocean pollution one illustration at a time. One of her best-known exhibitions was held at the Singapore Art Museum in 2016. Entitled “Plastic Ocean,” it was a large-scale installation of over 20,000 pieces of ocean refuse suspended in the air to represent the waters the plastic waste was salvaged from and to remind us of the sheer volume of rubbish we generate.
 
Dawn Ng, Artist, @dawn___ng


Collage, photography, illustration, light, sculpture and large-scale installations, Dawn does them all. Her background in advertising is apparent in the pop-art quality of her work, which she has exhibited in both galleries and the Singapore Art Museum. In 2011, she wowed the Singaporean art scene with her seminal work, “WALTER,” a giant inflatable bunny that she took on tour around the small island-nation’s flats and heartlands. The piece invited viewers to re-examine familiar landscapes by invoking a sense of surprise. Her most recent work, “11” – a performance piece in which strangers read out scripts together – has received critical acclaim and continues to prove that the Singaporean art scene is anything but boring.

Polina Korobova, Artist, @godsavedthequeen

Polina Korobova - Instagram

For the past six years, Russian-born Polina has made Singapore her home, adding a distinctly feminist flavour to the local art ecosystem. Her material of choice is pink glitter, which she uses liberally across canvases and her body alike. She is perhaps best known for her performance piece “Pink,” which is an interaction between her body and a seemingly endless supply of glitter. Inspired by the anarchist feminist group Pussy Riot, Polina’s artwork aims to make a statement and show objects in a different light – a very sparkly, feminine light – to change people’s perceptions, often with political and feminist undertones.
 
Nadirah Abdul Razak, Graffiti Artist, Graphic Designer, Co-Founder and Art Director of Ink and Cog, @inkten @inkandclog
Nadirah Abdul Razak - streething

Singapore isn’t exactly known for its urban art scene, and yet, for well over a decade Nadirah a.k.a. Inkten has been dominating it. Her style, a blend of calculative geometric patterns and abstract expressionism dubbed “GeoGraffiti,” is based upon her experiences as a graphic designer and is immediately recognisable. She usually works in collaboration with her husband, graffiti artist Cogtwo, under the moniker Ink and Cog. Together they have brought Singaporean street art all over the world painting murals in Japan, Korea and Mexico. A testament to her popularity and skills, major brands such as Apple, Microsoft, Google, Saatchi&Saatchi, Hogartha and the Singapore National Arts Council have all collaborated with Inkten. She’s even presented TED Talks. It just goes to show that the art scene in Singapore is more diverse than one might first believe.
 
Kumari Nahappan, Artist, @kumari_nahappan
Kumari Nahappan - lasalle.edu

Kumari is a giant in the Singaporean arts scene. She’s a highly celebrated international artist and one of the most highly paid from Singapore, too. Her large-scale sculptures of chillies, nutmeg and other spices can be found all around the city-state, from Changi airport to ION Orchard mall to the National Museum of Singapore. In fact, her larger-than-life artwork can be found at iconic landmarks and events all around the world, putting Singaporean art into the global spotlight. Kumari was featured at the 2013 Singapore Biennale, the 2017 Venice Biennale and also this year’s Venice Biennale and has been the recipient of numerous awards including Artist of the Year at the 2015 Shanghai Art Fair. As a graduate of Singapore’s Lasalle College of the Arts, she’s an inspiration to all aspiring artists from the region.
 
Text by Jamie Bennett
photos via theculturestory.co; sharjahart.org ; instagram; artsequator.com; cobosocial.com; streething.com; lasalle.edu.sg; streething.com; harpersbazaar.com 
 

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