Nokia Singapore Art 1999

Jointly organised by the National Arts Council and
the National Heritage Board and sponsored by Nokia Pte Ltd


Nokia Singapore Art 1999 is a biennial national visual art exhibition which aims to document the development of visual arts in Singapore and showcase the latest in contemporary art. It will also feature works of nationally recognised artists for public appreciation and serve as a platform for the discovery of new talents.


Organised as a millennium celebrations project, Nokia Singapore Art 1999 will be held from 4 Dec 1999 to 30 Jan 2000. It will be positioned as a premier platform to promote visual arts in Singapore and to cultivate an appreciation of this art form among Singaporeans.

The Singapore Art series originated from the National Day Art Exhibitions that were held from the 1960s to the 1980s, and the subsequent Singapore Art Fairs, which lasted till the early 1990s. In 1995, it was changed into a biennial exhibition, and the Singapore Art ‘95 and Singapore Art ‘97 were organised. This year, with the sponsorship of Nokia Pte Ltd, the event has been renamed as Nokia Singapore Art.

The Nokia Singapore Art programme underlines Nokia’s corporate mission of Connecting People. Nokia’s fundamental philosophy lies in delivering innovative products and technology that at once enhances the lives of individuals, and connects people in an all embracing world of easy communication. Art mirrors this by transcending national, cultural, racial and age boundaries by connecting all in a shared language of beauty, inspiration and creativity.

"Communication, freedom of expression, innovation and originality are intrinsic to our business and its constant evolving growth. With these values in mind, we seek to embrace the arts and support artists who are prepared to explore, and communicate through their work." Mr Nigel Litchfield, Senior Vice President - Nokia Mobile Phones, Asia Pacific.

Nokia Singapore Art 1999 has been revamped with several new initiatives to accommodate the broad range of artistic trends and tendencies, as well as the different interests of the public.


What’s New?
(a) A Visual Arts Festival
Taking on a new format and organised on a bigger scale, Nokia Singapore Art 1999 will be presented as a visual arts festival. It boasts a series of exhibitions at several locations, with the Singapore Art Museum (SAM) as the core venue. In conjunction with the event, there will be an art symposium, students’ programmes, fringe exhibitions organised by the private galleries and affiliate exhibitions organised by the arts institutions. To build up awareness and interest in the main event, a host of activities will be held from Mar 99 onwards such as art talks and an art societies’ Weekend Series held monthly at SAM.


(b) Theme of the Exhibition
The theme for Nokia Singapore Art 1999 is City/Community. This is a common theme for artists to express, explore, celebrate or critique their response to the environment. The art works can be developed along the lines of one or more of the following:


(c) Exhibition Sections
There are three sections in the exhibition:


Nokia Arts Awards - Asia Pacific
The Nokia Arts Awards is a celebration of innovation, artistic vision and the creative human spirit. The Nokia Arts Awards - which will dovetail into a regional level competition focusing on contemporary art targeted at youth category and on contemporary art. Artists may choose to participate in both the Nokia Singapore Art 1999 and the Nokia Arts Awards - Asia Pacific. However, different art works must be submitted for each event. More details of this competition will be announced in the press.


Nokia Singapore Art 1999
City/Community sets out to trace the development of art trends in Singapore. It also facilitates appreciation and interpretation of contemporary art practices. Artists develop their practices directly or indirectly in relations to environments, which can include the physical, cultural social, political, psychological, emotional, personal and others. These relationships between artists and their environments are active and directed by purposeful intentions and ambitions. Such a premise allows a broad range of approaches to the appreciation of art and artists in Singapore, which can be developed advantageously.

The project Nokia Singapore Art 1999 can also concretize the above objective by identifying grounds that permit the cultivation of particular perspectives. In order to do so, City/Community is proposed as a central theme. It allows exploration into multifarious aspects of communities and the city and how these are dealt with and negotiated in the building of city/nation.

It is envisaged that individual curators will further develop concepts and methods pertinent to the central theme, leading to the provision of sub-themes. The following are the secondary interests that can be pursued: visual environment (urban development and planning, visual/media representations of the city); multiculturalism and regionalism (constructions of identity, space and home); institutions' and artists' initiatives; the writing of art history and criticism.


The Visual Environment
This section investigates the relationship between art and its visual environment, particularly the urban environment whose configuration and planning are informed by economic, social, cultural, and other factors. Places and sites like Chinatown, Little India and the Malay Village become symptoms of a cultural consciousness. The need to maintain separate pockets of ethnic identities, in diametric contrast to the high-rise of the Central Business District as signifier of industry, commerce and progress, and concomitant to a cultural vision where such economic developments are coupled by interests for heritage conservation, history, tradition and maintenance cultural values. Artists may reflect or critique through the visual environment of the city on the physical and social transformations that are taking place, the relationship between physical structures including architecture, popular imageries and representations, and systems including ideology and cultural values.


Multiculturalism and Regionalism
This sub-theme seeks to look at how identities are constructed through ethnic representations and ethnic spaces, as well as nature of a collective Singaporean identity through the national ideology of multiculturalism. Such identity is also cast in relation to the region as well as the dynamics of social change. Ethnic identities, although constructed by direct references to ancestral roots of the Chinese, Indian or Malay communities, are reflexive of the environment in which they operate. Therefore, they are open to various representations both generated by the state as well as by the communities themselves. Artists may offer their thoughts by looking at issues involving representations of communities as well as the problems and implications of those representations on the notion of ethnic spaces as well as home, a collective yet stratified place where communities gather.


Artists’ Initiatives
This section will attempt to examine the relationship of artists to their physical and social environment. Of interest will be the use of city and community spaces beyond galleries and museums, by artists as part of their creative initiatives. Such interventions manifest the roles that artists envisage themselves to be playing. To maintain a social utility of their practice, artists often embark in projects involving collaborations with various communities. It also informs us about the relationship between artists and institutions. In their attempt to maintain independence and agency over their expressions, such moves into *+non-art’ spaces allow artists to move away from conventions and prescriptions. It allows them to confer value to subjects and entities otherwise felt to be inadequately addressed by the mainstream. That movement away can also take the form a kind of *+exile’, where artists more often voluntarily embarked in long term sojourns, practicing outside of the country, yet producing works that suggest continued commitment to issues and concerns of the originating country.


The curatorial committee will undertake to select works that can realise and demonstrate the central and sub-themes. These selected works will be curated and displayed at venues and sites consistent with the division of themes.


The curation of the themes, while marking a prominent feature of the project, will not be the only undertaking. The curatorial committee will also consider exhibition proposals submitted by institutions and individuals as well as those generated by the curatorial committee.